10 Most Infamous College Criminals of All Time

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February 3rd, 2011

While most college students are law-abiding, hard-working individuals, every once in a while, a few go off the deep end and stoke their criminal inclinations. Instead of sticking to their studies, these opted for a much less traditional take on their college years, leading to lawsuits, jail time, media frenzies and even death. These sometimes crazy, sometimes crafty students have gone down in history as some of the most infamous (or just famous) in history.

  1. Philip Markoff, aka The Craigslist Killer: A second-year medical student at Boston University, Markoff's horrible crimes were exposed during a traffic stop South of Boston when Markoff and his fiance were headed towards a casino with several thousand dollars worth of cash in the car. This cash came from a series of brutal robberies, one turned murder, the victims of which Markoff found through Craigslist "massage" listings. While Markoff maintained his innocence throughout the ensuing trial, he committed suicide while in jail before any verdict was reached.
  2. Seung-Hui Cho: Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Polytechnic Institute was behind one of the bloodiest attacks on an American college. Cho suffered from anxiety and depression, conditions that caused his behavior to become increasingly erratic and intense in the years leading up to the violent attacks. On April 16, 2007, Cho killed two students in a campus dormitory before killing thirty and wounding many more in another building — eventually killing himself. The subsequent investigation of Cho's life showed a young man that was deeply troubled, and signs that concerns about his behavior should have been looked into prior to the incident.
  3. Carlton Dotson: Carlton Dotson began college with a promising career in basketball at Baylor University. He ended his career in college and in basketball with a murder conviction. After an argument with teammate Patrick Dennehy while the two were shooting guns, Dotson murdered his teammate with multiple gunshot wounds to the head. Dotson was at first deemed incompetent to stand trial due to hallucinations and psychosis, but later decided to plead guilty after the courts began to suspect that his mental illness was not, in fact, real. Dotson is currently serving 35 years in prison for the murder of his Dennehy, a crime that shook both the Baylor campus and the sports world.
  4. Shawn Fanning: With the success of The Social Network, Shawn Fanning is even more of a known name than he was back during his college years. When Fanning was in college at Boston's Northeastern University, he was busy working away at Napster, one of the first peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. While Napster may have been a pioneer in technology, it was also a thorn in the music industry's side, costing them lost sales and motivating a large lawsuit against Fanning. While many still debate whether or not use of the software was technically stealing, the courts agreed with the record companies and Napster paid out millions for copyright infringement.
  5. Patty Hearst: Was Patty Hearst really a criminal? Some believe that is still up for debate. Granddaughter of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Hearst gained notoriety while enrolled as a student at Berkely University. According to her account, she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, who demanded release of members in exchange for Hearst or millions worth of donated food for hungry Californians. In a bizarre twist of events, Hearst announced that she had joined the group two months after her kidnapping and was seen holding a gun during a bank robbery. Eventually arrested for her involvement in this robbery, Hearst claimed to have Stockholm Syndrome, a defense the jury didn't buy, sentencing her to 35 years in prison. Lucky for Hearst, her sentence was commuted by President Carter.
  6. Charles Whitman: While the offenses committed by this University of Texas, Austin student may have happened over forty years ago, they still haven't been forgotten. In one of the first cases of large-scale violence on a university campus, Whitman climbed to the top of a university tower and observation deck and used a rifle to kill 14 students and faculty members after murdering his wife and mother in their homes. While Whitman did have psychological problems and was under a great deal of stress, it is believed that a large brain tumor could have played a role in his actions that day. Whatever the reason, the tragedy claimed not only the lives of Whitman's victims but his own as well, as he was shot and killed by an Austin police officer.
  7. Frederick Martin Davidson: While being a graduate student and defending a thesis can be stressful, it's no excuse for the actions this engineering major took. At a meeting to defend his master's thesis, Davidson shot and killed three San Diego State University professors, opening fire in a campus classroom. Davidson systematically planned the killings, hiding the gun in advance and even going so far as to chase down two of the professors to kill them. The reason behind his brutal crime? Davidson was frustrated about the progress of his thesis, believing professors were bogging him down with unnecessary work and had suggested he may have been cheating. Davidson is currently serving three consecutive life terms after pleading guilty to the murders.
  8. Jared Lee Lougher: Lougher had been suspended from college for only three months when he went on a shooting rampage in Arizona that killed six, including a district court judge and a young girl, and wounded fourteen others– most notably U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Lougher by all accounts was a troubled young man, and in the months leading up to the shooting had been expelled from Pima Community College for a YouTube video he had posted calling it "the biggest scam in America." Loughner's classmates teachers and saw him as a threat, some even stated they thought he would commit a school shooting. Instead, Loughner took out his anger and paranoia on political victims and some innocent bystanders. He is currently waiting to stand trial for the murders.
  9. David Kernell: In a much-publicized incident in 2008, Kernell, a college student, was accused of hacking into vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's email account. Kernell gained access to Palin's account by looking up personal information about her and using the password recovery feature to view her password. He then posed several of her emails to an online bulletin board. While not violent, the crime was still a serious one, constituting a felony that could be punishable with up to fifty years in prison. Kernell was convicted in 2010 of the crimes, but was only sentenced to one year federal custody followed by three years in a halfway house.
  10. Duke Lacrosse Team: These young men stand out from the others on this list because they were, in fact, found to not be criminals at all. Of course, with all the media attention surrounding the case they may as well have been, as the accusations tarnished their personal and professional reputations and are likely still an issue for many of the young men today. In 2007, three young men on the lacrosse team were accused of raping a student and stripper at a house party. The case garnered an unprecedented amount of media attention, in part because the prosecutors alleged that the incident was also a hate crime. The accusation, which later proved to be false, caused the resignation of the team's coach, the end of the playing season for the lacrosse team and destroyed the reputations of the young men who were accused. No charges were ever filed against the young woman, as prosecutors believed mental illness and drug use may have caused her to believe the stories she told were actually true.

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