Sante Kimes, also known by several aliases, among them the "Dragon Lady", was an American convicted murderer, con artist, and robber.
BackgroundSante Kimes was born Sante Louise Singhrs in Oklahoma City in 1934. Her father, Rattan, was East Indian and her mother, Mary, Irish of partial Dutch descent. She was the third of their four children. After the family moved to Southern California in the late 1930s, Rattan left the family and Mary resorted to prostitution, leading to their children being placed in foster homes or orphanages. When Kimes, who was the last of the four to be given up, was in seventh grade, she was adopted by Edwin and Mary Chambers as "Sandra Chambers". The family moved to Carson City, Nevada, where Kimes did fairly well in high school and was also a cheerleader and a member of the Glee club and the Spanish club. She also began what became the first of what became many crimes during those years, shoplifting and stealing her adoptive father's credit card. One day, her birth mother arrived in the city and wanted her back, but Kimes rejected her. Three months after graduating, she married a high school sweetheart, Lee Powers, but divorced him just a few months later. In 1956, she married another high school suitor, Edward Walker. Their marriage ended as well in 1961 when Kimes was arrested in Sacramento for petty theft. She had a son with him, Kent Walker, who, though he became estranged from his mother, later wrote a book about her titled Son of a Grifter.
Crimes, Arrest, and ConvictionsKimes rapidly descended into a criminal career. She became a seasoned con artist and thief, frequently scamming people of money and merchandise both through cons and theft and committing arson in order to claim the insurance money. She would also enslave illegal immigrants she found at homeless shelters, employing them at her house and threatening to have them deported if they didn't do as they were told. One of her most notable cons involved impersonating actress Elizabeth Taylor, whom she slightly resembled. She met her third husband, motel tycoon Kenneth Kimes (the details of their meeting are vague), and married him after ten years, by which time their son, Kenneth Kimes Jr., was six years old. He would later aid his mother in several crimes, including the two murders for which she was convicted. The family had homes in Las Vegas, California, Hawaii and the Bahamas. Together, Sante and Ken Kimes, Sr., tried to pull off a con to sell posters of American state flags to schools in time for the American Bicentennial.
Kimes began traveling around the world and addressing American civil rights group about patriotism in order to establish some credentials. In order to get an official sanction, the couple booked a meeting with Patricia Nixon, the wife of President Richard Nixon. A picture taken by Kimes at the event was published in the Bicentennial Times, the official newspaper of the event. On February 26, 1974, the pair snuck into a gathering at a Blair House reception for Vice-President Gerald Ford and talked to him about the Bicentennial. They then continued crashing parties at embassies and dinners. At the Belgian embassy, they made another pitch for their plans. The next day, their pictures appeared in the papers and the couple's fraud was soon exposed. Sante kept committing theft and fraud, sometimes burning down her and her husband's property to claim the insurance money. Kimes' fortune was quickly spent on lawyers' fees.
In August of 1985, Sante and Kenneth Kimes, Sr., were arrested for slavery. Kenneth Sr. took a plea bargain and was admitted into an alcohol treatment program. He and his son lived a fairly normal life together until Sante Kimes was released in 1989. On March 28, 1994, Kenneth Kimes Sr. passed away from a heart attack. His ashes were spread at Hawaii by Kimes. She continued her criminal career of fraud in tandem with their son. One journalist once nicknamed them "Mommy and Clyde". In 1998, Sante Kimes committed her first known murder. The victim was Daniel Kazdin, a real-estate business partner. He had aided her in real-estate fraud, forging paperwork making it appear as though he had legally purchased properties from her late husband. When she continued trying to extract money from the properties at Kazdin's expense, he threatened to expose her. His body was found in a dumpster near the Los Angeles airport, shot to death.
Her next victim, who was killed the same year, was Irene Silverman, an elderly New York City socialite whose identity she had attempted to steal in order to take over her mansion in Manhattan. Her body, the remains of which were dumped at a construction site in New Jersey, was never found. The FBI came on the Kimes' trail through a phone call Kimes made to Stan Patterson, an old acquaintance who had sold some guns to her. The Bureau tracked him down and offered him immunity in the firearm charges in exchange for leading them to the Kimes. When he met up with them, the couple was swarmed by federal agents and arrested. Their car, a stolen Lincoln, contained, besides two handguns, ammunition, blank social security cards and other tools of the trade, a vast amount of evidence implicating the pair in the murders of Silverman, such as her passport and the keys to her mansion and a notepad in which Kimes had practiced her signature over and over.
The pair went to trial, not only for the murder of Silverman, but for 117 additional charges such as robbery, grand larceny and burglary and forgery, and were found guilty. They were later extradited to California and tried for the murder of Kazdin as well. Kenneth Kimes, Jr., made a plea bargain, giving the authorities information about both murders in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. He not only described how Kazdin and Silverman were murdered, but also implicated his mother in the crimes and claimed that they had committed a third murder together, that of Syed Bilal Ahmed, an Indian investment banker who had denied Kimes a loan, in the Bahamas, whom they allegedly drowned in a bathtub and disposed of in the ocean. His body was never found and the pair was not charged with his murder. In the end, Kimes received a sentence of 125 years in prison for her murder of Silverman, though there was nobody in the case and a life sentence for her murder of Kazdin. She served her first sentence at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in New York, where she was listed as not eligible for release before 2119. She maintained her innocence until her death from natural causes on May 19, 2014. Kenneth Jr. remains incarcerated, serving a life sentence for Kazdin's murder.
Both of Kimes' murders were financially motivated and perpetrated in order to cover her tracks. The victims were people who had been involved in her cons one way or another. David Kazdin was shot in the back of the head and his body disposed of in a dumpster. Irene Silverman was shocked with a stun gun in her sleep and then strangled. Her remains were then disposed of at a construction site.
- Numerous unnamed victims of her cons and robberies
- September 4, 1996, Nassau, Bahamas: Syed Bilal Ahmed (allegedly; body was never found; drugged and drowned in a bathtub)
- Unspecified date, Los Angeles, California: Daniel Kazdin, 63 (body was found in March; shot in the back of the head)
- Unspecified date, New York City, New York: Irene Silverman, 82 (body was never found; tasered and strangled)
- Notes: The Kimes are also suspects in the 1995 disappearance of heiress Jacqueline Levitz, 62, in Mississippi.
On Criminal Minds
- Wikipedia's article about Kimes
- TruTV Crime Library articles about Kimes
- Serial Killer Calendar's Sante Kimes biography
- Kimes' biography on Law Vibe
- Kimes' biography on eNotes
- New York Daily News article about Kimes' death
- Con Men: Fascinating Profiles of Swindlers and Rogues from the Files of the Most Successful Broadcast in Television History at Google Books