Notorious Female Criminals

Aileen Carol Wuornos

American serial killer who killed seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990, claiming they raped or attempted to rape her while she was working as a prostitute. She was convicted and sentenced to death for six of the murders, and executed via lethal injection on October 9, 2002.

Bonnie Parker


Bonnie, one half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo, was well-known for robbery, murder and general wreaking of havoc in the ‘public enemy era’ of the early 1930’s. Well known during the Great Depression, Bonnie and Clyde `were believed to have killed at least 9 police officers, as well as many other murders. The couple were eventually ambushed and killed by the Louisiana police in 1934, when Bonnie was just 23.

Kate ‘Ma’ Barker

Like Bonnie and Clyde, ‘Ma’ was a notorious criminal of the ‘public enemy era’. Her children were members of the ‘Barker-Karpis Gang’, who committed a spree of kidnappings, robberies and other criminal activities in the early 1930’s, and she is heralded as their leader. Though some argue that Ma ‘couldn’t plan breakfast’ let alone mastermind any criminal activity, evidence would suggest that she in some way aided her wayward sons to achieve notoriety.

Myra Hindley

Myra Hindley

One half of the infamous Moors Murders duo, Myra Hindley was dubbed by the press ‘the most evil woman in Britain’. Along with Ian Brady, Hindley carried out 5 murders of young girls, as well as sexually assaulting at least 3 of them. Though she claimed in prison to be a reformed woman and appealed for release, it was not granted, and she died in 2002 aged 60.

Griselda Blanco

Griselda Blanco

Otherwise known as la Madrina, the Godmother, the Black Widow, Mama Coca and the Cocaine Queen of Miami, Griselda Blanco has been heralded ‘The most bloodthritsy female criminal of our time’. Born in 1943, Blanco committed her first murder aged 11, was a prostitute from the age of 12, and went on to become a drug lord specialising in cocaine. Known for her sociopathic tendencies and her extravangant collections of fine art and jewels, Mama Coca was a major figure in the ‘Cocaine Cowboy Wars’ of Miami in the late 1970’s. She is thought to have masterminded over 200 murders in Miami during this time. Openly bisexual, Blanco reportedly murdered all 3 of her husbands, and 3 of her 4 sons were also murdered, though not by her. After her arrest in 1985 Mama Coca was imprisoned for nearly 20 years until 2004. Her whereabouts are now unknown, though she was last spotted at Bogota airport in May 2007.

Mary Surratt

Mary Surratt

Mary Surratt was the first woman to be executed by the United States federal government, after being convicted for her part in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Born in Maryland in 1823, she had many jobs including tobacco farming and running a tavern and a post office. It is uncertain as to the extent of her family’s involvement in clandestine Confederate activities, but on her arrest she was named the 2nd most responsible person for the attempted assassination of Lincoln. She was arrested for treason, conspiracy and plotting murder and was hanged.

Anne Bonney

Anne Bonney

Committing her first murder aged 13, notorious pirate Anne Bonney was a famed member of Rackham’s pirate crew in the 18th century. Mucking in with the men, Bonny was a fierce fighter and one of very few female pirates of the time. She was the girlfriend of the head of the Rackham pirate crew, John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham.

Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden murdered both her father and stepmother with a hatchet in 1892, and remains a notorious figure in American folklore. Many theories have been put forward as to why she carried out these murders, the most far-fetched being that she suffered epileptic seizures during her menstrual cycle that put her in a dream-like state and led her to unknowingly commit murder.

Hell-Cat Maggie

(No photo’s available)

An early member of the ‘Dead Rabbits’ gang, Hell-Cat Maggie was an infamous female fighter and criminal personality in Manhattan’s Five Points District, taking on fellow gangs like the infamous ‘Brewery Boys’. She is famed for filing her teeth into points and wearing long claw-like brass fingernails. She is said to have collected ears from the men she killed.

The Year of the Gangster, Part 6

Baby Face Nelson mug shot (play video)
Archival footage of the early days of the FBI’s efforts against public enemies like Baby Face Nelson.

A fierce gun battle had erupted just off a blacktop highway in a small and unsuspecting town called Barrington about 30 miles northwest of Chicago.

The date: November 27, 1934—75 years ago today.

On the one side were two dangerous gangsters—the hot-headed “Baby Face” Nelson and his criminal side-kick John Paul Chase.

On the other were two veteran Bureau special agents—Sam Cowley, a high-ranking inspector who was actually spearheading the hunt for Nelson, and Herman “Ed” Hollis, one of three agents who fired the shots that felled John Dillinger that summer and an important player in the pursuit of Baby Face.

In less than five minutes, what came to be known as “The Battle of Barrington” would be over. In less than 12 hours, only one of the four would still be alive to talk about it.

Baby Face Nelson
What’s in a name? Nelson was born Lester Joseph Gillis, but took the name George Nelson as a criminal alias when he was in deep trouble with the law. He was later dubbed “Baby Face” for his boyish looks. He was also called Jimmy by some of his partners in crime.

At the center of it all was Nelson. Ever since he’d brutally shot and killed Bureau agent Carter Baum at a Wisconsin resort that spring—and especially after Dillinger and “Pretty Boy” Floyd had fallen—Nelson had been high atop our list of public enemies. Just 25 years old—born a few months after the Bureau itself—Nelson was already a prolific and particularly violent criminal, robbing banks and reportedly murdering several lawmen and innocent bystanders along the way.

Earlier that afternoon, agents on a stake-out had spotted Nelson, his wife Helen, and Chase driving in Wisconsin. They got the license plate and alerted Cowley. By about 3:15, after Nelson had disabled the car of another pair of agents with a hail of bullets, Cowley and Hollis caught up with the criminals at Barrington.

Nelson pulled off Northwest Highway 12 (now Highway 14) at the entrance of a park and prepared to do battle. He and Chase opened fire as the agents stopped their car some 150 feet away. (Helen Gillis jumped in a nearby ditch and wasn’t involved in the shooting.) The agents jumped out, took defensive positions, and began shooting. Cowley struck first—hitting Nelson with multiple rounds. But Nelson continued to fire, badly wounding the agent. Hollis bravely jumped forward and hit Baby Face in the legs with a barrage of shotgun pellets, but Nelson fired back and killed him.

Credentials of Special Agent Herman E. Hollis
The credentials of Special Agent Hollis, cancelled after his death in 1934. Hollis was transferred to the FBI office in Chicago after the failed raid on Little Bohemia in April 1934. He was soon working exclusively on the chase for John Dillinger. He later cultivated two key informants in the Nelson case, including a Gillis family friend, Father Philip Coughlin.

Bleeding heavily, Nelson drove off with his wife and Chase. But by 8 o’clock that evening, he had succumbed to his wounds. His body was dumped in a ditch near a cemetery, most likely by Chase, and found by Bureau agents later that evening.

The Bureau had taken down a major gunslinger, but the price was high. Cowley—a steady, unassuming leader who had headed up all of the agency’s major gangster cases—died early the next morning. His body was returned to Salt Lake City, his hometown, and laid in state in the Utah capitol. Hollis—another effective and ultimately heroic agent—was buried in Des Moines, Iowa.

Burial of Special Agent Herman E. Hollis
The burial of Special Agent Hollis in Des Moines. Cowley was buried in Utah, remembered “as a man capable of the highest type of professional work, who was forced by circumstances to perform his duty with a blazing revolver…a man of simplicity, true worth, dignity, honor, and a dislike of pretense or formality.”

For the young Bureau, 1934 had been a pivotal year. Working closely in every case with local and state authorities, they had taken down or helped take down Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and many of their fellow gangsters. The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief, as the gangster era passed into history. Along the way, the agency had honed its skills and put itself on the crime-fighting map, and in 1935, it had a new name to go with its growing capabilities: the Federal Bureau of Investigation—the FBI.

Pretty Boy‘ Falls
Year of the Gangster, Part 5
Seventy-five years ago, in 1934, our long pursuit of gangster “Pretty Boy” Floyd came to a head on a country road in Ohio. Two cars traveled down a country road towards the Conkle farm, two miles south of a small town named Clarkson on the eastern edge of Ohio. It was 4:10 on the afternoon of October 22, 1934, and history was about to unfold…..     Story

John Dillinger. Al Capone. The KKK. John Gotti. Patty Hearst. The Unabomber. Bonnie and Clyde.

The FBI has investigated them all… and many more spies, terrorists, and criminals besides. Listed below, grouped according to our top investigative priorities and related categories, are many of our famous and most significant cases over the past century.

The monographs and write-ups below have been made available for your use. You may download them for any non-commercial use without obtaining permission from the FBI.

Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, Patty Hearst and John Dillinger Terrorism

– 9/11 Investigation
– Anthrax/Amerithrax

– East African Embassy bombings 1998

– Oklahoma City bombing
– Palmer Raids
– Pan Am 103 bombing
– Unabomber
– Wall Street bombing 1920
– Weather Underground bombings
– World Trade Center bombing 1993
– Fawaz Younis


– Aldrich Ames
– Atom Spy Case/Rosenbergs
– Black Tom 1916 bombing
– Duquesne Spy Ring
– Espionage in the Defense Industry
– Hollow Nickel/Rudolph Abel
– Iva Toguri d’Aquino and “Tokyo Rose”
– Maksim Martynov
– Nazi Saboteurs and George Dasch
– ND-98: Case of the Long Island Double Agent
– Pearl Harbor Spy
– Robert Hanssen
– Thwarted Sabotage in Zambia
– Vasilli Zubilin
– Velvalee Dickinson, the “Doll Woman”
– Vonsiatsky Espionage
– Year of the Spy (1985)

Cyber Crime

– Operation Innocent Images

Public Corruption

– Operation Greylord
– Tennessee Waltz

Civil Rights

– Baptist Street Church bombing
– Edward Young Clarke and the KKK
– Emmett Till
– Mississippi Burning



08/28/09 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Harvey’s Casino Bombing (Video)
08/26/09 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Case of the Harvey’s Casino Bomb
07/22/09 THE TOP TEN DILLINGER MYTHS: The Year of the Gangster, Part 4
05/27/09 BONNIE AND CLYDE REDUX: The Year of the Gangster, Part 3
04/23/09 LESSONS AT LITTLE BOHEMIA: The Year of the Gangster, Part 2 (Video)
03/17/09 IN SEARCH OF D.B. COOPER: New Developments in the Unsolved Case
03/06/09 DILLINGER CROSSES A LINE: The Year of the Gangster, Part 1
02/04/09 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Patty Hearst Kidnapping


12/31/08 FBI 100: Ex-Agent Recalls Role in Gangster Era (Video)
12/19/08 G-MEN AND JOURNALISTS: D.C. Museum Features our Famous Cases
12/16/08 FBI 100: On the Waterfront, Mafia-Style
09/26/08 FBI 100: The Legend of Machine Gun Kelly
09/12/08 FBI 100: The Case of the Cuban Spy
08/01/08 FBI 100: The Famous Faces Quiz
07/26/08 FBI 100: The Changing Faces of the FBI (video)
07/25/08 FBI 100: In the Line of Duty (video)
07/24/08 FBI 100: The Top Ten Myths in FBI History
07/22/08 FBI 100: The Last Steps of John Dillinger
07/21/08 FBI 100: Our New Centennial History Book
07/18/08 FBI 100: The Top Ten Moments in FBI History
07/17/08 FBI 100: Let the Celebrations Begin
06/17/08 FBI 100: The Kansas City Massacre
05/27/08 FBI 100: Bonnie and Clyde
04/24/08 FBI 100: The Unabomber
03/13/08 UNDERCOVER AGENT: Using Intel to Stop the Mob, Part 3
03/03/08 FBI 100: The Lindbergh Kidnapping
02/26/08 FBI 100: First Strike: Global Terror in America
02/19/08 FBI 100: An Odd Couple of Crime


12/31/07 D.B. COOPER REDUX: Help Us Solve the Enduring Mystery
12/28/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Palmer Raids
12/03/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Spies Caught, Spies Lost, Lessons Learned
11/16/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Jonestown: Murder in the Jungle
11/02/07 SLEUTHS OF SCIENCE: The FBI Laboratory Turns 75
10/24/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Beltway Snipers, Part 2
10/22/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Beltway Snipers, Part 1
09/26/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The ’63 Baptist Church Bombing
09/13/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Terror on Wall Street
08/09/07 TURNING POINT: Using Intel to Stop the Mob, Part 2
07/26/07 OUR 100TH YEAR: Celebrating a Century
06/22/07 LET THE STRATEGY BEGIN: Using Intel to Stop the Mob, Part 1
06/08/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Escape from Alcatraz
05/14/07 THE FBI ACADEMY: A Pictorial History
04/09/07 IN THE LINE OF DUTY: Honoring Our Fallen Special Agents
04/02/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: John Gotti: How We Made the Charges Stick
03/02/07 THE ZODIAC KILLER: View FBI Records on Hunt for Clues
02/26/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Mississippi Burning
02/09/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Great Brinks Robbery
01/03/07 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Elliot Ness and the FBI


12/26/06 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Mail Bomb Murders
12/15/06 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Fugitive Alert: Our First Identification Order
11/24/06 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The D.B. Cooper Mystery
11/17/06 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Case of the Disappearing Diamond
10/20/06 THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER: Read About It in FBI Records
08/25/06 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Our Intel Operations Over the Years
07/31/06 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The 1976 Stings: The Case of the Unsatisfied Customers
06/07/06 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Taking the Pulse of Crime…76 Years and Counting
05/19/06 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Orange Juice Cartons and Rubber Hoses: A Spy Story
03/24/06 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: How the FBI Got Its Name
01/09/06 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Case of the 1966 KKK Firebombing


12/09/05 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Case of the Mysterious Mid-Air Explosion
11/10/05 A COMMERMORATIVE WWII HISTORY SERIES: Part 6, the Conclusion: Sacrifices Made, Victory Won
10/24/05 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Retired FBI Special Agent Jack French Talks About FBI Cases…On the Radio Dial
09/28/05 A COMMEMORATIVE WWII HISTORY SERIES: Part 5: Life During Wartime… From Nazi Spies to Bigamous Brides
08/26/05 A COMMEMORATIVE WWII HISTORY SERIES: Part 4: The Case of the Mysterious Russian Letter
07/11/05 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: J. Edgar Hoover’s “Official & Confidential” Files
07/08/05 A COMMEMORATIVE WWII HISTORY SERIES: Part 3: The Case of the Betty Grable Extortion Letters
06/24/05 A COMMEMORATIVE WWII HISTORY SERIES: Part 2: The FBI’s Special Intelligence Service 1940-1946
05/27/05 A COMMEMORATIVE HISTORY SERIES: Helping to Secure the Peace, Part 1: The FBI in WWII
03/28/05 SOLVING SCARFACE: How the Law Finally Caught Up With Al Capone
03/07/05 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: How Intelligence Helped Save the Queen Mary … and Win a War
02/28/05 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: One African-American Special Agent’s Story
02/21/05 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Sheets, Sails, and Dormer Lights: The Case of the Pearl Harbor Spy
02/07/05 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Remembering the Lessons of ABSCAM
02/02/05 OUT OF THE FILES: UNUSUAL CASE HISTORIES: Busting the Biggest Band of Cable Pirates in U.S. History
01/26/05 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Murder and Mayhem in the Osage Hills
01/12/05 HOT OFF THE JANUARY 1935 PRESS: “Special Agent Stops One-Man Crime Wave in Thirty Minutes


12/30/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Spy Who Struck Out
11/29/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Man on the Run: The Last Hours of “Baby Face” Nelson
10/27/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Bureau Gets its Guns: The Origin of the FBI Firearms Collection
10/13/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Not So Public Radio: Gathering Intelligence Over the Airwaves in WWII
09/15/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Case of the Yachted Terrorist
07/30/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: 1916 “Black Tom” Bombing Propels Bureau into National Security Arena
07/28/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: A 1986 Prevention: The Foiled Takeover of a Foreign Government
07/23/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Fall of John Dillinger and the Rise of the FBI
06/07/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Hollow Nickel, Hidden Agent
05/21/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Case of the Treasonous Dolls
05/07/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: 70 Years Ago: Rise of Fascism Leads to FBI Casework
04/19/04 SPOTLIGHT ON FBI HONOLULU: Positioned on the Asia-Pacific Rim to Protect America
03/30/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Catching International Crooks in the 1930s…by Their Fingertips
03/15/04 INVESTIGATIONS OF PUBLIC CORRUPTION: Rooting Crookedness Out of Government
03/11/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Imperial Kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan in Kustody
02/27/04 ND-98: The Case of the Long Island Double-Agent
02/20/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Case of the Ragtime Bug
02/11/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: The Birthing of the FBI’s International Liaison Operation
01/29/04 1975 TERRORISM FLASHBACK: State Department Bombing
01/15/04 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Agents on Secret Mission Crash in South American Jungle


12/19/03 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Solving a Complex Case of International Terrorism
12/05/03 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Pearl Harbor Attack Mobilizes FBI War Plans
11/24/03 HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FBI LABORATORY: 71 Years of Crime Detection
11/19/03 THE FBI READING ROOM: Pull Up a Chair and Browse Through Historic FBI Records
11/14/03 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Organized Crime and “Joe’s Barbecue”
10/17/03 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: FBI Gets the Last “Ludwig Ring” Spy
09/26/03 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: “Machine Gun” Kelly and the Legend of the G-Men
09/08/03 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: Latent Prints in the 1933 Hamm Kidnapping
09/02/03 THE FBI “LEB”: 71 Years of Shared Law Enforcement Expertise
08/29/03 THE DISASTER SQUAD: Dedicated Humanitarian Service Marks a Milestone
08/25/03 A BYTE OUT OF HISTORY: FDR Charges the FBI in 1936 to Gather National Security Intelligence
08/15/03 A BYTE OUT OF FBI HISTORY: Homeland Security “Between the Wars”