John List was long seen as the perfect son, husband, and father. He worked at a bank as an accountant to provide for his family. He was doing so well that his mansion with his mother, wife, and three children had 19 rooms, a ballroom, a Tiffany skylight, and marble fireplaces.
List was born in Bay City, Michigan, and was the only child of German-American parents. Like his father, List had been a devout Lutheran and Sunday school teacher. He enlisted in the Army in 1943 and was a laboratory tech during World War II. After being discharged three years later, he enrolled at the University of Michigan. That’s where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in accounting. He was commissioned a second lieutenant through ROTC.
As the Korean War escalated, List was recalled to active duty in November 1950. At Fort Eustis, Virginia, he met Helen Morris Taylor, the widow of an infantry officer killed in action. She lived nearby with her daughter, Brenda. List married Helen on December 1, 1951, in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to northern California. Once the Army realized the accounting skills List had, they reassigned him to the Finance Corps.
After finishing his second tour in 1952, List began to work for an accounting firm in Detroit and became an audit supervisor at a paper company in Kalamazoo, where his three children were born. By 1959, List had moved up the ranks to general supervisor of the accounting department. However, Helen was an alcoholic and had become increasingly unstable. In 1960, Brenda married and moved out, and List moved the rest of the family to Rochester, New York, to work for Xerox. He would eventually become the director of accounting services. In 1965, List became the VP and comptroller at a Jersey City, New Jersey bank. He moved his wife, children, and mother into Breeze Knoll, a 19-room Victorian mansion at 431 Hillside Avenue in Westfield.
On November 9, 1971, List murdered his entire immediate family with a 9mm Styr handgun and his father’s Colt .22 revolver. After his children went to school, he shot his wife, Helen, 46, in the back of the head and then his mother, Alma, 84, above the left eye. After his daughter Patricia, 16, and son Frederick, 13, came home, he shot them each in the back of the head. After he had some lunch, List drove to the bank to close out his and his…