Starting around 1918, New Orleans was shaken by a serial killer later known as the Axeman. This is the story of what happened:
Over a period of roughly 18 months, the Axeman was responsible for possibly 12 attacks and 6 deaths. He only attacked people while they slept and never used his own tools besides what he could find in the victims household.
The first suspected attack was on May 23, 1918. Both victims, Catherine and Joseph Maggio, were not only attacked by an axe, but also had their throats cut.
They were discovered by Joseph's brothers, who also lived in the house. Nothing was heard or seen and no valuables were taken. The bottom panel of the kitchen door was knocked out and the only thing found was a bloody axe.
The second attacked occurred on June 28, 1918. A severely injured Louis Besumer and Anna Lowe were discovered by a baker making morning deliveries.
Louis survived the attack and Anna survived another 7 weeks before dying. Before her death, she recounted to the police that a large white man with a hatchet attacked them. Similarly to the first case, the bottom panel to their bedroom door was missing and the only thing found was a bloody axe.
Roughly a month later, Mrs. Ed Schneider was brutally attacked and discovered by her husband. She was rushed to the hospital and not only survived but successfully gave birth a week later.
Five days later on August 10, 1918. Joseph Romano was found by his nieces, Pauline and Mary, after they heard him struggling.
The two girls allegedly saw the attacker and described him as:
And with the consistent murders starting to frighten people, New Orleans newspapers sent out a warning to the Axeman that people were starting to protect their families while police were actively looking for the person responsible. The warning seemed to work, and for awhile the Axeman was off the grid...
...until 7 months later when he attacked the Cortimiglia family. Rose and Charles survived the attack but tragically their daughter, Mary, did not.
Five days later, The Times-Picayune, a New Orleans newspaper, received a letter from the apparent axeman. He not only threatened and insulted the police but told the people of New Orleans that he could be much worse.
However, the most important piece of the letter was a specific proposition to the people of New Orleans. The Axeman stated that on the night of March 19, 1919, he would roam around town and spare anyone who listened to jazz music.
It's said that jazz music blasted throughout New Orleans that night and nobody was killed.
But on August 10, 1919, Steve Boca was badly injured due to another attack by the Axeman. He survived the attack and staggered to a friend's home to call the police. Unfortunately, he couldn't regain his memory of what happened that night.
The last attack was on October 27, 1919, the suspected axeman attacked Esther and Mike Pepitone. Esther survived the attack and Mike was struck in the head 18 times and died two hours later. Esther saw two figures in the bedroom but couldn't identify them as they fled the scene.
Now, let's get into the theories of who the Axeman could have been:
The first theory is that not all of the killings were the work of the Axeman. Some speculate that the last victim, Mike Pepitone was killed by the mafia.
The second attack that caused speculation was that attack of Louis Besumer and Anna Lowe. If you recall, Louis survived the attack and Anna did not. He was later charged with her murder. Police had found letters written by Besumer in Yiddish and Russian and came to the conclusion he was a part of a German spy ring. The last strong piece of evidence was before dying Anna allegedly blamed Louis and claimed Besumer was a Nazi spy.
The second theory is that the Axeman is a supernatural figure that can slip through tiny entrances and become the large man that witnesses describe the killer to be.
The last theory is a legitimate suspect named Joseph Mumfre.
If you recall the last axeman's attack on Esther and Mike Pepitone, Esther survived the attack and her husband did not.
She later moved to Los Angeles and remarried Angelo Albano. However, on the second anniversary of Mike's death (her former husband), her current husband, Angelo disappeared and was never found.
Esther remembered that before their marriage, Angelo had ended business relations with a man who went by many names including:
And on December 5, 1921, Mumfre visited Esther's home in Los Angeles. He demanded $500, all of her jewelry, and threatened to kill her the same way he killed her husband.
And like a badass, Esther killed him with a revolver 'cause she wasn't having his shit.
But what does this have to do with the Axeman? When she was arrested for shooting Joseph Mumfre, she claimed that he was the axeman and had seen him running from her bedroom.
And there was evidence that linked Mumfre to the night of Mike Pepitone's death. A few other things led people to believe that Mumfre was the Axeman.
He led a blackmailing gang in New Orleans that targeted Italians, which was very similar to the Axeman's M.O. since most of his victims were Italian. Mumfre was also in and out of prison for the past 10 years but during the times he was out of prison coincided with the Axeman attacks. But with that being said, there wasn't enough evidence to link Mumfre to the Axeman's crimes.
In the end, there weren't leads on the identity of the notorious New Orleans Axeman. Was it the work of a series of copycats or was it, one individual? For now, the case remains...unsolved.