The 10 Wildest True Crime Stories of 2017

From lobster heists to creepy clowns, truth was stranger than fiction this year.

December 27, 2017 5:00 am
A police officer pulls crime scene tape at a house where a double homicide was being investigated in Peabody, MA on Feb. 19, 2017. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A police officer pulls crime scene tape at a house where a double homicide was being investigated in Peabody, MA on Feb. 19, 2017. (Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

By any standard, 2017 was an eventful year. That certainly goes for crime. The horrific worst mass shooting in American history, for instance, will merit this year a standalone chapter.

There were plenty of strange, sometimes horrible, sometimes darkly funny crimes that went under the national radar. In some cases, only people with the appropriately grim Google alerts—like me—were aware of them, other times they briefly went viral as social media users passed links around with a simple “WTF” tag.

Many who put together end-of-year lists for anything claim their selections are definitive. I think too much happens in the United States alone between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 to plausibly say “it doesn’t get any wilder that this.” It probably did somewhere, I just missed it.

That said, some of the following crimes I’ve culled from around the world—ranked by sheer craziness, not severity—may come close.

  1. The Great New Brunswick Lobster Caper

This is perhaps a cheat, as the crime itself occurred in 2016. The Canadian seafood lovers accused of pulling off the heist didn’t face justice until March 2017. That’s when three men from Quebec and a fourth from New Brunswick, ranging in age from 21 to 52 were charged with pulling their own Ocean’s 11, ripping off $1 million worth of lobster from a seafood company.

That’s a lot of lobster. You’d need a swimming pool full of clarified butter just to do them justice

Thing is, that was just the largest lobster theft. In February alone, there were two other major lobster raids in Nova Scotia, but those only added up to a few piddly thousands of Canadian dollars.

  1. Grandma and Grandpa Busted for a Truckload of Weed

Cannabis is legal in several states for recreational consumption and in several more for medical use. Nebraska is a little behind the rest of the nation regarding the green stuff, and that was unfortunate for an elderly Vermont couple stopped in December as they drove across the state. Patrick Jiron, age 80, and his 83-year-old wife said they were bearing gifts. Those gifts weren’t Legos, iPads, or ugly-ass sweaters, but 60 lbs. of weed. Nearly a half-million dollars’ worth in “street value,” according to the Associated Press. The Jirons were charged with a felony—possession with intent to deliver.

There’s nothing funny about octogenarians having to spend any part of the holidays in a Nebraska jail, nor anyone having to spend a very weedless Christmas. 

  1. The Virginia Serial Cat Shaver

I said these were ranked by oddness. And there may be plenty of people who don’t find shaving cats all that weird. If so, I’d rather not know. This is really messed up.

Since December 2016, someone has been systematically grabbing the kitties of Waynesboro, VA and—as the AP reported— “precisely shaving their underbellies or legs.” The serial shaver targeted clean cats with collars, well-groomed feline companions who were no doubt unaccustomed to such… attention. This crime is unsolved. It’s also more serious than it seems—cruelty to animals, even if it initially seems nonviolent, can be a precursor to violence against humans.

  1. The Great Berlin Dildo Heist of 2017

In October, UK-based Fun Toys posted a detailed Facebook status describing the theft of nearly $60,000 USD in sex toys. The company was attending the Venus Exposition in Berlin and displaying its, um, wares. Fun Toys termed this “the largest recorded theft of sex toys in history,” though I’m puzzled as to whether anyone’s kept track of that sort of thing. The company attached photos of the devastation and a police report as proof. I’m guessing they wanted their fans and customers to keep an eye out. If possible.

  1. Ohio 10-6-year-old Leads Police on Crazy Fast & Furious-Style Car Chase

An elementary school-aged boy in Ohio went far beyond the usual grounding offenses for someone just a few years removed from riding in a booster seat. In his second such offense in as many weeks, the unnamed boy took a Toyota Avalon on a high-speed chase on the Interstate. Not some low speed Sunday drive, either—speeds up to 100 mph. When he crashed and was arrested, the kid tried to spit in troopers’ faces. His explanation as to why he did it?

He was bored. 

  1. The Hilariously Stupid Saga of the Fyre Festival

At first glance the epic failure of the Fyre Festival seemed like just that—a misguided, high dollar disaster, but not the product of a criminal act. It was a crime in the making, according to the Manhattan US Attorney. The Fyre Festival was supposed to be huge blowout for rich kids in the Bahamas. It was promoted by some of Instagram’s most popular personalities and supermodels. Then everyone got there and began posting pitiful statuses on social media about what a complete rip-off it was—to the enjoyment of many who got a kick out of seeing people with money to burn setting it, well, on “fyre.” #WhatHappenedToFyreFestival ? #SMH #FyreFestival

A post shared by LotusInWonderland (@lotusinwonderland) on

Billy McFarland, the 25-year-old behind Fyre Media, has been charged with wire fraud. He’s accused of defrauding investors in his project, and could spend 20 years in prison if convicted. No one who suffered through eating cold sandwiches on a boring beach in the Bahamas that weekend will feel sorry for him if he does.

  1. The Kidnapping of Chloe Ayling or the “Kidnapping” of Chloe Ayling?

According to British model Chloe Ayling, she underwent a hair-raising ordeal after being lured to a fake photoshoot then drugged with ketamine. She was kidnapped and taken to a residence in the Italian countryside. There, she said, she was held for six days. Then her kidnappers took her to an Italian police station—but only after finding that the British consulate was closed.

There have been so many oddball elements to Ayling’s story that she’s been faced with a tremendous amount of skepticism from the public and the media. Lawyers defending her alleged kidnappers, brothers Lukas and Michael Herba, have said there’s “a real risk that the entire case is a sham.” They’ve said that while with her kidnapper, Ayling went shopping for shoes and they even had lunch together. For her part, Ayling continues to defend her tale.


  1. The Assassination of Kim Jong Un’s Half-Brother, Kim Jong Nam

It’s not unusual to believe North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un might have ordered the death of a relative. He’s reportedly done that in dramatic fashion in the past. In February 2017, his half-brother was assassinated while sitting in a Malaysian airport—apparently by a pair of women who North Korean agents fooled into thinking they were playing a prank as part of a reality show. Kim Jong Nam died from a faceful of VX Nerve Gas. There’s always a strange edge to North Korea-related news—the oddness of this murder was somehow magnified by the fact that one of Kim Jong Nam’s assailants was wearing a sweatshirt that said “LOL” in big letters on the front.

  1. The Year of the Creepy Clown

I could probably write a thousand words on 2017 crimes and incidents involving clowns—or, to appease the vocal clown community—people wearing clown makeup and masks. This was really the year of the creepy clown, considering one of the most successful horror movies of all time was a new version of Stephen King’s IT, in which a monster from beyond the stars manifests itself as a terrifying clown named Pennywise. Just a few examples:

* A woman in Hickory, NC reported an assault by a man in a clown mask and fright wig, swinging an ax. At 4:30 in the morning. She somehow recognized him, and police issued a warrant for a 31-year-old acquaintance of the woman’s for assault with a deadly weapon.

* A one-armed machete-wielding clown was arrested in Maine. It’s hard to think of anything to add to that.

* In the great state of Florida, where nothing strange ever happens, police solved a terrifying 27-year-old clown-related cold case. They arrested Sheila Keen, age 54, for the 1990 murder of Marlene Warren. Warren’s murder was infamous, as the killer rang her doorbell wearing a full clown costume, bearing flowers, then shot her at point-blank range. Keen had always been a suspect for numerous reasons including the fact she’d entertained kids as a party clown.

  1. This Guy is All of Us

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, with temps in the 20s, 32-year-old Jose Gonzalez Flores stopped all traffic on Virginia Route 28 in Fairfax County. He assaulted a truck, breaking a window and stabbing the roof with a knife. He threw things, ran around having a great time, removed his clothes then ran buck naked into the woods with a tire around his neck.

The Huffington Post reported Flores was later arrested and charged with “ two counts of felony hit-and-run, throwing an object at a moving vehicle, destruction of property, assault and battery, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, and possession of marijuana.”

Jose Gonzalez Flores may have been high, mentally unstable, or some combination of both. Or maybe, just like pretty much everyone else, he’d had enough of 2017.

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