On the surface, John List seemed to have it made: A deeply religious family man with a wife and three kids, he had a successful career as a bank president and a sprawling 19-room Victorian mansion in the comfortable suburban setting of Westfield, New Jersey.
But in December 1971, John List’s neighbors realized something strange. No one had seen any members of the List family for almost a month, since November 9. Neighbors noticed that all the lights in the house were constantly on -- at least, until they started to burn out one by one. Eventually, List’s 16-year-old daughter’s drama coach, worried about her extended absence, notified police.
Investigators were horrified when they entered the List family mansion on December 7, 1971. Inside they found five dead bodies: John’s wife Helen; their three teenage children, Patricia, Frederick, and John, Jr.; and John’s 84-year-old mother, Alma. All had been shot dead. Helen and the children were laid out in the mansion’s grand ballroom. John’s mother was discovered in her apartment in the attic.
Police found a five-page letter that List had written to his pastor, explaining that he killed his family to save their souls because he believed they were “falling away from God.” List’s letter also said he believed that “by killing them, they would die Christians.” The investigation into John List revealed that he had been living a lie for quite some time.
List had been fired from his job as a bank president in Jersey City but hadn’t told his family. Instead, he went about his normal routine each morning as if he were still employed, spending his time reading newspapers at the local train station until the work day was over. List was also having major financial problems; he was even taking money from his mother’s bank account.
To be continued