The 10 Biggest Criminal Cases of the 21st Century

Look at the major news stories of any recent year, and chances are there will be one or two big criminal cases among the headlines. Sometimes, the details of the crime itself are what make the case notorious. In other instances, it's the fame of the accused. You'll find examples of both in this list of the 10 biggest criminal cases of the 21st century.

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Aaron Henandez

Aaron Hernandez Court Appearance
Jared Wickerham / Getty Images

The former New England Patriots tight end was arrested in 2013 and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd, an acquaintance of Hernandez's. Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee, had been found shot to death on June 17, 2013, near Hernandez's home in suburban Boston. Hours after being arrested and charged with Lloyd's murder, Hernandez was also linked to a 2012 double murder in Boston. Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder in Lloyd's death in 2015 but was acquitted two years later in the double-murder case. On April 19, 2017, five days after the acquittal, Hernandez committed suicide in prison.

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The Grim Sleeper

USA - Crime - Grim Sleeper Arraignment
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

For more than two decades, the Los Angeles Police Department worked to solve a series of 11 murders of Black women in south-central Los Angeles that occurred between 1985 and 2007. The nickname "Grim Sleeper" refers to the 14-year hiatus the killer took between 1988 and 2002 before murdering three more women. In 2010, Lonnie David Franklin Jr., a mechanic employed by the city, was arrested in connection with the crimes. On May 5, 2016, he was found guilty of 10 counts of murder and sentenced to death.

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O.J. Simpson

O.J. Simpson Seeks Retrial In Las Vegas Court - Day 4
Pool / Getty Images

Former NFL star and celebrity O.J. Simpson's legal troubles didn't end after he was acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in 1995. On September 13, 2007, Simpson and four other men entered a Las Vegas casino hotel room where some of his sports memorabilia was being offered for sale by two collectors. After a confrontation, Simpson and his accomplices took several items and fled. Simpson was tried and found guilty of 12 criminal charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping, and sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison in Nevada. In 2017, he was granted parole and released from prison.

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Drew Peterson

Drew Peterson Is Arraigned On Murder Charges
Scott Olson / Getty Images

Former Bolingbrook, Illinois, policeman Drew Peterson made national headlines in October 2007 when his wife Stacy Peterson disappeared. She wasn't the first of Peterson's spouses to die. Kathleen Savio, his third wife, was found dead in her bathtub in 2004. While police and friends searched for Stacy Peterson, investigators reopened the Savio case and charged Drew Peterson in 2009 with two counts of first-degree murder. He was found guilty of Savio's death in 2012 and sentenced to 38 years in prison. In 2016, Peterson was found guilty of attempting to hire a hit man to kill the Will County, Illinois, prosecutor who had served in his 2012 murder trial.

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Casey Anthony

Casey Anthony Sentenced For Lying To Law Enforcement Conviction
Pool / Getty Images

On June 15, 2008, Cindy Anthony called 911 in Orlando, Florida, to report that her daughter, Casey Anthony, had stolen a car and some money. She called again later to report that Casey's daughter, two-year-old Caylee Marie Anthony, had been missing for more than a month. The child's remains were found in December 2008 near the Anthony home. The murder trial, which began in June 2011, was a media sensation, and there was much public outcry when Casey Anthony was found not guilty of first-degree murder the following month.

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The Slender Man Stabbing

Slender Man

 Harem Malik/ BY 2.0

On May 31, 2014, 12-year-old Payton Leutner was found near a bike trail in Waukesha, Wisconsin, bleeding from 19 stab wounds. Leutner, who survived the attack, told authorities she was stabbed by two of her 12-year-old friends, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser. The girls later told authorities that they had attacked Leutner because they were afraid of Slender Man, an urban legend that had gone viral online a few years earlier. Weier and Geyser were both arrested and charged with attempted homicide. In 2017, Geyser and Weier were both found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect and sentenced to involuntary psychiatric treatment.

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Cheyanne Jessie

On August 1, 2015, 25-year-old Cheyanne Jessie of Lakeland, Florida, called the police to report that her father Mark Weekly and her daughter Meredith were missing. She was arrested and charged with their murders less than 24 hours later. At trial, prosecutors described how Jessie killed the two in her father's home on June 18, 2015, then left the bodies for four days before hiding them in storage containers.

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The McStay Family

On February 4, 2010, Joseph McStay and his family vanished, leaving their Fallbrook, California, home locked and their pets outside without food or water. More than three years later, in November 2013, the bodies of McStay, his wife Summer, and their two children were found in the desert outside Victorville, California. The following year, police arrested Chase Merritt, McStay's business partner, and charged him with their deaths. Jury selection for his trial began in October 2018.

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Carrie and Steven Turner

On March 6, 2015, Carrie and Steven Turner were found dead at the Landmark Resort on South Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They had been shot to death. Just three days later, the Turners' son Alexander and his girlfriend Chelsi Griffin were arrested and charged with the couple's deaths. Turner pleaded guilty; Griffin was found guilty of being an accessory after the fact.

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Nathaniel Kibby

On October 9, 2013, a 14-year-old student left Kennett High School in Conway, New Hampshire, walking home by her usual route. She never made it there. Nine months later, the girl reappeared, telling police that she had been released by her captor. Acting on her information, police arrested Nathaniel Kibby. As the subsequent trial would reveal, Kibby kept the girl imprisoned in his home and in a storage container on his property, repeatedly assaulting and torturing her during that nine-month period. He ultimately released her once he began to fear that the police were on his trail. In May 2016, Kibby pleaded guilty to charges that included kidnapping and sexual assault and was sentenced to 45 to 90 years in prison.

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Montaldo, Charles. "The 10 Biggest Criminal Cases of the 21st Century." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2021, Montaldo, Charles. (2021, March 3). The 10 Biggest Criminal Cases of the 21st Century. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "The 10 Biggest Criminal Cases of the 21st Century." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 16, 2021).