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Helen List's relationship with John List ended when Helen List died on November 9, 1971. They had been married for 19.9 years.

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Helen List

Other - Spouse

Why Famous: Wife of John List

Age: 45 (1926 - 11/9/1971)


Helen List's Relationships (1)

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John List

Business - Other

Why Famous: Murder of Wife, Children and Mother

Age: 82 (9/17/1925 - 3/21/2008)


John List's Relationships (1)

Relationship Timeline

Event Start Date Length
Dating n/a --
Engaged n/a --
Married 1952 19.9 years
Deceased 11/9/1971 --
 Total19.9 years*

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Children of this Relationship

Name Born Age Gender Type
Patricia195516 yrs.*FemaleBiological
John Jr195615 yrs.*MaleBiological
Frederick195714 yrs.*MaleBiological

* Age at time of death

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Relationship Information, Quotes, and Trivia

Where and/or how did Helen List and John List meet?

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Why did Helen List and John List break up?

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Other Relationship Information about Helen List and John List:

List killed his family: his wife, Helen, 45; his children, Patricia, 16, John, Jr., 15, and Frederick, 13; and mother, Alma, 84. He had used his father's 9mm Steyr automatic handgun and his own .22 caliber revolver in the murders. He first shot his wife in the back of the head and his mother once in the left eye, while his children were at school. When Patricia and Frederick came home, they were shot in the back of the head. John, Jr., the oldest son, was playing in a soccer game that afternoon. List made himself lunch and then drove to watch John play. He brought his son home and then shot him once in the back of the head. List saw John twitch as if he were having a seizure and shot him again. It was later determined that List had shot his eldest son at least ten times.

List dragged his dead wife and children, on sleeping bags, into the ballroom of their 19-room Victorian home after each kill. He then cleaned up the crime scene, turned on all the lights, and switched on the radio. He left his mother's body in her apartment in the attic and stated in a letter to his pastor on his desk in his study that "Mother is in the attic. She was too heavy to move." In the letter, List also claimed he had prayed over the bodies before going on the run. The deaths were not discovered for a month, due to the Lists' reclusiveness. Moreover, List had also sent notes stating that the family would be in North Carolina for several weeks to the children's schools and part-time jobs and had stopped the family's milk, mail and newspaper deliveries, he also took money from his bank account, as well as his mother's bank account. List then fled in his Chevrolet Impala.

The case quickly became the second most infamous crime in New Jersey history, surpassed only by the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh Baby. A nationwide manhunt for List was launched. His Chevy Impala was found parked at Kennedy Airport, but there was no record of his taking a flight. The police checked out hundreds of leads without results.

In 1989, New Jersey law enforcement approached the producers of the television show America's Most Wanted because of that show's track record of fugitive captures. It was the oldest unsolved case the show had ever featured. The broadcast included an age-progressed clay bust, which, as it turned out, looked remarkably similar to List, even though he had been missing for 18 years. The man who sculpted the bust of List was forensic artist Frank Bender, who had successfully captured many aging fugitives and identified decomposed bodies via his art. To imagine what an older List would look like, he consulted forensic psychologist Richard Walter, who created a psychological profile. He looked at photographs of List's parents and predicted his appearance, giving List a receding hairline and sagging jowls.

Bender and Richard Walter were particularly praised for one final touch: a pair of glasses. They theorized that List would want to appear more important than he really was, and would affect a stereotypical intellectual/professional appearance by wearing glasses. John Walsh, the host of America's Most Wanted, called Bender's work the most brilliant example of detective work that he had ever seen. Walsh kept Bender's bust of List in a place of honor in his office for many years, and in 2008 donated it to a forensic science exhibit at the privately owned National Museum of Crime & Punishment.

List was arrested on June 1, 1989, nearly 18 years after killing his family. At the time he was employed by a Richmond, Virginia accounting firm where he worked while living under the fictitious name Robert "Bob" Peter Clark. List had chosen the name because it had belonged to one of his college classmates, who later stated that he had never known List. List had lived in Denver, Colorado and Midlothian, Virginia before his arrest, having remarried and resumed working as an accountant. Upon viewing the broadcast a friend of the Clarks recognized the subject of the profile as a neighbor and contacted the authorities. The police immediately arrived to arrest List, who refused to voluntarily surrender. List was extradited to New Jersey as Robert Clark and sent to the Union County, New Jersey jail to await trial. He continued to stand by his alias despite overwhelming evidence, including his fingerprints at the crime scene, of both his true identity and of his guilt.

List made his first admission of his identity to a fellow inmate while he was still in the Union County Jail. During a casual discussion List made reference to his military service during World War II, and the inmate said to List (using his alias), "Bob, that might be just what you need to prove that you're not John List. They took your fingerprints when you joined the military, didn't they?" List hesitated for a moment, then lowered his head and mumbled, "Yes, they did." He then excused himself, saying that he was tired and needed a nap. The next day, List said, "Richard, my name is John List, not Bob Clark." List thereafter corrected any inmate or staff member who called him "Bob" or "Mr. Clark."

On April 12, 1990, List was convicted in a New Jersey court of five counts of first-degree murder. On May 1, he was sentenced to five consecutive terms of life imprisonment. List never expressed any remorse for his crimes. In a 2002 interview with Connie Chung, when asked why he had not taken his own life, he said he believed that suicide would have barred him from Heaven, where he hoped to be reunited with his family.

List had lost his job as an accountant and was suffering from financial problems before the murders. He would sit at the local bus station everyday, hiding his unemployment from his family, and making believe he was traveling to his accountant job. He owed $11,000 on his mortgage and was skimming from his mother's bank accounts. He was also dealing with his wife's dementia, brought on by advanced syphilis contracted from her first husband and hidden from List for 18 years.

List was described by a psychiatrist as having obsessive compulsive personality disorder. A psychiatrist who interviewed List testified that he saw only two solutions to his family's financial and health problems - either go on welfare or kill his family and send their souls to heaven. He was especially concerned about the soul of his daughter, Patty, who showed little interest in church. She was also active in the theater department, smoked cannabis, and dabbled in witchcraft. He was afraid that welfare would expose them to ridicule, show that List did not love them, and violate his own authoritarian father's teachings to always care for and protect the family.

List died from complications of pneumonia at age 82 on March 21, 2008, while in prison custody at a Trenton, New Jersey hospital. In announcing his death the Newark, New Jersey, Star-Ledger referred to him as the "boogeyman of Westfield". His body was not immediately claimed, though he was later buried next to his mother in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

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