Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Larry and Danny Ranes: Serial Killers in the Same Family

Case Coverage

Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono
Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono

In the history of crime, we've seen brothers and cousins kill together as a team, such as Hillside Stranglers Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono or the Lewingdons  in Ohio.  But while a few grifting families have killed repeatedly together, familial teams are less likely to occur than teams who are married or romantically involved.  The only family known thus far in the U.S. that produced two serial killers at separate times in unrelated incidents was the Ranes family in Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

Only one book has been devoted to the case, and newspapers like the Kalamazoo Gazette covered the incidents, but few collections of serial murder even mention them.  Michael Newton is the exception.  He notes that others have listed them as the Searl brothers, "Ralph" and "Tommy," accepting the names that Conrad Hilberry assigned to them to protect identities (as per his agreement with Larry), when he wrote the book, Luke Karamazov

Dr. Hilberry, who lives in the town where both brothers were tried, says that he took on the project after a colleague offhandedly remarked that someone ought to write about the murders while all the principal people were still around, because this case was likely going to be unique in the annals of crime.  He was right, and thanks to Hilberry, not only the case but also a sense of the times was preserved.  In a later section, we interview Hilberry about his experience of speaking with both brothers.

Conrad Hilberry
Conrad Hilberry

It should be noted that not everyone agrees that the older brother, Danny, is guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted and is currently serving life in prison.  He claims to be innocent, so readers may follow the case and make their own decisions.

In any event, we'll take the brothers one at a time. Larry Ranes is first.  His full story came out after the discovery of a murdered man in Kalamazoo, Michigan on May 30, 1964.


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