WARNING: GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING CONTENT

They are the serial killers that few people have ever heard of, but they raped, tortured, murdered and mutilated hundreds of victims between them.

They are all alive and living in prisons across the US, where they are fighting the death penalty or just living out their life sentences.

Most of them are just ordinary looking men with no hint of the terror they caused or the grisly deeds they did with their victims' bodies.

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Some of them killed only women, others only men and a handful killed their way through genders and across different age groups.

Dozens of serial killers are incarcerated and largely forgotten, except by their victims' families.

These are just a few of the men who wreaked havoc in local communities until they were caught by police.

Patrick Kearney aka the Trash Bag Killer

Incarcerated:

California State Prison

Victims:

Transient young men

Modus operandi:

Necrophile, sadist and body dismemberer

Early life:

Bullied as a child because he was weedy and undeveloped, Kearney became a withdrawn teenager who fanaticised about killing young men.

Among the 10 most prolific serial killers in US history, Kearney preyed on young men in California during the 1970s and disposed of their bodies in such a manner he was called the Trash Bag Killer.

He is also one of several American serial killers known as the Freeway Killer for the way he picked up his victims.

Kearney may have killed as many as 43 victims before his arrest, and they included an 8-year-old boy.

Kearney later confessed to murdering his first victim, a 19-year-old man, in 1962.

Standing just 165cm tall, Kearney preferred males who were taller and heavier than himself.

He convinced the teenager to a ride on his motorcycle to a remote area where Kearney shot the man in the head and sexually assaulted the body.

He killed several more transient man before meeting his young lover David Hill, in Redondo Beach, Los Angeles.

When the couple argued, Kearney would go out for long drives in one of his vehicles and pick up young male hitchhikers or men from gay bars and kill them.

Kearney inflicted pain and torture on some of the victims before he murdered them.

He cut his victim's stomachs and defiled the bodies, after which he would mutilate and dismember the remains with a hacksaw before disposing of them in canyons, landfill, deserts and along the freeways, usually in industrial trash bags.

Merle "Hondo" Chance, 8, was kidnapped in the vicinity of Kearney's workplace and murdered in April 1977, police interviewed Kearney.

Previously, police had occasion to interview Kearney a month earlier over the disappearance of a 17-year-old man John LaMay.

LaMay had told a neighbour in March 1977 he was going to meet a man named Dave - Kearney's lover Dave Hill - at Redondo Beach.

After letting him in the home, Kearney shot the young man, dismembered the corpse and disposed of it in the desert.

Kearney made a full confession to 28 murders and, later on, to seven more.

To avoid the death penalty, he agreed to plead guilty to 21, and received 21 life sentences.

He is now aged 77 and was moved to California State Prison in 2014.

Richard Cottingham was known as the 'torso killer' for dismembering young women in New Jersey. Photo / Supplied
Richard Cottingham was known as the 'torso killer' for dismembering young women in New Jersey. Photo / Supplied

Richard Francis Cottingham aka "The Torso Killer"

Incarcerated:

New Jersey

Victims:

Women

Modus operandi:

Drugging, torture, body dismemberment

Early life:

Born in The Bronx, New York, the oldest of three children of an insurance company workers and housewife.

When his family moved to New Jersey the 12-year-old Cottingham, who had bad eyesight and wasn't good at sport, had trouble making friends.

After school he became a computer operator at his father's insurance company.

Richard Cottingham was just 21-years-old when he committed his first murder, in 1967, strangling Nancy Vogel on her way to a church bingo game, and dumping her nude, bound body in a park.

Aged 23, he married his wife Janet and the couple were to have three children before their divorce nine years later.

In 1972 he had been charged with robbery and sexual assault, but the charges were dropped.

Between 1977 and 1980 Cottingham is believed to have killed up to a hundred women, although police identified only five murders and another four attempted murders.

In December 1977, he abducted nurse Mary Ann Carr from her apartment car park, and at a nearby motel tortured and killed her.

The following March, Cottingham drugged a woman, Karen Schilt, in a bar and took her away and raped her, leaving her for dead in a sewer.

Schilt was found and survived, but couldn't remember much of her abduction.

In 1979, Cottingham drugged and raped prostitute Susan Geiger, but failed to kill her and two months later he struck again.

This time Cottingham picked up two prostitutes and took them to a New York travel lodge where he tortured and killed them both, before removing their feet and hands.

He set the hotel room and the bodies on fire and took away the body parts with him.

In May 1980, police found the body of 19-year-old Valerie Street in a New Jersey Quality Inn. Street's hands were tightly handcuffed behind her, she was covered in bite marks and had been beaten across the shins.

Police linked the crime to an earlier murder at the same motel, and on May 15 of that year another young woman was stabbed to death and her body burned at a Manhattan hotel.

On May 22, Cottingham took prostitute Leslie Ann O'Dell to the Quality Inn in New Jersey where he had murdered Valerie Street.

While he was torturing her, staff heard her screams and called police.

Officers found Cottingham's handcuffs, duct tape, leather S & M gear, a toy gun, a knife and a tranquilliser drug.

Cottingham told police he had paid O'Dell and what he'd done was consensual, but as he was held in custody police began to investigate.

They matched his fingerprints to one on the handcuffs on Valerie Street's body, and in his apartment found trophies such as jewellery belonging to his other victims.

Cottingham was eventually convicted of five murders and sentenced to 100 years in prison.

He is currently incarcerated in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and is 70-years-old.

Elmer Henley is serving six life sentences in a Texas prison but was involved in the rape, torture and murder of up to 27 teenage boys. Photo / AP
Elmer Henley is serving six life sentences in a Texas prison but was involved in the rape, torture and murder of up to 27 teenage boys. Photo / AP

Elmer Wayne Henley Jr aka the Houston Mass Murderer/Candy Shop Owner's Apprentice

Incarcerated:

Texas

Victims:

Teenage boys

Modus operandi:

Torture, rape and murder

Early life:

His father was an alcoholic who beat his wife and his four sons. His mother was strict and religious and insistent that her sons receive a good education.

His parents divorced in 1970 when Henley was 14, and the former superior student dropped out of high school.

At the age of 15, through his former school friend, David Brooks, Elmer "Wayne" Henley became acquainted with Houston candy store owner, Dean Corll, a homosexual hustler, thief and sadistic serial killer.

Corll offered to pay the boys for organised burglaries and asked Henley if he would be prepared to kill, to which the 15-year-old replied, "yes".

It was 1971, Henley became aware of a number of disappearances of boys in his neighbourhood.

Over six months, eight boys aged between 13 and 17 had vanished.

Henley had participated in the search for two of them, his friends David Hilligiest and Malley Winkle who disappeared on their way to a local swimming pool.

Henley actively participated in the search for them

Corll told Henley he worked for an organisation which recruited boys for a homosexual slavery ring, and offered Henley $200 for any boy he could bring him.

Corll suggested Henley and Brooks lure the victim to Corll's apartment where Henley would trick the boy into being handcuffed.

Henley conned his first victim with the promise of smoking marijuana and watched Corll take the handcuffed youth, tie up his feet and tape his mouth.

Henley then left, believing the boy would be sold to the slavery ring and was paid $200.

But by 1972, Henley was assisting Corll in abduction and murder.

On October 2, 1972, Wally Simoneaux, 14, and Richard Hembree, 13, were abducted off the street near their homes.

Simoneaux tried to call his mother from Corll's home, but the phone was cut off.

Texan police with serial killer Dean Corll's plywood torture board and kit including rope, plastic gloves, shovels and sacks of lime. Photo / AP
Texan police with serial killer Dean Corll's plywood torture board and kit including rope, plastic gloves, shovels and sacks of lime. Photo / AP

Henley assisted Corll in the boys' rape, torture and strangulation, after which their bodies were buried in Corll's boat shed.

By late 1972, Henley and Brooks had assisted in the rape, torture and murder of at least nine teenage boys.

In 1973, Henley tried to join the US Navy, but was rejected.

On June 4, a friend of Henley's called Billy Lawrence told his father he was going on a fishing trip with friends.

He didn't return, but like the parents of some of the other missing boys, Billy's father received a note in his son's handwriting.

The note said he'd found a job in Austin and that he'd be home soon.

Billy Lawrence was raped and tortured over three days, strangled with a cord and buried in a lake.

Two weeks later, Raymond Blackburn, 20, met a similar fate and two weeks after that 15-year-old Homer Garcia joined them.

The killing spree continued apace, with two boys John Sellars and Michael Baulch killed on July 12 and July 19.

Six days later, Henley lured his friends Charles Cobble and Marty Jones to Corll's apartment,

After two days of torture and abuse, Cobble was shot and Jones strangled and both were buried in Corll's boat shed and the bodies covered with lime to aid decomposition

On August 3, Brooks and Corll but not Henley abducted 13-year-old James Dreymala, and strapped him to Corll's torture board.

Days later, Dreymala was buried in Corll's boat shed.

On August 7, 1973, Henley lured another potential victim with the promise of a party.

But before Corll could secure 19-year-old Timothy Kerley to his torture board, Henley took him from the house to go and buy a sandwich.

The pair returned with a girl, Rhonda Williams, 15, which infuriated Corll who told Henley he had "ruined everything" by bringing a female into the apartment.

Corll allowed the three teenagers to drink and smoke marijuana until they fell asleep, when he bound and gagged them all.

Corll dragged the handcuffed Henley aside and threatened to shoot him with his .22 pistol, until Henley pleaded for his life and promised to participate in the torture and murder of the other two.

Corll uncuffed Henley and then tied Kerley and Williams to either side of his plywood torture board.

He handed Henley a hunting knife and ordered him to cut away Williams' clothes, saying he would rape and kill the boy while Henley could do the same to the girl.

As Corll began to assault and torture Kerley, Henley began to cut away Williams' clothes with the knife.

Williams lifted her head and asked Henley, "Is this for real?" and when he said it was, she asked if he intended to "do anything about it".

Henley snapped and grabbed the pistol from the table and ordered Corll to stop, saying, "You've gone far enough, Dean".

Corll walked towards Henley, shouting, "Kill me, Wayne! You won't do it!"

Henley fired at Corll's forehead, hit him twice in the shoulder and then a further three times, killing him.

After releasing Kerley and Williams, he telephoned the police.

Henley told police everything about the Houston Mass Murders, wrote a confession and led them to the bodies at Corll's boatshed, Lake Sam Rayburn and a beach. and his role in them.

Police found the remains of 29 young males, but several remained unidentified. In 2011, forensic scientists finally identified Roy Bunton, a teenager missing since 1971.

Henley was charged with only six murders and at his 1974 trial, a jury deliberated for just one hour to convict him.

His conviction was overturned on appeal in 1978, but he was convicted again the next year and sentenced to six consecutive life terms.

Henley has been denied parole at each successive parole hearing and his next eligible parole date is in 2025, when he will be 69 years old.

Rory Conde began killing prostitutes on a Florida freeway after his wife left him. Photo / AP
Rory Conde began killing prostitutes on a Florida freeway after his wife left him. Photo / AP

Rory Enrique Conde aka "The Tamiami Trail Strangler"

Incarcerated:

Florida

Victims:

Female prostitutes

Modus operandi:

Strangulation, necrophilia

Early life:

Raised in Colombia, Conde's mother died from Tetanus when he was six months old. Aged 12, he moved to Miami to live with his sexually abusive father, Gustavo.

Rory Conde's life as a serial killer is believed to have begun eight years after he married at 21 to a 15-year-old girl.

The couple moved to a condominium off the Tamiami Trail, the southernmost section of Highway 41 between Tampa and Miami and had two children.

Once noted for its scenic vistas of Florida wildlife, the Highway just outside Miami runs into a strip of low rent motels, porn shops and strip bars.

It was along here that Roy Conde, the man who would become known as the Tamiami Trail Strangler would lurk.

When his sex life with his wife petered out, Conde began to disappear at night and developed an addiction to prostitutes he picked up on Highway 41.

When his wife found out about Conde's prostitute habit, she left him, taking the children.

Soon afterwards, at the age of 29, in September, 1994, Conde began to kill.

His first known victim was transvestite prostitute, Lazaro Comesana, who Conde killed because he only found out that Lazaro was male during sex.

A document filed at his later murder trial said, "Rory explained that he killed Comesana out of his anger about Comesana's deception and his belief that [his wife] and children had left him because of his use of prostitutes.

"He described kneeling over Comesana's body for ten minutes while he blamed him for the loss of his wife and children.

"He then made the sign of the cross over Comesana's body."

Conde redressed the body and drove to a middle-class neighbourhood where he dumped his victim in the open in a middle-class suburb, a routine he would repeat with every woman he killed.

Conde killed prostitute Elisa Martinez in October. When police found a second victim strangled, redressed and her body abandoned they suspected a serial killer.

Conde was apparently extremely paranoid he would be discovered, and the killings had attracted wide coverage on television and in local newspapers.

The Tamiami Trail in Florida where Rory Condeo picked up and murdered five prostitutes on his six month killing spree. Photo / Google maps
The Tamiami Trail in Florida where Rory Condeo picked up and murdered five prostitutes on his six month killing spree. Photo / Google maps

But his rage at losing his family drove him to kill again.

In November, he killed prostitute Charity Fay Nava.

On the back and buttocks of Nava he wrote a message for police with a black magic marker.

"THIRD!" he wrote with a smiley face dotting the "i" and the words "I will call Dwight Chan 10. Sii if you can catch me".

The last words were a reference to local television anchor Dwight Lauderdale.

Nava's body was found on November 20.

Wanda Crawford was Conde's next victim, on November 25, and her body was dumped on the trail a block away from the house in which Conde's estranged wife lived.

On December 17, Conde picked up Necole Schneider and killed her.

His last victim to die was Rhonda Dunn, on January 12, 1995, who put up a struggle but was overpowered and strangled.

Conde was arrested on June 19, 1995 after he took and bound and gagged prostitute Gloria Maestre in his apartment.

She was still alive when he attended court on a shoplifting charge and she managed to attract the attention of neighbours.

A Florida judge sentenced Conde to death in 2000 for Rhonda Dunn's murder.

Facing execution, Conde pleaded guilty to the murders of his five other victims and was sentenced to five consecutive life terms in 2001.

Conde, now aged 51, is in a Miami correctional facility.

A necrophile and suspected cannibal, Edmund Kemper has an IQ of 145 and had convinced authorities that he was no risk when released from prison aged 21. Photo / Youtube
A necrophile and suspected cannibal, Edmund Kemper has an IQ of 145 and had convinced authorities that he was no risk when released from prison aged 21. Photo / Youtube

Edmund Kemper aka the co-ed Butcher

Incarcerated:

California Medical Facility

Victims:

Women

Modus operandi:

Necrophile and suspected cannibal

Early life:

Kemper was abused by his mother before moving into live with his paternal grandparents who the paranoid schizophrenic then murdered.

One of five serial killers who inspired the character of Buffalo Bill in the novel which became a film, The Silence of the Lambs was Edmund Kemper.

The others are Ted Bundy, the Butcher of Plainfield Ed Gein, the Lust Killer Jerry Brudos and Gary M. Heidnik.

Kemper had everything going for him as a serial killer that made it almost impossible for his victims to escape.

He was six foot nine or 2.06m tall, weighed 114kg and had an IQ of 145.

At the age of 15 in 1964, Kemper murdered his paternal grandparents and was sentenced as a criminally insane juvenile to Atascadero State Hospital in California.

Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, he nevertheless convinced doctors he had recovered and was no longer a threat.

Released on parole on his 21st birthday, Kemper gained a job with the California State Highway Department.

He began collecting a kit - plastic bags, knives, blankets, and handcuffs - and watching the large number of girls who hitchhiked in the early 1970s.

Kemper would later say he picked up at least 150 hitchhikers before he gave into homicidal sexual urges.

Between May 1972 and April 1973, Kemper embarked on a serial killing spree that involved luring girls to his vehicle, killing them and taking their corpses home to defile them.

Long before Jeffrey Dahmer acted similarly with male victims, Kemper kept the severed heads of his victims for days.

It is uncertain how many victims Kemper killed by shooting, stabbing smothering or strangling them, and taking their bodies home where he would dismember and defile them.

He then put the body parts into plastic bags and took them to remote areas to dump them.

After killing at least six young women over eleven months, usually after arguing with his mother who belittled him, Kemper bludgeoner her to death in her sleep with a claw hammer.

He then slit her throat and decapitated her.

He then invited over her best friend who he also murdered.

Kemper was arrested while telephoning the police and allegedly confessing to murdering his mother and her friend. Photo / AP
Kemper was arrested while telephoning the police and allegedly confessing to murdering his mother and her friend. Photo / AP

Kemper took off in his car for Colorado, but rang police to confess to the last two murderers.

When they didn't take the call seriously and told him to call back later, he called an officer he knew personally and confessed to eight murders.

He said he had turned himself in because "emotionally, I couldn't handle it much longer ... at the point of near exhaustion, near collapse, I just said to hell with it".

At his 1973 trial, he was deemed sane and found guilty and requested the death penalty.

But California had temporarily suspended capital punishment and he instead received eight life sentences.

Incarcerated in the California Medical Facility, Kemper has given several interviews over the years and rejected parole in 2007 and 2012.

Now aged 68, will be eligible again for parole this year but has told the parole board that he isn't fit to rejoin society.