Proms are often touted as magical nights that signify the end of high school and the start of adulthood. Of course, if you’ve ever seen horror movies like Carrie, Prom Night, or The Loved Ones, you know that proms can be downright nightmarish.
Sadly, these nightmares aren’t just relegated to the movie screen. Sometimes, they happen in real life.
10 Eddie M. Herrera
On May 10, 2014, 17-year-old Jacqueline Gomez and her date, 18-year-old Eddie Herrera, attended their prom at a hotel in Houston, Texas. After the prom, the couple went to a hotel room where they drank whiskey and took hydrocodone pills before engaging in what Herrera said was consensual rough sex.
While having sex, Herrera admitted that he strangled Gomez, whom he had been dating for three weeks. But he said that she was alive when he went to sleep. The next morning, he woke up and found Gomez dead.
He called his mother, who had gotten them the hotel room, the alcohol, and the pills. She arrived and dressed Gomez. Then she called the front desk, asking if there was a hospital doctor. Since there wasn’t, the hotel staff called 911. Personnel from the fire department arrived on-site and pronounced the girl dead.
After an extensive investigation, Herrera was arrested on January 15, 2015, and charged with aggravated assault. Herrera’s mother, Melissa Ann Martinez, was arrested one month later and charged with buying Herrera and Gomez alcohol. As of early 2016, both are awaiting trial.
9 Adam Sapikowski
On the weekend of his prom in April 2005, 16-year-old Adam Sapikowski of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, got into an argument with his parents, James and Alison Sapikowski, over Adam’s grades and his girlfriend. Outraged, Adam grabbed a single-shot shotgun (which had to be reloaded each time it was fired) and shot his father three times and his mother twice.
After killing his parents, Adam dragged their bodies behind a barricaded door in the family’s house and cleaned up the mess. Then he went to the prom and even had friends back to his house for an after-party.
His friends didn’t know about the murders or the dead bodies that were still in the house. When people asked about the awful smell that lingered in the house, Adam said that some food in the refrigerator had spoiled.
Over the next two weeks, Adam alternated between staying at a hotel room and at his house. By this point, people were wondering what had happened to James and Alison.
When the police went to the house, they found the couple’s bodies wrapped in blankets behind the barricaded door. Adam was arrested and made a plea deal with prosecutors. His prison sentence was up to 24.5 years for his father’s murder. When Adam completes that prison term, he will serve up to 25 years for killing his mother.
8 Christopher Plaskon
Leading up to the 2014 junior prom at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, Connecticut, 16-year-old Christopher Plaskon asked Maren Sanchez, also 16, to go to the prom with him. Sanchez turned him down.
Plaskon was extremely upset about the rejection. He told some friends that he hoped Sanchez would die or get hit by a bus. But although he had said that he wanted something terrible to happen to her, he never actually threatened her.
Sadly, instead of just moving on or going to the prom stag, Plaskon took a more destructive course of action. At about 7:00 AM on April 25, 2014, the day of the prom, he found Sanchez in a school stairwell and attacked her with a knife. Stabbed in the neck and torso, the teenage girl died as a result of her injuries.
Plaskon was arrested in the principal’s office shortly afterward. Eventually, Plaskon underwent a mental evaluation. He said that he had heard voices in his head in the weeks leading up to the murder. However, some people believe that he killed Sanchez because he was upset that she wouldn’t go to the prom with him.
As of January 2016, prosecutors are trying to work out a plea deal with Plaskon. If they don’t, he will go to trial in spring 2016.
7 Devontay Hackett
On the night of June 6, 2014, two rival Catholic high schools in Ottawa, Ontario, were holding their proms in the city’s downtown area. Students from both schools had booked rooms at the nearby Les Suites Hotel.
After the prom, students from both schools also went to nearby Gatineau, Quebec, to drink. The minimum drinking age is 18 in Gatineau, rather than 19 as in Ontario.
When the bars closed, the students returned to their hotel. A crowd of at least 20 young men gathered in front of Les Suites Hotel. Among them was Brandon Volpi and Devontay Hackett, both 18 and from different schools. But the two apparently knew each other.
A brawl broke out. Hackett stabbed Volpi in the chest and the neck, killing him. After the stabbing, Hackett fled to Toronto. But he was arrested a short time later. As of early 2016, he is awaiting trial for second-degree murder.
6 Paul Michael Crowder
Berlyn Cosman, 17, of La Crescenta, California, was a straight-A student and star basketball player who had been awarded a scholarship to play basketball in fall 1992. But sadly, she would never attend college.
On the night of June 1, 1991, Cosman went to her prom in Universal City with her boyfriend and some friends. After the prom, they all went to a hotel in Anaheim where they had rented some rooms.
One of the people at the after-party was Paul Michael Crowder, a 19-year-old high school dropout who hadn’t gone to the prom. He didn’t have a date for the after-party, either. He was simply acting as a pseudo-bodyguard for one of the girls at the party because she was worried that her ex-boyfriend might show up.
At the party, a lot of people weren’t happy that Crowder had a gun visible in his belt for much of the evening. He was told to unload the gun, which he did, leaving the bullets on the table. But they disappeared a short time later.
Throughout the night, Crowder drank heavily and became belligerent. He waved the gun around and threatened people. At some point, he went into the room where Cosman and her friend, Jill Cappillero, were trying to sleep.
Crowder wanted to party in that room, which caused an argument between Crowder and the girls. Cappillero led the charge. She told him to go back to the party room. When he did, he insulted the girls and said that he “wanted to kill them.”
After hearing the insults, Cappillero walked into the main room, told Crowder off, and returned to bed. A short time later, he again entered the room where the two girls were sleeping. This time, he had a loaded gun in his hand.
He fired the gun. At first, Crowder and the other party guests didn’t know where the bullet had gone. Then Crowder realized that he had shot Cosman in the head. He took off, but he was arrested hours later for Cosman’s murder.
Although Crowder said that the shooting was an accident, he was ultimately found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to prison for 19 years to life. In March 2015, Crowder was denied parole for the second time.
5 The Disappearance Of Catherine Lynne Sjoberg
On the night of June 7, 1974, Catherine Lynne Sjoberg was attending her prom with her boyfriend at the Concord Recreation Center in Concord, Wisconsin. Around 3:00 AM, she got into an argument with her boyfriend and stepped outside to get some air. But Sjoberg didn’t return to the dance. In fact, she was never seen again. The 16-year-old had simply vanished without a trace.
The police had two suspects in the disappearance. The first was Sjoberg’s boyfriend, but he passed three polygraph tests. Police no longer consider him a suspect.
The second suspect was involved in the murders of Tim Hack and Kelly Drew, both 19. The couple had disappeared after leaving a wedding reception at the same recreation center in August 1980. A short time later, their bodies were found in a nearby forest. It was determined that they had been murdered.
In 2009, DNA evidence linked the murders of Hack and Drew to Edward Wayne Edwards, a drifter who has been connected to five other murders. Police believe that he may have been responsible for more. There has even been some speculation that Edwards could have been the Zodiac Killer.
On April 7, 2011, Edwards died, taking the truth about the number of his victims with him. It is not believed that he was responsible for the disappearance of Sjoberg because he was not in the area at the time.
After both suspects were excluded, the case went cold. Police are unsure what happened to Sjoberg on the night of her prom. In 1995, 21 years after she disappeared, her family held a memorial service for her.
4 The Murders Of Debra Means And Michael Morris
On the night of May 3, 1969, 15-year-old Debra Means and 18-year-old Michael Morris attended their prom in Mascoutah, Illinois. After the prom, they went out for dinner with their friends and then to a nearby strip mine for a swimming party. The couple set off for home at about 2:30 AM, but they never made it.
A search was launched. On May 5, their bodies were found near the mine. It looked like the car had been forced off the road into a secluded area.
Morris was still wearing his tuxedo pants and shirt. He had died from a wound to the back of the head, either from a bullet or blunt force trauma. Means was found naked. She had been bound, gagged with her own clothes, raped, and strangled to death.
Police believed that Marshall Wayne Stauffer (aka William Raymond Nickerson) committed the brutal double murder. Wanted for another rape and an armed robbery in the area, he fled Illinois before the bodies of Morris and Means were found.
Arrested weeks later in Sacramento, Stauffer remained a suspect in the case, but he was never charged. In May 1992, Stauffer, then 63, was charged with kidnapping and raping two 15-year-old girls. The results of those charges are unclear, and Stauffer’s whereabouts are unknown.
3 Melissa Drexler
On the night of June 6, 1997, 18-year-old Melissa Drexler, described as mellow and introverted, attended her high school prom with her boyfriend. On the way to the dance, Drexler complained about stomach pains.
At some point, she went into a washroom stall for a period of time. Her friend heard something fall into the toilet, and she asked if Drexler was okay. Drexler said that she was fine and would be out in a few minutes. True to her word, she returned to the dance, where she ate a salad and danced with her boyfriend.
After Drexler left the washroom, school officials were notified that the floor of the stall that Drexler had used was covered with blood. When they asked her about the blood, she said that she was having a heavy menstrual flow.
However, outside in a trash bin, a maintenance man discovered the body of a dead newborn boy, who weighed about 2.9 kilograms (6.4 lb). When confronted, Drexler admitted that she had given birth but said that the baby had been stillborn.
She said that she picked the body out of the toilet, put it in a plastic bag, and thrown it in the garbage. She had kept the pregnancy a secret from her boyfriend, her friends, and her family.
An autopsy was performed, which showed that the baby wasn’t stillborn. The baby had been born healthy, and Drexler had choked him. Then she either smothered him with her hands or cut off his oxygen by enclosing him in the plastic bag.
In June 1997, Drexler was charged with murder. Four months later, she pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter. Although she was given a 15-year prison sentence, she was released on parole after serving 36 months.
2 The Murders Of Megan Poston, Michael Dillon, Eddrick Clark, And Donte Ward
On the evening of May 21, 2005, Michael Dillon, 17, was attending his prom with Megan Poston, 16, in Huntington, West Virginia. After the prom, they attended a lock-in after-party.
But the young couple sneaked out and ended up 5 kilometers (3 mi) away at a house that Donte Ward had rented. Ward, who would have turned 20 on May 23, had been enjoying a joint birthday celebration with his friend Eddrick Clark, who turned 19 at the stroke of midnight on May 22.
At about 4:30 AM, an unidentified person or persons opened fire on the four young people. All of them died. It is believed that Ward was the target of the shooting because of a drug dispute. The other three teenagers died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It is also believed that a Detroit woman named Cherylethia “Bunny” Holmes had ordered the hit, although she denies it. Holmes is currently serving a life sentence for ordering the murder of 31-year-old Wendy Morgan in 2008 after money and drugs were stolen from Holmes’s crack house.
Although police are sure that Holmes ordered the killing, there is no evidence connecting her to the crime. The shooter(s) have never been identified.
1 Jeff Pelley
On April 27, 1989, the 18-year-old girlfriend of Jeff Pelley was surprised when he showed up at their prom in rural Lakeville, Indiana. She didn’t think that Jeff was allowed to go because he had gotten into trouble with his father, Bob Pelley, who was a preacher. But Jeff explained that his father had changed his mind at the last minute and had even agreed to let him go to the after-party.
The day after the prom, Jeff’s father didn’t show up for Sunday service, which was odd for the minister. A member of the congregation went to Pelley’s house and entered the home with a spare key.
Inside, he found the bodies of Bob, his wife and Jeff’s stepmother, Dawn Pelley, and her daughters, eight-year-old Janel and six-year-old Jolene. They had all been murdered with a shotgun. Luckily, Jessie, Dawn’s nine-year-old daughter, had missed the massacre because she was at a sleepover.
Jeff was picked up by the police at an amusement park the next day. In interviews with police, he admitted that he didn’t get along with his stepmother. But he said that he didn’t kill her.
There was little evidence to prove otherwise, so Jeff wasn’t charged until 2002, 13 years after the mass murder. Prosecutors argued that Jeff killed the family because he had been grounded by his stern father and wasn’t allowed to go to his prom. Ultimately, Jeff was found guilty and and sentenced to 160 years in prison.
Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or on Pinterest, or visit his website.