Due to this post from Roni Loren (thank you for the warning, Roni) I’ve decided to remove most photos from Thriller Thursday. I hope you’re still able to enjoy them!
In his book, The Anatomy of Motive, legendary FBI criminal profiler John Douglas said mass murderers are different from serial killers. The serial killer is driven by sexual motives, and he continue to kill because he believes he can outwit the police, but mass murderers have an endgame strategy. They are killing to make a statement, and most will either commit suicide when they’re finished or let the cops do it for them.
James Urban Ruppert wasn’t quite that brave.
On March 30, 1975, (Easter Sunday) James Urban Ruppert murdered eleven family members in his mother’s home in Hamilton, Ohio. As an adult, he was described as average, but he was envious of his older brother’s success. James had flunked out of college while his brother was an athletic star and electrical engineer. At the age of 41, Ruppert had moved back in with his mother, who voiced her frustrations at her son’s failed efforts to hold down a job. He also owed his mother and brother money (to add salt in the wound, his brother married Ruppert’s ex-girlfriend and had eight children with her).
Ruppert had an early love affair with guns as they represented the security and male toughness he’d always been told he lacked. Over the years, his continued failures and growing sense of being powerless cultivated his gun fantasies.
Like most mass murderers, James exhibited early warning signs. Ten years before the murders, the Hamilton Police Department received a report of an obscene phone call to the public library. James Ruppert admitted to making the call, and his delusions were voiced to local police. He believed his mother and brother were trying to discredit him by badmouthing him around town, thought the FBI had tapped his home phone, bugged his car and listened in to his conversations in bars and restaurants.
James received psychiatric treatment. He still believed the FBI and and police were sabotaging his career, preventing him from keeping a job, and affecting his personal life. Ruppert also believed he was being followed by a variety of law enforcement types.
By the time of the murders, his life was in shambles. His mother was sick of supporting him and threatened to kick him out. Her threats came a few days before their annual Easter family reunion, something James always looked forward to.
In the next few days, he inquired about a silencer and was told they were illegal. He then headed for the Miami River and had target practice with his .357 Magnum. He loved the feeling of control the gun gave him and took no notice of those watching him.
The night before Easter, James spent hours at a local lounge talking up a waitress he knew. He complained about his unemployment, finances, and uncaring family. He also told the waitress he had a problem that needed to be taken care of immediately.
On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, James’s brother and his wife were in the kitchen talking with his mother. The children played around the house.
James had retired to his room, having mentioned something about target practice. While there, he collected a .357 revolver, two .22 pistols. and a rifle. He went downstairs and set the rifle agains the refrigerator. His brother asked about his Volkswagen.
Psychiatrists would later say James believed his brother had been sabotaging the car, and the question brought an onslaught of anger and memories of the injustices he felt his brother had done to him since childhood.
James fired the first shot from his .22 pistol at his brother, and then turned on his sister-in-law. Eleven-year-old David and nine-year-old Teresa ran into the room at the sounds. His mother tried to protect her family, but James shot her and both children. He then began walking through the house killing the rest of his family: Carol, 13; Ann, 12; Leanord III, 17; Michael, 16; Thomas, 15; John, age 4. It took less than five minutes.
James then went to the bathroom, cleaned up, and dressed in fresh clothes. Three hours later, he phone the police and told them there were bodies in the house. He met them at the door and did not resist when taken into custody.
The crime scene would stick with everyone who witnessed the carnage. All eight children and two adults had been shot in the head, execution style. James’s sister-in-law was shot in the chest.
“When I walked through that front door, right into the middle of all that carnage, I saw that little 4-year-old boy, with blue bib corduroy overalls on, a long-sleeve blue cotton shirt and lying on the floor at the foot of the couch, stretched out with a bullet hole in his head. In his outstretched right hand, he had partially opened the tin-foil purple wrapper off a chocolate Easter egg.”
—Prosecutor John Holcomb.
The defense worked hard to convince the jury that James Ruppert was legally insane and suffered from a paranoid psychotic state. One psychiatrist said Ruppert’s reaction may have been uncontrollable, that the suppressed rage accumulating since childhood had taken over. Psychiatrists from the state said the murders were clearly planned and James knew exactly what he was doing.
The 3-judge panel in Hamilton, Ohio sentenced found Ruppert guilty on all account and sentenced him to life. A mistrial was later declared and the second trial was held 125 miles north in Findlay.
Prosecutors revealed evidence from witnesses who saw Ruppert engaging in target practice, asking about silencers, and talking about solving the problem of his mother. Another guilty verdict, and a another trial granted on appeal in 1982. Ruppert’s defense attorney was convinced he was insane. Finally, on July 23, 1982, a second 3-judge panel found Ruppert guilty of first degree murder in the case of his mother and brother, but not guilty of the rest of the murders by reason of insanity. He received life sentences for both murders, to be served consecutively.
He resides in the Allen Correctional Facility in Lima, Ohio. He was denied parole in 1995 and his next opportunity will be in 2035, when Ruppert is 101 years old.
What do you think? Were significant warning signs missed? Was Ruppert legally insane when he killed the children? Was his sentencing fair?