FBI investigators spent years trying to track down criminal Heather Tallchief, though her trail was ice cold from the moment she disappeared. When they finally had her in cuffs, they were stunned to learn how she’d pulled off her crime — and what she’d been doing for the past 12 years.
Heather Tallchief was interested in medicine. In the years before her crimes, she worked as a caregiver at a hospice in her home city of San Francisco. Despite being a well-loved employee, her exposure to old age and death left her jaded. She found herself with increasingly negative thoughts.
One night in 1992, Heather was approached by a man at a bar. He went by many pseudonyms, but his true name was Roberto Solis. He was 27 years her senior, yet the attraction was instant. They went back to his apartment, where he insisted on reading her tarot cards. She agreed.
As Roberto shuffled the cards, Heather noticed the skulls and candles cluttering up his apartment. Despite red flags, she had fallen under his spell. Roberto would later reveal his entire criminal past to her, but for now, he was a captivating enigma. According to his reading, they had a future in Las Vegas — together.
In an unlikely move, Heather left San Francisco for Vegas and moved in with the charismatic criminal. The young woman trusted this man completely. He gave her the kind of affection she’d never received before. The fact that this affection came from a criminal with a background as dark as Roberto’s didn’t seem to bother her…
You see, those “red flags” Heather probably noticed were truly indicative of Roberto’s past criminal activity. He was actually a convicted murderer who, back in 1969, had shot and killed a guard during a failed robbery. Roberto was cool and calculating, and as it turned out, so was Heather.
Not too long after moving, Heather applied to be a driver of armored vehicles, supplying cash to all the major casinos on the Vegas Strip. She was a beautiful girl with perfect references and no criminal background. The male-driven industry employed her with no suspicion.
After performing shockingly well on her firearm evaluation, Heather was swiftly promoted. She’d only been on the job for a couple months and was now transporting millions in unmarked bills to the biggest casinos in the country. She became very popular among her colleagues, particularly the men.
To avoid attention, Heather would wear fake glasses and rugged boots, which only enchanted her coworkers more — many admitted to having crushes on her! Heather’s allure became overwhelming when she suddenly disappeared on October 21st, 1993.
It was a Friday. The Strip was packed with gamblers and tourists, all rubbing shoulders as they stuffed more money in the pockets of casino owners. No one knew one of the greatest heists in Las Vegas’s history was about to take place.
Heather was going about the job as usual. As she drove with over 3 million dollars in unmarked bills, you might assume her heart was racing. But her coworkers recall her relaxed demeanor. Her shoes, however, told a different story.
On her feet, Heather had traded her rugged boots for a pair of dress shoes. Her coworkers thought she might be headed to a fancy dinner after work. Still, it was an odd clothing choice, considering it was the biggest change-over day of the year.
At around 8AM, Heather and her coworkers pulled up to their first stop. She was left alone as the men unloaded the first batch of bills into the casino. When her coworkers returned outside, Heather and the truck were nowhere to be found.
Heather had driven to a rented garage only minutes away. To avoid suspicion, Roberto pretended to be in an armored-car repair business. The couple left the vehicle in the garage, took the $3 million, and set off to the airport. By the time the FBI had caught wind, the couple had escaped for good.
Roberto and Heather had planned for months. They left false names, addresses, workplaces, and phone numbers to throw the authorities off their trail. They forged multiple drivers licenses and identifications in foreign countries. With incredible foresight, Roberto and Heather managed to remain undercover for 12 years.
Heather Tallchief became 3rd on the FBI’s list of most-wanted fugitives, making her the most wanted woman in America. This was the highest level reached by a woman in 23 years. But after committing such an explosive crime at such a young age, would Heather be content living in secret for her entire life?
Shortly after the couple’s escape, Roberto began cheating on Heather. He treated her poorly and brought other women into their home. She found herself doing drugs and drinking excessively. After two years, Heather got pregnant. After giving birth, she decided to take her infant son and flee.
Having a child changed Heather’s outlook. For a decade, she managed to stay hidden from the government. Once her son turned 10, Heather decided to turn herself in. She hired an experienced lawyer to oversee her surrender and flew to an airport in Nevada. There, she admitted to her identity and was placed under arrest.
Heather gave a full confession to the authorities. She told them all the cunning ways she and Roberto managed to stay hidden. And yet, they were astonished by Heather in particular. They asked how she managed to stay incognito for a full decade while continuing to raise a child.
The young woman had started a brand new life in the Netherlands. She met another man and raised her child to know him as his father. Once her son reached the age of 10, Heather came forward with her crimes. By being a present mother, she hoped her son would sympathize with her mistakes.
Heather was sentenced to just over 5 years in prison. On top of this, she was to spend her life paying back the $3 million to the security company. In 2010, she was released from prison and now remains a low-profile member of society, assumed to be reunited with her son.
The investigator on Heather’s case was lauded in his field, but he’d run into one frustrating problem when dealing with her: a lack of female criminals to look at for precedent. Scrolling through the database, he soon realized he’d run out of options. He’d avoided it at all costs, but now there was nowhere left to turn. He had to delve back into the one case that had always kept him up at night: the chilling story of the Papin sisters.
Initially, the investigator was hopeful that their case might shed some light on Heather’s own motivations. Born in 1905 and 1911, respectively, Christine and Léa Papin started out as sweet kids — before they started to change. The girls had been born to troubled parents, whose infidelity and alcoholism broke up their marriage. They were sent away to live with their aunt and uncle, where things quickly escalated to dark extremes.
After seven years with her aunt and uncle, Christine went to live at a Catholic orphanage. Léa lived with a different uncle and was also transferred to the same orphanage when that uncle died. At such a young age, trouble was already brewing within the little girls, but no one could have foreseen the devastating consequences.
Although it was well-intended, this shuffling of their home situations later proved harmful. Christine was passionate about Catholicism and wanted to become a nun, but her mother Clémence wouldn’t hear of it. A spark began to burn in Christine.
Instead, Christine was sent into employment as a maid, legal work for French children at the age of 15. When Léa turned 15, she left the orphanage too, joining Christine to cook and clean in homes around Le Mans.
Having no other confidantes in the world, the sisters stuck together whenever possible. Christine was described as hardworking and strong willed — occasionally insubordinate. Léa was more quiet and introverted, and as an obedient child, was considered to be the less intelligent of the two.
In 1926, shortly after the Papin sisters began working together, they found a great job opportunity. They were offered live-in positions as family maids in the heart of Le Mans. They wouldn’t have to live at the orphanage any more!
It seemed their lonely fortune was beginning to change. The family they’d work for was the Lancelin family. Homeowner René Lancelin was a retired lawyer and shared the place with his wife, Léonie, and adult daughter, Genevieve.
Since René had that sweet lawyer bank account, the sisters’ accommodations were first-rate. The home was two stories, near the town hub, and in exchange, the Papins would be clothed, fed, paid, and secure.
However, it soon became apparent to the Papins that their employment would be no walk in the park. They were expected to work fourteen hours every day, with no observation of weekends — only a half-day off every week.
To further complicate matters, the Lancelin’s weren’t warm people. They viewed the Papins as workers, and had no interest in communicating with them except about chores. This wasn’t actually unusual, but the sisters were already so isolated…
Still, despite the tough requirements, Christine and Léa kept their heads down and did the work. They didn’t want to lose what few creature comforts they had, and they had no friends in the outside world — no other connections or places to go.
But by the time Christine was 27 and Léa 21, matters had reached a boiling point. Léonie, cold and elite, micromanaged their work, checking for dust with white gloves. Christine’s pent-up anger was one match away from exploding.
Late on February 2, 1933, that match arrived. René was out with friends and Léonie and Genevieve were shopping. The Papins had picked up the family’s iron from the repair shop, but while plugging it in, they discovered it was still broken. It blew all the circuits in the house.
Since it was late, and their bosses were supposed to be staying with family that night, the Papins decided to delay fixing the iron until sunrise. This mistake would be a fatal catalyst: unbeknownst to the sisters, Léonie and Genevieve had tired of nightlife and were coming home early.
When the Lancelin ladies arrived to a dark house and saw no efforts being made to fix it, Léonie began screaming at the Papins — and Christine snapped. She smashed a jug on Léonie’s head, and when Genevieve tried to intervene, Christine turned and gouged Genevieve’s eyes out.
Léa didn’t know what to do, so Christine told her to rip out Léonie’s eyes. Ever obedient, she did so with bare hands — and now that the two women were defenseless, the violence really kicked in.
Christine and Léa pillaged the kitchen for knives and hammers, which they used to smash, slice, and stab the Lancelin women for two long hours. When those two hours were up, the victims were beyond the point of recognition.
When Réne came home, he was horrified to find his house awash in blood, his family murdered, and his maids calm and waiting. They immediately admitted to the slaughter, and were arrested and tried soon after.
While Christine’s madness continued to worsen in prison until her death, the quieter Léa was seen as an accomplice without murderous intent, and was released after 8 years of her sentence. She returned to her mother, Clémence, and lived the rest of her life quietly.