Murders during a game of Solitaire

Michael Sokolove

Case 1: The Solitaire Killer

The Solitaire Killer was a serial killer who terrorized San Francisco in the early 1990s. The killer would target elderly women who lived alone, leaving playing cards at the scenes of his crimes and rearranging furniture to suggest that he was playing a game of solitaire with his victims.

The Solitaire Killer was later identified as Efren Saldivar, a nurse who had worked at a local hospital. Saldivar had a history of stealing from patients and was fired after being caught stealing drugs. It is believed that his motive for the murders was financial gain, as many of his victims had significant assets.

Saldivar was charged with nine counts of first-degree murder and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He expressed no remorse for his crimes during his trial and maintained his innocence up until his conviction.

The case of the Solitaire Killer highlighted the importance of thorough background checks when hiring individuals who will work closely with vulnerable populations such as seniors or patients in healthcare settings.

Additionally, it demonstrated how seemingly innocuous items, like playing cards, can hold significant meaning and serve as clues in criminal investigations. The Solitaire Killer case remains one of the most high-profile examples of a murderer using a game of solitaire as part of their modus operandi.

Case 2: The Solitaire Strangler

Joseph Kondro, also known as the “Solitaire Strangler,” was a serial killer who operated in St. Louis, Missouri, in the 1980s. He was responsible for the murder of four women, all of whom were found strangled with cords or wires and with playing cards left at the crime scenes.

Kondro was initially arrested for burglary, but after his DNA was taken for analysis, he was linked to the murders. Multiple witnesses also identified him as having been seen in the vicinity of the victims prior to their deaths.

During his trial, prosecutors argued that Kondro had a fascination with the game of solitaire and used playing cards as a signature element of his crimes. They presented evidence that Kondro had purchased decks of cards prior to the murders and that he had written notes about solitaire in his personal journal.

Despite initially pleading not guilty to the charges, Kondro was eventually found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1991. However, his sentence was later commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole after Missouri repealed the death penalty.

The case of Joseph Kondro highlights the dangers of violent crime and the importance of using forensic evidence to bring perpetrators to justice. It also demonstrates the eerie connections that can be drawn between seemingly innocuous things like playing cards and more sinister actions like murder.

Case 3: Solitaire Murder-Suicide

The case of the Solitaire Murder-Suicide in Carlsbad, California is a tragic example of how playing cards can be found at crime scenes, suggesting a potential motive for a violent act.

In August 2015, a married couple was found dead in their home in Carlsbad. Later investigation revealed that the husband, identified as Ronald Clyne, had shot and killed his wife, Vicki Clyne, before turning the gun on himself. The couple’s bodies were discovered with a deck of playing cards and a scorecard for solitaire nearby.

While the exact reason why the couple was playing solitaire before the incident remains unclear, the presence of the cards points to the possibility that it may have been a precursor to the murder-suicide. It has been speculated that the game of solitaire could have been a way for the couple to pass the time before carrying out their tragic plan.

The case highlights the importance of seeking help in times of mental and emotional distress. Domestic violence and suicide are often preventable, and those who are struggling should seek professional assistance. It also underscores the necessity of looking for clues and evidence at the scene of a crime to better understand what happened and why.

Case 4: Solitaire Poisoning

The case of Solitaire Poisoning in Texas is a disturbing example of how a simple game can be associated with a heinous crime. In this case, Sandra Louis Garner was accused and convicted of murdering her husband by lacing his drink with antifreeze during a game of solitaire.

In January 2013, the police were alerted to an unresponsive man in a house in Maypearl, Texas. The man was identified as Jon Garner, the husband of Sandra Louis Garner. At the scene, investigators found a deck of playing cards and a scorecard for solitaire on the kitchen table. Initially claiming that her husband had fallen down the stairs, Sandra later changed her story and admitted to poisoning him.

The investigation revealed that Jon had been poisoned by ethylene glycol, a toxic substance found in antifreeze. Sandra had purchased the antifreeze just hours before the incident, and investigators found evidence implicating her in her husband’s death, including internet searches on how to make antifreeze taste sweet and how much of it could be lethal.

Sandra Louis Garner was eventually charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison. The case highlights how seemingly innocent activities or games, like playing solitaire, can be linked to criminal activities. It also serves as a reminder that a person’s motives and intentions may not always be clear, and that people who are struggling with relationship issues should seek professional help rather than resorting to violence.

Case 5: Solitaire Stabbing

The case of Solitaire Stabbing in Florida highlights the tragic and violent consequences that can result from relationship issues. In this case, Christopher Holloman was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend during a game of solitaire.

On December 6, 2002, police were called to the home of Heather Young, Holloman’s ex-girlfriend. They found her body lying on the floor, having sustained multiple stab wounds. A deck of playing cards and a scorecard for solitaire were discovered at the scene of crime, leading investigators to conclude that the victim had been playing the game before she was killed.

Christopher Holloman was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He denied any involvement in the crime, but forensic evidence and witness testimonies implicated him in the killing. The evidence presented at trial indicated that Holloman had stabbed Young more than 30 times before fleeing the scene.

In November 2004, Holloman was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The severity of the sentence reflects the heinous nature of the crime and the impact it had on the victim’s family and loved ones.

This tragic case serves as a reminder that violence is never an acceptable solution to relationship issues or conflicts. It also emphasizes the importance of seeking help and support when dealing with relationship problems, rather than resorting to violence or other harmful actions.


The cases presented above are just a few examples of how solitaire, a seemingly innocent game, can be used as a tool for murder. While these cases are rare, they serve as a reminder that anyone can become a victim of violence. It is important to be aware of your surroundings and to report any suspicious activity to the authorities. By working together, we can help prevent tragedies like these from occurring in the future.