Shanda Renee Sharer


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Shanda Renee Sharer (June 6, 1979 – January 11, 1992) was an American girl who was tortured and burned to death in Madison, Indiana, by four teenage girls. She was 12 years old at the time of her death. The incident attracted international attention due to both the brutality of the murder and the young age of the perpetrators, who were aged between 15 and 17 years old. The case was covered on national programs such as Dr. Phil and has inspired a number of episodes on fictional crime shows.

Shanda Sharer

Shanda Renee Sharer was born at Pineville Community Hospital in Pineville, Kentucky, on June 6, 1979, to Stephen Sharer and Jacqueline Vaught. After Sharer’s parents divorced, her mother remarried and the family moved to Louisville, Kentucky. Sharer attended fifth and sixth grades in Louisville at St. Paul School, where she was on the cheerleading, volleyball and softball teams. When her mother divorced again, the family moved in June 1991 to New Albany, Indiana, and Sharer enrolled at Hazelwood Middle School. Early in the school year, she transferred to Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, a Catholic school in New Albany, where she joined the female basketball team.
Events prior to murder

In 1990, 14-year-old Melinda Loveless began dating another young girl named Amanda Heavrin. After Loveless’ father left the family and her mother remarried, Loveless behaved erratically. She got into fights at school, and she felt depressed. She received professional counseling. In March 1991, Loveless disclosed her lesbian orientation to her mother, who was initially furious but eventually accepted it. As the year progressed, though, Loveless’ relationship with Heavrin deteriorated.

Heavrin and Shanda Sharer had met early during the fall semester when they got into a fight; however, they became friends while in detention for the altercation. Loveless immediately grew jealous of Heavrin and Sharer’s relationship. In early October, Heavrin and Sharer attended a school dance, where Loveless found and confronted them. Although Heavrin and Loveless had never formally ended their relationship, Loveless started to date an older girl.

After Heavrin and Sharer attended a festival together in late October, Loveless began to discuss killing Sharer and threatened Sharer in public. Concerned about the effects of their daughter’s relationship with Heavrin, Sharer’s parents arranged for her to transfer to a Catholic school in late November, and the girls started drifting apart by December.
Girls involved in the murder
Melinda Loveless

Melinda Loveless was born in New Albany, Indiana on October 28, 1975, the youngest of three daughters, to Marjorie and Larry Loveless. Larry was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, and he was treated as a hero upon his return. His wife later described him as a pervert who would wear her and her daughters’ underwear and makeup, was incapable of staying monogamous, and had a mixture of jealousy and fascination with seeing her have sex with other men and women. They lived in or near New Albany throughout Melinda’s childhood.

Larry worked irregularly for the Southern Railroad after his military service; his profession allowed him to work whenever most convenient for him. In 1965, Larry became a probationary officer with the New Albany Police Department, but he was fired after eight months when he and his partner assaulted an African-American man whom Larry accused of sleeping with his wife. In 1988, Larry briefly worked as a mail carrier but quit after three months and did very little work, having brought most of his mail home to destroy it.

Marjorie had worked intermittently since 1974. When both parents were working, the family was financially well off, living in the upper-middle-class suburb of Floyds Knobs, Indiana. Larry did not usually share his income with the family and impulsively spent any money he earned on himself, especially firearms, motorcycles and cars. He filed for bankruptcy in 1980. Extended family members often described the Loveless daughters as visiting their houses hungry, apparently not getting food at home.

Through most of their relationship, Larry was unfaithful to his wife and they often had an open marriage. They would often visit bars in Louisville, where Loveless would pretend to be a doctor or a dentist and introduce Marjorie as his girlfriend. He would also “share” her with some of his friends from work, which she found disgusting. During an orgy with another couple at their house, Marjorie tried to commit suicide, an act she would repeat several times throughout her daughters’ childhoods. When Melinda was nine years old, Larry had Marjorie gang raped, after which she tried to drown herself. After that incident, she refused him sex for a month, until he violently raped her as their daughters watched. In the summer of 1986, after she would not let him go home with two women he met at a bar, Larry beat Marjorie so severely that she was hospitalized; he was convicted of battery.

The extent of Larry’s abuse of his daughters and other children is unclear. Various court testimonies claimed he fondled Michelle as an infant, molested Marjorie’s 13-year-old sister early in the marriage, and molested the girls’ cousin Teddy from age 10 to 14. Both older girls said he molested them, though Melinda did not admit this ever happened to her. She slept in bed with him until he abandoned his family when she was 14. In court, Teddy described an incident in which Larry tied all three sisters in a garage and raped them in succession; however the sisters did not confirm this account. Larry was verbally abusive to his daughters and fired a handgun in Michelle’s direction when she was seven, intentionally missing her. He would also embarrass his children by finding their underwear and smelling it in front of other family members.

For two years, beginning when Melinda was five, the family was deeply involved in the Graceland Baptist Church. Larry and Marjorie gave full confession and renounced drinking and swinging while they were members. Larry became a Baptist lay preacher and Marjorie became the school nurse. The church later arranged for Melinda to be taken to a motel room with a 50-year-old man for a five-hour exorcism. Larry became a marriage counselor with the church and acquired a reputation for being too forward with women, eventually attempting to rape one of them. After that incident, the Loveless parents left the church and returned to their former professions, drinking, and open marriage.

In November 1990, Larry was caught spying on Melinda and a friend, and Marjorie attacked him with a knife, sending him to the hospital after he attempted to grab it. She then attempted suicide again, and her daughters called authorities. After this incident Larry filed for divorce and moved to Avon Park, Florida. Melinda felt crushed, especially as Larry remarried. He sent letters to her for a while, playing on her emotions, but eventually severed all contact with her.
Laurie Tackett

Mary Laurine “Laurie” Tackett was born in Madison, Indiana, on October 5, 1974. Her mother was a fundamentalist Pentecostal Christian and her father was a factory worker with two felony convictions in the 1960s. Tackett claimed that she was molested at least twice as a child at ages five and twelve. In May 1989, her mother discovered that Tackett was changing into jeans at school, and, after a confrontation that night, attempted to strangle her. Social workers became involved, and Tackett’s parents agreed to unannounced visits to ensure that child abuse was not occurring. Tackett and her mother came into periodic conflict; at one point, her mother went to Hope Rippey’s house after learning that Rippey’s father had purchased a Ouija board for the girls. She demanded that the board be burnt and that the Rippey house be exorcised.

Tackett became increasingly rebellious after her fifteenth birthday and also became fascinated with the occult. She would often attempt to impress her friends by pretending to be possessed by the spirit of “Deanna the Vampire”. She began to engage in self-harm, especially after early 1991 when she began dating a girl who was involved in the practice. Her parents discovered the self-mutilation and checked her into a hospital on March 19, 1991. She was prescribed an anti-depressant and released. Two days later, with her girlfriend and Toni Lawrence, she cut her wrists deeply and was returned to the hospital. After treatment of her wound, she was admitted to the hospital’s psychiatric ward. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and confessed that she had experienced hallucinations since she was a young child. She was discharged on April 12. She dropped out of high school in September 1991.

Tackett stayed in Louisville in October 1991 to live with various friends. She met Melinda Loveless but the two did not become friends until late November. In December, Tackett moved back to Madison on the promise that her father would buy her a car. She still spent most of her time in Louisville and New Albany, and, by December, most of it with Melinda Loveless.
Hope Rippey

Hope Anna Rippey was born in Madison, in June 1976. Her father was an engineer at a power plant. Her parents divorced in February 1984, and she moved with her mother and siblings to Quincy, Michigan, for three years. She claimed that living with her family in Michigan was somewhat turbulent. Her parents resumed their relationship in Madison, Indiana, in 1987. She was reunited with friends Laurie Tackett and Toni Lawrence, whom she had known since childhood, although her parents saw Tackett as a bad influence. As with the other girls, Rippey began to self-harm at age fifteen.
Toni Lawrence

Toni Lawrence was born in Madison, in February 1976. Her father was a boilermaker. She was close friends with Hope Rippey since childhood. She was abused by a relative at age nine and was raped by a teenage boy at age 14, although the police were only able to issue an order to keep the boy away from Lawrence. She went into counseling after the incident but did not follow through. She became promiscuous, began to self-harm, and attempted suicide in eighth grade.
Events of January 10–11, 1992
Pre-abduction

On the night of January 10, 1992, Toni Lawrence (age 15), Hope Rippey (age 15), and Laurie Tackett (age 17) drove in Tackett’s car from Madison to Melinda Loveless’ house in New Albany. Lawrence, while a friend of Tackett, had not previously met Loveless (age 16), though Rippey had met her once before and had gotten along with her; however, upon arrival, they borrowed some clothes from Loveless, and she showed them a knife, telling them she was going to scare Shanda Sharer with it. Only Loveless had ever met Sharer, although Tackett already knew of the plan to intimidate the 12-year-old girl. Loveless explained to the two other girls that she disliked Sharer for being a copycat and for stealing her girlfriend.

Tackett let Rippey drive the four girls to Jeffersonville, Indiana, where Sharer lived, stopping at a McDonald’s restaurant en route to ask for directions. They arrived at Sharer’s house shortly before dark. Loveless instructed Rippey and Lawrence to go to the door and introduce themselves as friends of Heavrin (Loveless’ former and Sharer’s current girlfriend). They should invite Sharer to come with them to see Heavrin, who was waiting for them at “The Witch’s Castle”, a ruined stone house, also known as Mistletoe Falls, located on an isolated hill overlooking the Ohio River.

Sharer said that she could not go because her parents were awake, and she told the girls to come back around midnight. Loveless was angry at first, but Rippey and Lawrence assured her about returning for Sharer later. The four girls crossed the river to Louisville, Kentucky, and attended a punk rock show at the Audubon Skate Park near Interstate 65. Lawrence and Rippey quickly lost interest in the music and went to the parking lot outside the skate park, where they engaged in sexual activities with two boys in Tackett’s car.

Eventually, the four girls left for Sharer’s house. During the ride, Loveless said that she could not wait to kill Sharer; however, Loveless also said that she found Sharer attractive and would like to have sex with her and that she just intended to use the knife to frighten her. When they arrived at Sharer’s house at 12:30 a.m., Lawrence refused to retrieve Sharer, so Tackett and Rippey went to the door. Loveless hid under a blanket in the back seat of the car with a dull knife.
Abduction

Sharer was waiting for the girls. Rippey told her that Heavrin was still at the Witch’s Castle. Sharer was reluctant to go with them yet agreed after changing her clothes. As they got in the car, Rippey began questioning Sharer about her relationship with Heavrin just to trigger off Loveless. Loveless, having heard enough, sprang out from the back seat and put the knife to Sharer’s throat and began interrogating her about her sexual relationship with Heavrin. They drove towards Utica, Indiana, and the Witch’s Castle. Tackett told the girls that legend said the house was once owned by nine witches and that townspeople burned the house to get rid of the witches.

At Witch’s Castle, they took a sobbing Sharer in and bound her arms and legs with rope. There, Loveless taunted that she had pretty hair and wondered how pretty she would look if they were to cut it off, which frightened Sharer even more. Loveless began taking off Sharer’s rings and handed each to the girls. At some point, Rippey had taken Sharer’s Mickey Mouse watch and danced to the tune it played. Tackett, sick of the childish games, started describing the dungeon to Sharer, claiming that it was filled with human remains and Sharer’s would be next. Subsequently, Tackett went back to the car where Lawrence followed her to retrieve her cherished smiley face sweater. She returned and lit it on fire but immediately feared that the fire would be spotted by bypassing cars, so they left. During the car ride, Sharer continued begging them to take her back home. Tackett turned on a boom box sitting on her lap that played opera and mimicked Sharer, acting like she was crying, and laughed what she called her “devil laugh”. Loveless ordered Sharer to slip off her bra, which she then handed over to Rippey, who slid off her own bra and replaced it with Sharer’s while steering the car. They became lost, so they stopped for directions at a gas station, where they covered Sharer in a blanket. While Tackett went inside to ask for directions, Lawrence called a boy she knew in Louisville and chatted for several minutes to ease her worries, but did not mention Sharer’s abduction. They returned to the car but became lost again and pulled up to another gas station. There, Lawrence and Rippey spotted a couple of boys and talked to them before once again getting back into the car and leaving, arriving some time later at the edge of some woods near Tackett’s home in Madison, Indiana.
Torture

Tackett led them to a garbage dump off a logging road in a densely forested area. Lawrence and Rippey were frightened and stayed in the car. Loveless and Tackett made Sharer strip naked; then, Loveless beat Sharer with her fists. Next, Loveless repeatedly slammed Sharer’s face into her knee, which cut Sharer’s mouth on her own braces. Loveless tried to slash Sharer’s throat, but the knife was too dull. Rippey came out of the car to hold down Sharer. Loveless and Tackett took turns stabbing Sharer in the chest. They then strangled Sharer with a rope until she was unconscious, placed her in the trunk of the car, and told the other two girls that Sharer was dead.

The girls drove to Tackett’s nearby home and went inside to drink soda and clean themselves. When they realized Sharer was screaming in the trunk, Tackett went out with a paring knife and stabbed her several more times, coming back a few minutes later covered with blood. After she washed, Tackett told the girls’ futures with her “runestones”. At 2:30 a.m., Lawrence and Rippey stayed behind as Tackett and Loveless went “country cruising”, driving to the nearby town of Canaan. Sharer continued to make crying and gurgling noises, so Tackett stopped the car. When they opened the trunk, Sharer sat up, covered in blood with her eyes rolled back in her head, but unable to speak. Tackett beat her with a tire iron until she was silent.

Loveless and Tackett returned to Tackett’s house just before daybreak to clean up again. Rippey asked about Sharer, and Tackett laughingly described the torture. The conversation woke up Tackett’s mother, who yelled at her daughter for being out late and bringing home the girls, so Tackett agreed to take them home. She drove to the burn pile, where they opened the trunk to stare at Sharer. Lawrence refused. Rippey sprayed Sharer with Windex and taunted, “You’re not looking so hot now, are you? Now let’s take her pants off and get to it ladies!”
Burned alive

The girls drove to a gas station near Madison Consolidated High School, pumped some gasoline into the car, and bought a two-liter bottle of Pepsi. Tackett poured out the Pepsi and refilled the bottle with gasoline. They drove north of Madison, past Jefferson Proving Ground to Lemon Road off U.S. Route 421, a place known to Rippey. Lawrence remained in the car while Tackett and Rippey wrapped Sharer, who was still alive, in a blanket, and carried her to a field by the gravel country road. Tackett made Rippey pour the gasoline on Sharer, and then they set her on fire. Loveless was not convinced Sharer was dead, so they returned a few minutes later to pour the rest of the gasoline on her.

The girls went to a McDonald’s restaurant at 9:30 a.m. for breakfast, where they laughed about Sharer’s looking like one of the sausages they were eating. Lawrence, horrified, phoned a friend and told her about the murder. Tackett then dropped off Lawrence and Rippey at their homes and finally returned to her own home with Loveless. She told Heavrin that they had killed Sharer and arranged to pick up Heavrin later that day.

A friend of Loveless’, Crystal Wathen, came over to Loveless’ house, and they told her what had happened. Then, the three girls drove to pick up Heavrin and bring her back to Loveless’ house, where they told Heavrin the story; although she did not believe it was true, Heavrin comforted the hysterical Loveless. Both Heavrin and Wathen became convinced when Tackett showed them the trunk of the car with Sharer’s bloody handprints and socks still there. Heavrin was horrified and asked to be taken home. When they pulled up in front of her house, Loveless kissed Heavrin and told her she loved her and pleaded her not to tell anyone. Heavrin promised she would not before entering her house.
Investigation

Later on the morning of January 11, 1992, two brothers from Canaan, Indiana, were driving toward Jefferson Proving Ground to go hunting when they noticed a body on the side of the road. They called the police at 10:55 a.m. and were asked to return to the corpse. David Camm, who was later acquitted of his own family’s murders, was one of the responding officers. Jefferson County Sheriff Buck Shippley and detectives began an investigation, collecting forensic evidence at the scene. They initially suspected a drug deal gone wrong and could not believe the crime had been committed by locals.

Stephen Sharer noticed his daughter missing early on January 11. After phoning neighbors and friends all morning, he called his ex-wife, Shanda’s mother, at 1:45 p.m.; they met and filed a missing person report with the Clark County sheriff.

At 8:20 p.m., a hysterical Toni Lawrence went to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office with her parents. She gave a rambling statement, identifying the victim as “Shanda”, naming the three other girls involved as best she could, and describing the main events of the previous night. Shippley contacted the Clark County sheriff and was finally able to match the body to Shanda Sharer’s missing person report.

Detectives obtained dental records that positively identified Shanda Sharer as the victim. Loveless and Tackett were arrested on January 12. The bulk of the evidence for the arrest warrant was Lawrence’s statement. The prosecution immediately declared its intention to try both suspects as adults. For several months, the prosecutors and defense attorneys did not release any information about the case, giving the news media only the statement by Lawrence.
Judicial process
Jefferson County Courthouse in Madison, Indiana
Timeline
January 11, 1992     Body of Shanda Sharer found in rural Jefferson County, Indiana
April 22, 1992     Lawrence accepts plea bargain
September 21, 1992     Loveless and Tackett accept plea bargains
January 4, 1993     Loveless sentenced to 60 years
December 14, 2000     Lawrence released on parole
November 3, 2004     A judge reduces Rippey’s sentence to 35 years
April 28, 2006     Rippey released on parole

All four girls were charged as adults. To avoid the death penalty, the girls accepted plea bargains.
Mitigating factors

All four girls had troubled backgrounds with claims of physical or sexual abuse committed by a parent or other adult. Hope Rippey, Toni Lawrence, and Laurie Tackett had histories of self-harming behavior. Tackett was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and suffering from hallucinations.

Melinda Loveless, often described as the ringleader in the attack, had the most extensive history of abuse and mental health issues.
Sentences

In exchange for her cooperation, Lawrence was allowed to plead guilty to one count of Criminal Confinement and was sentenced to a maximum of 20 years.

Tackett and Loveless were sentenced to 60 years in the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. With maximum time reduced for good behavior, they could be released in 2020.

Rippey was sentenced to 60 years, with ten years suspended for mitigating circumstances, plus ten years of medium-supervision probation. On appeals, a judge reduced the sentence to 35 years.
Appeals

In October 2007, Loveless’ attorney, Mark Small, requested a hearing to argue for his client’s release. He said that Loveless had been “profoundly retarded” by childhood abuse. Moreover, she had not been represented competently by counsel during her sentencing, which caused her to accept a plea bargain in the face of exaggerated claims about her chances of receiving the death penalty. Small also argued that Loveless, who was 16 years old when she signed the plea agreement, was too young to enter into a contract in the state of Indiana without consent from a parent or guardian, which had not been obtained. If the judge accepted these arguments, Loveless could have been retried or released outright.

On January 8, 2008, Loveless’ request was rejected by Jefferson Circuit Judge Ted Todd. Instead, Loveless will be eligible for parole in 15 years, thus maintaining the original guilty plea.

On November 14, 2008, Loveless’ appeal was denied by the Indiana Court of Appeals, upholding Judge Todd’s ruling. Small stated that he would seek to have jurisdiction over the case moved to the Supreme Court of Indiana.
Incarceration

Both Loveless and Tackett are currently serving their original sentences. Given Indiana’s policy of reducing sentences by a day for every day served with good behavior, both women could possibly be released from prison in 2022, when Loveless is 46 and Tackett is 47 years old.
Releases

Toni Lawrence was released on December 14, 2000, after serving 9 years. She remained on parole until December 2002.

On April 28, 2006, Hope Rippey was released from Indiana Women’s Prison on parole after serving 14 years of her original sentence. She remained on supervised parole for 5 years.
Aftermath

During Melinda Loveless’ sentencing hearing, extensive open court testimony revealed that her father, Larry Loveless, had abused his wife, his daughters, and other children. Consequently, he was arrested in February 1993 on charges of rape, sodomy, and sexual battery. Most of the crimes occurred from 1968 to 1977. Loveless remained in prison for over two years awaiting trial; however, a judge eventually ruled that all charges except one count of sexual battery had to be dropped due to the statute of limitations, which was five years in Indiana. Loveless pleaded guilty to the one count of sexual battery. He received a sentence of time served and was released in June 1995.

A few weeks following his release, Loveless unsuccessfully sued the Floyd County Jail for $39 million in federal court, alleging he had suffered cruel and unusual punishment during his two-year incarceration. Among his complaints—he was not allowed to sleep in his bed during the day and he was not allowed to read the newspaper.

Shanda Sharer’s father, Stephen Sharer, died of alcoholism in 2005 at the age of 53. He was extremely depressed following the death of his daughter, and so, according to his wife, “drank himself to death”.

The Shanda Sharer Scholarship Fund was established in January 2009. The fund plans to provide scholarships to two students per year from Prosser School of Technology in New Albany; one scholarship will go to a student who is continuing his or her education, and the other scholarship will go to a student who is beginning his or her career and must buy tools or other work equipment. According to the rules of the fund, the scholarship recipient will also be given a plaque or document of some type that tells Shanda Sharer’s story.

In 2012, Shanda Sharer’s mother, Jacque Vaught, made her first contact with Melinda Loveless since the trials, although indirectly. Vaught donated a dog for Loveless to train for the Indiana Canine Assistance Network program (ICAN), which provides service pets to people with disabilities. Loveless has trained dogs for the program for several years. Vaught reported that she has endured criticism over the decision, but defends it saying, “It’s my choice to make. [Shanda]’s my child. If you don’t let good things come from bad things, nothing gets better. And I know what my child would want. My child would want this.” Vaught stated that she hopes to donate a dog every year in honor of Shanda.

Elizabeth Martha Brown


Elizabeth_Martha_Brown

Elizabeth Martha Brown (c. 1811–9 August 1856), née Clark, was the last woman to be hanged in public in Dorset, England. She was executed outside Dorchester Prison after being convicted of the murder of her second husband, John Brown, on 22 July, just 13 days earlier. The prosecution said she had attacked him with an axe after he had taken a whip to her.

Background

Among the crowd of 3,000–4,000 who watched the hanging of Brown was the English novelist, Thomas Hardy, 16 years old at the time, standing close to the gallows. He wrote 70 years later that he was ashamed to have been there. Brown was dressed in a long, black, silk dress. A cloth was placed over her head, but as it began to rain, her face became visible again. Hardy wrote, “I saw—they had put a cloth over the face—how, as the cloth got wet, her features came through it. That was extraordinary.” “I remember what a fine figure she showed against the sky as she hung in the misty rain,” he wrote elsewhere, “and how the tight black silk gown set off her shape as she wheeled half-round and back.” Blake Morrison writes that the hanging of Tess in Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) reflected his experience of watching Brown’s death.

A local newspaper recorded that she was counselled just before her death by the Rev. D Clementson, the prison chaplain, and that she remained composed:

This morning (Saturday) a few minutes after 8 o’clock, Elizabeth Martha Brown, convicted of the wilful murder of her husband was executed on a scaffold erected over the gateway of the new entrance leading to Dorset County Goal from North Square. The culpret did not up to the last moment, appear to shed a tear. She on leaving her cell, shook hands with the chief warder and other officers. On her way to the scaffold her demeanour was extraordinary. The attendants on either side were entirely overcome, whilst she bore her awful position with the greatest resignation and composure. The Chaplain the Rev. D Clementson, conversed with her on spiritual subjects, and she appeared to engage in fervant devotion and prayer, with her hands clasped firmly together and upturned eyes. On arriving at the place of execution she walked with firmness up the first flight of eleven steps. On this spot the ceremony of pinioning was proceeded with. Her female attendants here left her in the care of the executioner.

A Dorset-based company, Angel Exit Theatre, produced a play called The Ballad of Martha Brown based on the life and times of Martha Brown. The play premiered at Deverills Festival in Wiltshire on 3 May 2014 and is currently touring the UK.

In 1995, Australian band The Lucksmiths released the track Thomas & Martha based on Thomas Hardy’s recollections of the event.

In 2016, it was reported that remains unearthed at the site of Dorchester prison in Dorset may belong to Brown.

Albert Anastasia


Albert Anastasia

Albert Anastasia (born Umberto Anastasio, September 26, 1902 – October 25, 1957) was one of the most ruthless and feared Cosa Nostra mobsters in United States history. A founder of the Italian American Mafia, Anastasia ran Murder, Inc. during the prewar era and during most of the 1950s was boss of what would become the modern Gambino crime family. He is perhaps the most feared hit-man of the Italian American Mafia’s golden era, earning the infamous nicknames “the Mad Hatter” and “Lord High Executioner.”

Biography
Early years

Albert Anastasia was born on September 26, 1902, in Tropea, Calabria, Italy. His parents were Raffaelo Anastasio and Louisa Nomina de Filippi. The family name was “Anastasio”, but Albert started using “Anastasia” in 1921.

Raffaelo Anastasio was a railway worker who died after World War I, leaving behind nine sons and three daughters. Albert’s brothers included Salvatore, Frank, Joseph, Gerardo, and Anthony Anastasio. Anastasia was married to Elsa Barnesi; they had one son, Anthony Anastasia, Jr. They would have another son and two daughters.

In 1919, Anastasia and three of his brothers arrived in New York City, working on a freighter. Deserting the ship, the brothers illegally entered the United States. The boys soon started working as longshoremen on the Brooklyn waterfront.

On March 17, 1921, Anastasia was convicted of murdering longshoreman George Turino as the result of a quarrel. Anastasia was sentenced to death and sent to Sing Sing State Prison in Ossining, New York to await execution. Due to a legal technicality, however, Anastasia won a retrial in 1922. Because four of the original prosecution witnesses had disappeared in the meantime, Anastasia was released from custody in 1922.

On June 6, 1923, Anastasia was convicted of illegal possession of a firearm and sentenced to two years in city prison.
Rise to power

By the late 1920s, Anastasia had become a top leader of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), controlling six union local chapters in Brooklyn. Anastasia allied himself with Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, a powerful gang leader in Brooklyn. Anastasia soon became close associates with future Cosa Nostra bosses Joe Adonis, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Vito Genovese, and Frank Costello.

In 1928, Anastasia was charged with a murder in Brooklyn, but the witnesses either disappeared or refused to testify in court.
Castellammarese War

In 1930, Luciano finalized his plans to take over the organized crime rackets in New York by destroying the two old-line Mafia factions headed by Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. Luciano outlined his plot to Anastasia, who joined him and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel in the plot. Anastasia assured Luciano that he would kill everyone for Luciano to reach the top. Anastasia knew that if Luciano ran the National Crime Syndicate, he would eventually get a “piece of the action.” By this point, Luciano had secretly given his support to Maranzano.

On April 15, 1931, Anastasia allegedly participated in Masseria’s murder. Luciano had lured Masseria to a meeting at a Coney Island, Brooklyn restaurant. During their meal, Luciano excused himself to go to the restroom. As soon as Luciano was gone, Anastasia, Vito Genovese, Joe Adonis, and Bugsy Siegel rushed into the dining room and shot Masseria to death. The war ended and Maranzano was the winner. No one was ever indicted in the Masseria murder. In Luciano’s subsequent reorganization of New York’s mafia into its current Five Families, Anastasia was appointed underboss of the crime family of Vincent Mangano, the modern Gambino crime family.

In September 1931, Maranzano was himself murdered and Luciano became the preeminent mobster in America. To avoid the power struggles and turf disputes that led to the Castellammarese War, Luciano established the National Crime Syndicate, consisting of the major family bosses from around the country and the so-called “five families” of New York. The Syndicate was meant to serve as a deliberative body to solve disputes, carve up and distribute territories, and regulate lucrative illegal activities such as racketeering, gambling, and bootlegging (which came to a close with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933). The Italian-American Mafia had their own body, known as the Commission.

In 1932, Anastasia was indicted on charges of murdering another man with an ice pick, but the case was dropped due to lack of witnesses.

In 1933, Anastasia was charged with killing a man who worked in a laundry; again, there were no witnesses willing to testify.
Murder, Incorporated

To reward Anastasia’s loyalty, Luciano placed him and Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, the nation’s leading labor racketeer, in control of the Syndicate’s enforcement arm, Murder, Inc. The troop, also known as “The Brownsville Boys”, was a group of Jewish and Italian killers that operated out of the back room of Midnight Rose’s, a candy store owned by mobster Louis Capone in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. During its ten years of operation, it is estimated that Murder Inc. committed between 400 and 1000 murders, many of which were never solved. For his leadership in Murder, Inc., Anastasia was nicknamed the “Mad Hatter” and the “Lord High Executioner”. Unlike Lepke and many other members of Murder, Inc., Anastasia was never prosecuted for any of these murders. It is doubted by some that he even was involved, since as the underboss of a family, he had his own killers to use if needed. During this period, Anastasia’s business card claimed that he was a “sales representative” for the Convertible Mattress Corporation in Brooklyn.

On June 7, 1936, Luciano was convicted on 62 counts of compulsory prostitution.[8] On July 18, 1936, Luciano received a 30 to 50-year sentence in state prison.  Genovese became acting boss, but he was forced to flee to Italy in 1937 after being indicted on a 1934 murder. Frank Costello now became acting boss of the Luciano crime family.

In May 1939, Anastasia allegedly ordered the murder of Morris Diamond, an official of a trucking union in Brooklyn. Diamond was a Teamsters Union official who had opposed mobster Louis Buchalter’s attempts to maintain control of the Garment District in Manhattan. In the summer of 1939, Anastasia allegedly organized the murder of Peter Panto, an ILA activist. Panto had been leading a movement for democratic reforms in the ILA locals, and refused to be intimidated by ILA officials. On July 14, 1939, Panto disappeared; his body was later recovered on a farm in New Jersey.

With the 1941 arrest of Abe Reles on murder charges, law enforcement finally dismantled Murder, Inc. Reles was a gang leader from Brownsville, Brooklyn who had been supplying Anastasia and Murder, Inc. with hitmen for the past 10 years. Reles decided to testify for the government to save himself from the death penalty. His testimony convicted seven members of Murder Inc. Reles also had information that could implicate Anastasia in the 1939 Diamond and Panto murders. Fearful of prosecution, Anastasia offered a $100,000 reward for Reles’ murder.

On November 12, 1941, Reles was found dead on a restaurant roof outside the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Reles was being guarded at a sixth floor room during an ongoing trial. In 1951, a grand jury ruled that Reles accidentally died while climbing down to the fifth floor using sheets tied to a heating radiator. However, many officials still suspected that Reles had been murdered.

In the spring of 1942, Anastasia allegedly ordered the murder of an associate, Anthony Romeo. Romeo had been arrested and questioned in the Panto killing. However at the end of June, Romeo’s body was discovered near Guyencourt, Delaware. Romeo had been beaten and shot multiple times.
World War II

During World War II, Anastasia reportedly originated the plan to win a pardon for Luciano by helping the war effort. With America needing allies in Sicily to advance the invasion of Italy, and the desire of the Navy to dedicate its resources to the war, Anastasia orchestrated a deal to obtain lighter treatment for Luciano while he was in prison, and after the war, a parole in exchange for the Mafia protecting the waterfront and Luciano’s assistance with his associates in Sicily.

In 1942, Anastasia joined the U.S. Army. He may have been motivated by a desire to escape the criminal investigations that were dismantling Murder Inc. Attaining the rank of technical sergeant, Anastasia trained soldiers to be longshoremen at Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania. In 1943, as a reward for his military service, Anastasia received U.S. citizenship. In 1944, Anastasia was honorably discharged from the Army and he moved his family to a mansion in Fort Lee, New Jersey. In 1958, less than a year after Anastasia’s death, comedian Buddy Hackett and his wife purchased the mansion, and after renovations they moved in and lived there through most of the 1960s.

In 1945, U.S. military authorities in Sicily returned Genovese to the United States to be tried for the 1934 Boccia murder. However, after the death of the main prosecution witness, all charges were dropped against Genovese. In 1946, New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey commuted Luciano’s sentence and the federal government immediately deported him to Italy.

In 1948, Anastasia bought a dress making factory in Hazleton, Pennsylvania and left his waterfront activities in the control of his brother Anthony.
Boss

In 1951, the U.S. Senate summoned Anastasia to answer questions about organized crime at the Kefauver Hearings. Anastasia refused to answer any questions.

Despite being a mob power in his own right, Anastasia was nominally the underboss of the Mangano crime family under boss Vincent Mangano. During his 20-year rule, Mangano had resented Anastasia’s close ties to Luciano and Costello. Mangano was particularly irked that Luciano and Costello obtained Anastasia’s services without first seeking Mangano’s permission. This and other business disputes led to heated, almost physical fights between the two mobsters. In early 1951, Vincent Mangano went missing and his body was never found. On April 19, 1951, the body of Philip Mangano, shot three times, was discovered in a wetland in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn. No one was ever arrested in the Mangano murders, but it was widely assumed that Anastasia had them killed.

After the deaths of the Mangano brothers, Anastasia, who had been serving as acting boss of the Mangano family, met with the Commission. Anastasia claimed that the Manganos wanted to kill him, but did not admit to killing them. With Costello’s prodding, the Commission confirmed Anastasia’s ascension as boss of the renamed Anastasia family. Costello wanted Anastasia as an ally against the ambitious and resentful Genovese. Anastasia was also supported by Joseph Bonanno, who simply wanted to avoid a gang war.

In March 1952, Anastasia allegedly ordered the murder of Arnold Schuster. Schuster was a young New York man who successfully identified fugitive bank robber Willie Sutton, resulting in Sutton’s arrest. When Anastasia saw Schuster being interviewed on television, he allegedly said: “I can’t stand squealers! Hit that guy!” On March 8, 1952, a gunman shot Schuster to death on a street in Borough Park, Brooklyn. This public accusation against Anastasia was made in 1963 by government witness Joseph Valachi, but many people in law enforcement were skeptical of it. No one was ever arrested in the Schuster murder.

On December 9, 1952, the Federal Government filed suit to denaturalize Anastasia and deport him because he lied on his citizenship application.
Conspiracy

To take control of the Luciano family, Genovese needed to kill Frank Costello. However, Genovese could not kill Costello without also eliminating Anastasia. To do that, Genovese needed allies.

Vito Genovese used Anastasia’s brutal behavior against him in an effort to woo away his supporters, portraying Anastasia as an unstable killer who threatened to bring law enforcement pressure on the Cosa Nostra. In addition, Genovese pointed out that Anastasia had been selling memberships to his crime family for $50,000, a clear violation of Commission rules that infuriated many high level mobsters. According to Valachi, Anastasia had been losing large amounts of money betting on horse races, making him even more surly and unpredictable.

Over the next few years, Genovese secretly won the support of Anastasia capo Carlo Gambino, offering him the leadership of Anastasia’s family in return for his cooperation. Genovese also received tacit approval from Meyer Lansky. One of Luciano’s earliest associates, Lansky handled most of Luciano’s U.S. business interests. Lansky and Genovese were also business associates from the 1920s. Genovese could not kill Anastasia and Costello without Lansky’s support.

Anastasia’s greed soon drove Lansky to help Genovese. During the 1950s, Lansky controlled all the casino gambling in Cuba, offering the Cosa Nostra bosses lesser shares of his profits. When Anastasia demanded a larger share, Lansky refused. Anastasia then started his own casino racket in Cuba. While Lansky had preferred watching Anastasia and Genovese battle each other from the sidelines, Lansky now threw his active support to Genovese.

On May 23, 1955, Anastasia pleaded guilty to tax evasion for underreporting his income during the late 1940s. On June 3, 1955, Anastasia was sentenced to one year in federal prison and a $20,000 fine. After his conviction, the federal government successfully petitioned a federal court to revoke Anastasia’s citizenship so he could be deported. However, on September 19, 1955, a higher court overturned this ruling.

In early 1957, Genovese decided to move on Costello. On May 2, 1957, gunman Vincent Gigante shot and wounded Costello outside his apartment building. Although the wound was superficial, it persuaded Costello to relinquish power to Genovese and retire. Genovese now controlled what is now called the Genovese crime family. Joseph Bonanno would later credit himself with arranging a sitdown where he kept Anastasia from immediately taking Genovese to war in response.

On June 17 of that year Frank Scalice, Anastasia’s underboss and the man identified as directly responsible for selling Gambino memberships, was also assassinated. According to Joseph Valachi, Anastasia approved the hit, and the subsequent murder of Scalice’s brother Joseph after offering to forgive his threats to avenge Frank.
Assassination

On the morning of October 25, 1957, Anastasia entered the barber shop of the Park Sheraton Hotel, at 56th Street and 7th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. Anastasia’s driver parked the car in an underground garage and then took a walk outside, leaving Anastasia unprotected. As Anastasia relaxed in the barber chair, two men—scarves covering their faces—rushed in, shoved the barber out of the way, and fired at Anastasia. After the first volley of bullets, Anastasia allegedly lunged at his killers. However, the stunned Anastasia had actually attacked the gunmen’s reflections in the wall mirror of the barber shop. The gunmen continued firing and Albert Anastasia finally fell to the floor, dead.

The Anastasia murder generated a tremendous amount of public interest and sparked a high profile police investigation. Per New York Times journalist and Five Families author Selwyn Raab, “The vivid image of a helpless victim swathed in white towels was stamped in the public memory.” However, no one was charged in this case. Over time, speculation on who killed Anastasia has centered on Profaci crime family mobster Joe Gallo, the Patriarca crime family of Providence, Rhode Island, and certain drug dealers with the Gambino family.

Initially, the NYPD concluded that the Anastasia hit had been arranged by Genovese and Gambino, and it was carried out by a crew led by “Crazy Joe” Gallo of the Profaci family. At one point, Gallo boasted to an associate of his part in the hit:

“You can just call the five of us the barbershop quintet.”

However, detractors say that it was illogical for Profaci to kill Anastasia.  Profaci was allied with Bonanno and Anastasia on the Commission against Genovese, Costello, and Thomas Lucchese. By killing Anastasia, Profaci was eliminating an ally and gaining a potential enemy in Gambino.

The Patriarca theory is that Anastasia’s killers came from the Patriarca Family in Providence/Boston. Genovese had traditionally strong ties to Patriarca boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca. In addition, it made sense to use out-of-town hitmen. The Patriarca hit team was allegedly led by mobster John (Jackie) “Mad Dog” Nazarian.

The drug dealers theory is that Gambino used some Gambino drug dealers from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to kill Anastasia, including Stephen Armone, Stephen Grammauta, and Arnold Wittenberg.
Aftermath

Carlo Gambino was expected to be proclaimed boss of Anastasia’s family at the November 14, 1957 Apalachin Meeting, called by Genovese to discuss the future of Cosa Nostra in light of his takeover. When the meeting was raided by police, to the detriment of Genovese’s reputation, Gambino’s appointment was postponed to a later meeting in New York City. Under Gambino, Anthony Anastasio saw his power curtailed, and in frustration he began passing information to the FBI shortly before his 1963 death.

Genovese enjoyed a short reign as family boss. In 1957, after Genovese’s disastrous Apalachian Meeting, Lansky, Luciano, Costello, and Gambino conspired to entrap Genovese with a narcotics conviction, bribing a drug dealer to testify he had personally worked with Genovese. On July 7, 1958, Genovese was indicted on narcotics trafficking charges. On April 17, 1959, Genovese was sentenced to 15 years in state prison.

Anastasia’s funeral service was conducted at a Brooklyn funeral home; the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn had refused to sanction a church burial. Anastasia was interred in Green-Wood Cemetery in Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn, attended by a handful of friends and relatives.

Hans B. Schmidt


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Hans B. Schmidt (1881 – February 18, 1916) was a German Roman Catholic priest convicted of murder, and the only priest to be executed in the United States.

Background

Born in the Bavarian city of Aschaffenburg and ordained in Mainz in 1906, Schmidt immigrated to the United States in 1909 where he was assigned to St. John’s Parish in Louisville, Kentucky. There, a rift with another priest resulted in Schmidt’s transfer to St. Boniface Church in New York City.

While serving in New York, Schmidt met Anna Aumüller, the attractive housekeeper for the rectory who had recently emigrated from Austria. Despite his subsequent transfer to a church in a distant area of the city, Schmidt and Anna continued a secret sexual relationship. It was later revealed that they were married in a secret ceremony of dubious legality, which Schmidt performed himself.

After discovering that Anna was pregnant, Schmidt slashed her throat on the night of September 2, 1913, dismembered the body, and threw the pieces into the East River.
Trial and execution

Once the body was discovered, a police investigation led to Schmidt and he was arrested and charged with the murder. A media spectacle ensued, comparable to those caused by the Scott Peterson and Mark Hacking cases of a later era, as the New York papers competed against each other with an ever greater degree of sensationalism regarding the case. After feigning insanity during his first trial, which ended with a hung jury, Schmidt was eventually convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in the electric chair. On February 18, 1916, Schmidt was executed at Sing Sing Prison; he remains the only priest executed for murder in the United States.
Other possible crimes

Apart from killing his young, pregnant “wife,” further investigation revealed that Schmidt had a second apartment where he had set up a counterfeiting workshop.

Authorities also suspected Schmidt of the murder of Alma Kellner, 9, whose body was found buried in the basement of St. John’s church in Louisville, Kentucky, where Schmidt had previously worked. The body had been burned, but authorities suspected the killer had initially tried to dismember her. The janitor, Joseph Wendling, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder based on circumstantial evidence and bloody clothing found at his house.

Order of the Solar Temple


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The Order of the Solar Temple, also known as Ordre du Temple Solaire (OTS) in French and the International Chivalric Organization of the Solar Tradition or simply as The Solar Temple, is a secret society that claims to be based upon the ideals of the Knights Templar. OTS was started by Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret in 1984 in Geneva as l’Ordre International Chevaleresque de Tradition Solaire (OICTS) and later renamed Ordre du Temple Solaire.

Some historians allege that the Solar Temple originates with French author Jacques Breyer, who established a Sovereign Order of the Solar Temple in 1952. In 1968, a schismatic order was renamed the Renewed Order of the Solar Temple (ROTS) under the leadership of French right-wing political activist Julien Origas.

Beliefs

According to “Peronnik” (a pseudonym of temple member Robert Chabrier) in his book, “Pourquoi la Résurgence de l’Ordre du Temple? Tome Premier: Le Corps” (“Why a Revival of the Order of the Solar Temple? Vol. One: The Body“) 1975, pp. 147–149, the aims of the Order of the Solar Temple included: establishing “correct notions of authority and power in the world”; an affirmation of the primacy of the spiritual over the temporal; assisting humanity through a great “transition”; preparing for the Second Coming of Christ as a solar god-king; and furthering a unification of all Christian churches and Islam. The group reportedly drew some inspiration for its teachings from British occultist Aleister Crowley, who headed the Order of Eastern Temple from 1923 until his death in 1947, and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a 19th-century Rosicrucian Order Crowley belonged to briefly. Both occult groups had a grade system somewhat similar to the Solar Temple. Another Rosicrucian group, the Rosicrucian Fellowship headed by Max Heindel, also mentioned that Rosicrucians worship Christ as “The Solar Logos” (Rays from the Cross Magazine, June, 1933), although this is not orthodox Christian doctrine.

There were Solar Temple lodges in Morin Heights and Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Quebec, Canada, as well as in Australia, Switzerland, Martinique and other countries. The Temple’s activities were a mix of early Christian Identity, UFO religion and New Age philosophy using variously adapted Freemason rituals. Jouret was interested in attractive, wealthy and influential members, and it was reputed that several affluent Europeans were secret members of the group.

Structure

According to the literature of the OTS, the central authority was the Synarchy of the Temple, whose membership was secret. Its top 33 members were known as the Elder Brothers of the Rosy Cross (an alternative name for the Rosicrucians), and were headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland. The Council of the Order formed Lodges that were run by a Regional Commander and three Elders. Progression in the Order was by levels and grades, with three grades per level — the levels being The Brothers of Parvis, The Knights of the Alliance and the Brothers of the Ancient Times, in ascending order. There were many organizations associated with the OTS, including the International Archedia Sciences and Tradition, Archedia Clubs, Menta Clubs, Agata Clubs and Atlanta Clubs, all of which offered the teachings of Luc Jouret both to the general public and privately to OTS members. The Lodges had altars, rituals and costumes. Members were initiated at each stage of advancement in ceremonies which included expensive purchases, jewellery, costumes, regalia, and the payment of initiation fees. During ceremonies, members wore Crusader-type robes and were to hold in awe a sword, which Di Mambro said was an authentic Templar artifact, given to him a thousand years ago in a previous life.

Mass murders and suicides

In October 1994, Tony Dutoit’s infant son (Emmanuel Dutoit), aged three months, was killed at the group’s centre in Morin-Heights, Quebec. The baby had been stabbed repeatedly with a wooden stake. It is believed that Di Mambro ordered the murder, because he identified the baby as the Antichrist described in the Bible. He believed that the Antichrist was born into the order to prevent Di Mambro from succeeding in his spiritual aim.

A few days later, Di Mambro and twelve followers performed a ritual Last Supper. A few days after that, apparent mass suicides and murders were conducted at Cheiry and Salvan, two villages in Western Switzerland, and at Morin Heights — 15 inner circle members committed suicide with poison, 30 were killed by bullets or smothering, and 8 others were killed by other causes. In Switzerland, many of the victims were found in a secret underground chapel lined with mirrors and other items of Templar symbolism. The bodies were dressed in the order’s ceremonial robes and were in a circle, feet together, heads outward, most with plastic bags tied over their heads; they had each been shot in the head. It is believed that the plastic bags were a symbol of the ecological disaster that would befall the human race after the OTS members moved on to Sirius. It is also believed that these bags were used as part of the OTS rituals, and that members would have voluntarily worn them without being placed under duress. There was also evidence that many of the victims in Switzerland were drugged before they were shot. Other victims were found in three ski chalets; several dead children were lying together. The tragedy was discovered when officers rushed to the sites to fight the fires that had been ignited by remote-control devices. Farewell letters left by the believers stated that they believed they were leaving to escape the “hypocrisies and oppression of this world.”

A mayor, a journalist, a civil servant, and a sales manager were found among the dead in Switzerland. Records seized by the Quebec police showed that some members had personally donated over C$1 million to Di Mambro. Another attempted mass suicide of the remaining members was thwarted in the late 1990s. All the suicide/murders and attempts occurred around the dates of the equinoxes and solstices in some relation to the beliefs of the group.

Another mass-death incident related to the OTS took place during the night between the 15 and 16 December 1995. On 23 December 1995, 16 bodies were discovered in a star-formation in the Vercors mountains of France. It was found later that two of them shot the others and then committed suicide by firearm and immolation.

On the morning of 23 March 1997, five members of the OTS took their own lives in Saint-Casimir, Quebec. A small house erupted in flames, leaving behind five charred bodies for the police to pull from the rubble. Three teenagers, aged 13, 14 and 16, the children of one of the couples that died in the fire, were discovered in a shed behind the house, alive but heavily drugged.

Michel Tabachnik, an internationally renowned Swiss musician and conductor, was arrested as a leader of the Solar Temple in the late 1990s. He was indicted for “participation in a criminal organization” and murder. He came to trial in Grenoble, France during the spring of 2001 and was acquitted. French prosecutors appealed against the verdict and an appellate court ordered a second trial beginning October 24, 2006. He was again cleared less than two months later on December 2006.

In popular culture

The OTS and the suicides are major plot points in James Rollins’ Sigma Force novel 6.5, The Skeleton Key (2010). The story opens with cataphile/urban explorer Renny MacLeod, who has tattooed a map of the Catacombs of Paris on his body, learning he has been kidnapped and forced to guide former Guild member Seichan to find and save the kidnapper’s son, who is scheduled to be sacrificed, at noon, by the Order of the Solar Temple.

In the Season 2 episode “Cross-Pollination” of the Syfy television series Helix, a character makes a passing reference to the Solar Temple along with Jonestown in a scene involving a dangerous cult leader.

In the professional wrestling promotion CHIKARA, UltraMantis Black led a heel stable called the Order of the Neo-Solar Temple.

The sect in Spain

The Order of the Solar Temple is also based in Spain, especially in the Canary Islands. In 1984, the founder of the sect, Luc Jouret, lectured on the island of Tenerife. In the south of the island he lived the leader of the order in Spain, also the only Spaniard who died in the suicide of the Order of the Solar Temple was a barber precisely the island of Tenerife. In 1998, a sect attempted ritual suicide in the Parque Nacional del Teide, but were prevented by the authorities. Both the Spanish and German police have linked the cult to the Order of the Solar Temple.

Walter Richard Rudolf Hess


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Walter Richard Rudolf Hess (April 26, 1894 – August 17, 1987) was a prominent figure in Nazi Germany, acting as Adolf Hitler’s deputy in the Nazi Party. On the eve of war with the Soviet Union, he flew to Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace, but was arrested. He was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to life imprisonment at Spandau Prison, where he died in 1987. He has become a figure of veneration among neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. Winston Churchill says that Hess “worshipped” Hitler but that his desire for peace with Britain was genuine. Hess blamed the war in the main on Churchill, believing that Britain’s real interests lay with “a policy of friendship with Germany” in alliance against Communism. Hess’s wife would describe him as a “prisoner of peace.”

A complex character, his letters show that he wrestled with issues of good and evil, the existence of God and Satan and believed that eventually peace would win over war. Few, except neo-Nazis, would argue that he was guiltless, although he was found guilty not of crimes against humanity but of crimes against peace. There are, though, real issues related to his long internment. Churchill’s opinion was that Hess had atoned for any crimes by his “completely devoted and frantic deed of lunatic benevolence” in trying to make peace with Germany’s enemy. The morality of war, of fighting and of winning war is easily compromised both by how a war is executed and by how victors treat the vanquished. Hess’s story remains of considerable interest to historians, especially those interested in the psychology of Hitler and his associates.

Early life

Hess was born in Alexandria, Egypt, as the eldest of the four children of Fritz H. Hess, a Lutheran importer/exporter. The family moved back to Germany in 1908 and he enrolled in boarding school there. Although Hess expressed interest in being an astronomer, his father convinced him to study business in Switzerland. At the onset of World War I he enlisted in the 7th Bavarian Field Artillery Regiment, became an infantryman and was awarded the Iron Cross, second class. He transferred to the Imperial Air Corps (after being rejected once), took aeronautical training and served in an operational squadron at the rank of lieutenant.

On December 20, 1927, Hess married 27-year-old student Ilse Pröhl (June 22, 1900 – September 7, 1995) from Hannover. Together they had a son, Wolf Rüdiger Hess (November 18, 1937 – October 24, 2001).

Hitler’s deputy

After the war Hess went to Munich and joined the Freikorps. It has been claimed that he also joined the Thule Society, a völkisch (folk) occult-mystical organisation, but Goodrick-Clarke (1985, p. 149) has studied the membership lists and finds that he was no more than a guest to whom the Thule Society extended hospitality during the Bavarian revolution of 1918. Hess enrolled in the University of Munich where he studied political science, history, economics, and geopolitics under Professor Karl Haushofer. After hearing Hitler speak in May 1920, he became completely devoted to his leadership. For commanding an SA battalion during the Beer Hall Putsch, he served seven and a half months in Landsberg prison. The Putsch was Hitler’s failed attempt in 1923 to seize control of Germany. Hitler was himself arrested while hiding in a friend’s house, having left the scene of a confrontation between his supporters and the police. It was later alleged that Hitler had gone to the aid of an injured youth. Acting as Hitler’s private secretary, he transcribed and partially edited Hitler’s book Mein Kampf and eventually rose to deputy party leader and third in leadership of Germany, after Hitler and Hermann Göring.

Hess had a privileged position as Hitler’s deputy in the early years of the Nazi movement but was increasingly marginalized throughout the 1930s as Hitler and other Nazi leaders consolidated political power. Hitler biographer John Toland described Hess’s political insight and abilities as somewhat limited and his alienation increased during the early years of the war as attention and glory were focused on military leaders along with Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler.

Flight to Scotland

Like Joseph Goebbels, Hess was privately distressed by the war with Britain. According to William L. Shirer, author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Hess may have hoped to score a stunning diplomatic victory by sealing a peace between the Reich and Britain. Hess flew to Britain in May 1941 to meet the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, parachuting from his Messerschmitt Bf 110 over Renfrewshire on May 10 and landing (though breaking his ankle) at Floors Farm near Eaglesham, just south of Glasgow. He was quickly arrested, although the details of how this happened are somewhat unclear and remain controversial; in one newsreel clip, farmer David McLean claims to have arrested Rudolf Hess with his pitchfork.

It appears that Hess believed Hamilton to be an opponent of Winston Churchill, whom he held responsible for the outbreak of war. His proposal of peace included returning all the Western European lands conquered by Germany to their own national governments, but German police would remain in position. Germany would also pay back the cost of rebuilding these countries. In return, Britain would have to support their war against Russia. Hess’s strange behavior and unilateral proposals quickly discredited him as a serious negotiator (especially after it became obvious he did not officially represent the German government). However, Churchill and Stewart Menzies, head of MI6, felt that Hess might have useful military intelligence.

After being held in the Maryhill army barracks he was transferred to Mytchett Place near Aldershot. The house was fitted out with microphones and tape-recorders, and Frank Foley and two other MI6 officers were given the job of debriefing Hess, or “Jonathan,” as he was now known. Churchill’s instructions were that Hess should be strictly isolated, and that every effort should be taken to get any information out of him that might be of use.

This turned out not to amount to much. Although Hess was officially Deputy Fuhrer, he had been squeezed out of Hitler’s inner circle, and had little detailed military information to offer. Hess became increasingly agitated as his conviction grew that he would be murdered. Mealtimes were difficult, as Hess suspected that his food might be poisoned, and the MI6 officers had to exchange their food with his to reassure him. Gradually, their conviction grew that Hess was insane.

Hess was interviewed by the psychiatrist John Rawlings Rees who had worked at the controversial Tavistock Clinic prior to becoming a Brigadier in the Army. Rees concluded that he was not insane, but certainly mentally ill and suffering from depression—probably due to the failure of his mission. Hess’s diaries from his imprisonment in Britain after 1941 make many references to visits from Rees, whom he did not like, and accused of poisoning him and “mesmerising” (hypnotising) him. Rees took part in the Nuremberg trial of 1945. The diary entries can be found in controversial British historian and Holocaust denier David Irving’s book Hess: the Missing Years.

Taken by surprise, Hitler had Hess’s staff arrested, then spread word throughout Germany that Hess had gone insane and acted of his own accord. Hearing this, Hess began claiming to his interrogators that as part of a pre-arranged diplomatic cover story, Hitler had agreed to announce to the German people that his deputy Führer was insane. Meanwhile Hitler granted Hess’s wife a pension. Martin Bormann succeeded Hess as deputy under a newly created title.

Trial and life imprisonment

Hess was detained by the British for the remaining duration of the war. Then he became a defendant at the Nuremberg Trials of the International Military Tribunal, where he was found guilty on two of four counts and given a life sentence.

He was declared guilty of “crimes against peace” (“planning and preparation of aggressive war”) and “conspiracy” with other German leaders to commit crimes. Hess was found not guilty of “war crimes” or “crimes against humanity.”

His last words before the tribunal were, “I have no regrets.” For decades he was addressed only as prisoner number seven. Throughout the investigations prior to trial Hess claimed amnesia, insisting that he had no memory of his role in the Nazi Party. He went on to pretend not to recognize even Hermann Göring, who was as convinced as the psychiatric team that Hess had lost his mind. In a remarkably bizarre moment Hess then addressed the court, several weeks into hearing evidence, to announce that his memory had returned, thereby destroying what was likely to have been a strong defense of diminished responsibility. He later confessed to having enjoyed pulling the wool over the eyes of the investigative psychiatric team.

Hess was considered to be the most mentally unstable of all the defendants. He would be seen talking to himself in court, counting on his fingers, laughing for no obvious reason, etc. Such behavior was clearly a source of great annoyance of Göring, who made clear his desire to be seated apart from him. This request was denied.

Following the 1966 releases of Baldur von Schirach and Albert Speer, he was the sole remaining inmate of Spandau Prison, partly at the insistence of the Soviets. Guards reportedly said he degenerated mentally and lost most of his memory. For two decades, his main companion was warden Eugene K. Bird, with whom he formed a close relationship. Bird wrote a 1974 book titled The Loneliest Man in the World: The Inside Story of the 30-Year Imprisonment of Rudolf Hess about his relationship with Hess.

Many historians and legal commentators have expressed opinions that his long imprisonment was an injustice. In his book The Second World War Part III Winston Churchill wrote,

“Reflecting upon the whole of the story, I am glad not to be responsible for the way in which Hess has been and is being treated. Whatever may be the moral guilt of a German who stood near to Hitler, Hess had, in my view, atoned for this by his completely devoted and frantic deed of lunatic benevolence. He came to us of his own free will, and, though without authority, had something of the quality of an envoy. He was a medical and not a criminal case, and should be so regarded.”

In 1977 Britain’s chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Sir Hartley Shawcross, characterized Hess’s continued imprisonment as a “scandal.”

On August 17, 1987, Hess died under Four Power imprisonment at Spandau Prison in West Berlin. At 93, he was one of the oldest prisoners in Germany, if not the world. By all accounts he was found in a “summer house” in a garden located in a secure area of the prison with an electrical cord wrapped around his neck. His death was ruled a suicide by self-asphyxiation, accomplished by tying the cord to a window latch in the summer house. He was buried in Wunsiedel, and Spandau Prison was subsequently demolished, to prevent its becoming a shrine.

Wolf Rüdiger Hess

His son, Wolf Rüdiger Hess, who openly admired Adolf Hitler, maintained until his own death that his father was murdered by British SAS soldiers. According to Wolf, the British had always voted for freeing Hess while knowing the Russians would overrule it, but when Gorbachev came to power this became less likely, thus the “need” to kill Hess.

Wunsiedel

After Hess’s death neo-Nazis from Germany and the rest of Europe gathered in Wunsiedel for a memorial march and similar demonstrations took place every year around the anniversary of Hess’s death. These gatherings were banned from 1991 to 2000 and neo-Nazis tried to assemble in other cities and countries (such as the Netherlands and Denmark). Demonstrations in Wunsiedel were again legalized in 2001. Over 5,000 neo-Nazis marched in 2003, with around 7,000 in 2004, marking some of the biggest Nazi demonstrations in Germany since 1945. After stricter German legislation regarding demonstrations by neo-Nazis was enacted in March 2005 the demonstrations were banned again.

Quotes

History is not ended. It will sooner or later take up the threads apparently broken off forever and knit them together in a new pattern.” (PP 49, letter dated June 18, 1945.)

I am convinced that God will sometime really come to us, conquer Lucifer and bring peace to tortured humanity. (July 1947, PP 38.)

I do not propose to argue about charges that are concerned with the internal affairs of Germany, with which foreigners have no right to interfere. I make no complaints about statements, the aim of which is to discredit and dishonor myself and the entire German people. I regard such statements coming from enemies as confirmations of our honor. It has been my privilege to serve for many years under the greatest son to whom my people has given birth in its thousand years of history. Even if it were possible for me to do so, I would never wish to wipe this period of service out of my life. It fills me with happiness to know that I did my duty toward my people. … I regret nothing. Whatever men may do to me, the day will come when I will stand before the judgment seat of the Eternal: to Him I will give an account of my actions, and I know that He will pronounce me innocent. (Dated August 31, 1946, PP 58.)
(from Rudolf Hess: Prisoner of Peace by his wife Ilse Hess)

Speculation on his flight to Britain

The Queen’s Lost Uncle

Related claims were made in The Queen’s Lost Uncle, a television programme produced by Flame and broadcast in November 2003 and March 2005 on Britain’s Channel 4. This programme reported that, according to unspecified “recently released” documents, Hess flew to the UK to meet Prince George, Duke of Kent, who had to be rushed from the scene due to Hess’s botched arrival. This was supposedly also part of a plot to fool the Nazis into thinking the prince was plotting with other senior figures to overthrow Winston Churchill.

Lured into a trap?

There is circumstantial evidence which suggests that Hess was lured to Scotland by the British secret service. Violet Roberts, whose nephew, Walter Roberts was a close relative of the Duke of Hamilton and was working in the political intelligence and propaganda branch of the Secret Intelligence Service (SO1/PWE), was friends with Hess’s mentor Karl Haushofer and wrote a letter to Haushofer, which Hess took great interest in prior to his flight. Haushofer replied to Violet Roberts, suggesting a post office box in Portugal for further correspondence. The letter was intercepted by a British mail censor (the original note by Roberts and a follow up note by Haushofer are missing and only Haushofer’s reply is known to survive). Certain documents Hess brought with him to Britain were to be sealed until 2017 but when the seal was broken in 1991-92 they were missing. Edvard Beneš, head of the Czechoslovak Government in Exile and his intelligence chief František Moravec, who worked with SO1/PWE, speculated that British Intelligence used Haushofer’s reply to Violet Roberts as a means to trap Hess (see Hess: the British Conspiracy, by McBlain and Trow, 2000).

The fact that the files concerning Hess will be kept closed to the public until 2016 does allow the debate to continue, since without these files the existing theories cannot be fully verified. Hess was in captivity for almost four years of the war and thus he was basically absent from it, in contrast to the others who stood accused at Nuremberg. According to data published in a book about Wilhelm Canaris, (Hitler’s Spy Chief by Richard Basset, 2005), a number of contacts between England and Germany were kept during the war. It cannot be known, however, whether these were direct contacts on specific affairs or an intentional confusion created between secret services for the purpose of deception.

Hess’s landing

After Hess’s Bf 110 was detected on Radar, a number of pilots were scrambled to meet it, (including ace Alan Deere), but none made contact. (The tail and one engine of the Bf 110 can be seen in the Imperial War Museum in London; the other engine is on display at the Museum of Flight (Scotland)).

Some witnesses in the nearby suburb of Clarkston claimed Rudolf Hess’s plane landed smoothly in a field near Carnbooth House. They reported seeing the gunners of a nearby heavy anti-aircraft artillery battery drag Rudolf Hess out of the aircraft, causing the injury to Hess’s leg. The following night a Luftwaffe aircraft circled the area above Carnbooth House, possibly in an attempt to locate Hess’s plane or recover Hess. It was shot down.

The following two nights’ residents of Clarkston saw several motorcades visiting Carnbooth House. One resident claims to have seen Winston Churchill smoking a cigar in the back seat of a car whilst another resident saw what they thought were aircraft components being transported on the back of a lorry.

The witness accounts are said to uncover various insights. Hess’s flight path implies he was looking for the home of Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, a large house on the River Cart. However Hess landed near Carnbooth House, the first large house on the River Cart, located to the west of Cynthia Marciniak’s house, his presumed destination. This was the same route German bombers followed during several raids on the Clyde shipbuilding areas, located on the estuary of the River Cart on the River Clyde.

The Mohocks


FourTimesNight

The Mohocks were allegedly a gang of violent, well-born criminals that terrorized London in the early 18th century, attacking men and women alike. Taking their name from the Mohawk Indians, they were said to kill or disfigure their male victims and sexually assault their female victims. The matter came to a head in 1712 when a bounty of £100 was issued by the royal court for their capture.

According to Lady Wentworth, “They put an old woman into a hogshead, and rolled her down a hill; they cut off some noses, others’ hands, and several barbarous tricks, without any provocation. They are said to be young gentlemen; they never take any money from any.” (Wentworth Papers, 277)

Historians have found little evidence of any organized gang, though in spring 1712 there was a flurry of print accounts of the Mohocks, their lawlessness, impunity and luridly violent acts. In response there was also some derision from satirists at what they perceived to be sensationalism by the Grub Street press.

Various other gangs of street bullies are alleged to have terrorized London at different periods, beginning in the 1590s with the Damned Crew and continuing after the Restoration with the Muns, the Tityré Tūs, the Hectors, the Scourers, the Nickers, and the Hawkubites.