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Beware The Axeman

A creative nonfiction story detailing to the horrible crimes done by The Axeman of New Orleans

Deep in New Orleans there is a darkness hanging over the city as an unknown murderer claims another life. In the same vein of brutality and terror, The Axeman terrorized the city to no ends, akin to London’s Jack the Ripper. The Axeman of New Orleans was a living terror on the lives of the people and he caused for a mass panic to sweep the city. From the bludgeoning of known locals, mostly Italian immigrants, to terrifying and unsettling letter sent to news outlets. From May of 1918-September of 1919 the city of New Orleans dealt with a living nightmare during the night and absolute suspicion of their neighbors during the day.

Claiming the lives of victims with axes found on the victims’ property and would then go on the beat them either to death or disfigurement. Why The Axeman committed these heinous crimes is baffling to police still to this day.

The first people to face the wrath of The Axeman were Joseph and Catherine Maggio on the evening of May 23, 1918. Sleeping blissfully in their bed the couple awoke to a dark figure brandishing an ax from the Maggio’s property. The figure brutally beat the couple to death by bashing in their heads with an axe until their skulls split open. The axe was left at the scene along with nothing of note or value taken from the couple. Police question neighbors and witnesses only to come up empty handed. Nothing of the crime at the time suggested a serial killer or a home invasion gone wrong. The people of New Orleans did not truly understand the monster that was now terrorizing their beloved city.

June 27, a little over a month after the murder of the Maggio couple, The Axeman struck again. This time maiming Louis Besumer and murdering his mistress Harriet Lowe. Taking an axe, later learned to be from the Besumer property, The Axeman struck in Besumer in the head before going for Lowe. He beat Lowe to the point of unrecognition and caused her death no more than two days later. But, before Lowe’s death she did in fact name an assailant, Louie Besumer. Besumer also couldn’t identify the man or thing that attacked him due to the severe blunt force trauma. The police having taken Lowe extremely serious chose to arrest Besumer only to release him a year later when evidence suggested there was no way his wounds were self-inflicted. This was not going to be the only instance of mistaken identity or inability of to identify the assailant.

The next and more gruesome attack took place in the late hours of August 5 and involved young and heavily pregnant Anna Schneider. Schneider was lying in bed one night while her husband was working late someone broke into the residence and startling the young woman. Schneider awoke to a figure over her bed waving an axe down onto her head repeatedly. Found a little while after The Axeman’s departure by her husband and rushed to the hospital. Following her attack, Schneider gave birth to a healthy baby girl but was also unable to give a description of the man who attacked her.

Five days following the attack on Anna Schneider, The Axeman struck again by killing Joseph Romano while he lay in bed. Romano was an elderly man who lived with his nieces. The Axeman’s M.O. stayed the same for all of his victims, Romano’s was no exception. The only difference that helped this attack be different from the rest was that Romano’s nieces saw the man responsible for killing their uncle. The description the young women gave, although, did little to take the mystery out this unknown and visibly violent person. The women described a dark-skinned heavy-set man who was wearing a dark suit and a slouched hat. A better description than most of the ones given and was in fact given by someone who didn’t suffer from severe blunt force trauma. This was the last murder to occur in the year of 1918.

The Axeman would not be taking a break for long, soon he would strike again and this time with a vengeance. March 10, 1919, Rosie Cortimiglia is shocked awake and accosted by the sight of her husband Charles fighting off a dark and cloaked figure with an axe. Clutching onto her baby girl, Mary, Rosie pleaded with dark figure for the life of her and her child, only to be ignored. That fateful night Rosie Cortimiglia lost her family, a disfigured husband and now a dead daughter. Rosie would soon claim that the man who tried to murder and her and her family was Iorlando Jordano. Jordano surprisingly enough was the neighbor who heard the family’s pleas and screams sought help. This identification would soon be proven false, yet another false identification that lead the police nowhere closer to finding their axeman. But soon they and all of New Orleans is given a glimpse into the mind and power of The Axeman.

In a letter written to the newspapers The Axeman detailed exactly how he sees himself, the demonic servant of Francis Josef who does not abide by the rules of the mortal society. The Axeman claims to reside in hell and comes out only to terrorize the good (and bad) people of New Orleans. Within this letter is also the demand that the entire city plays Jazz music on the night of March 18 at 12:15 earth time and that anyone who disobeys this demand with feel the wrath of the so forth named Axeman, friend of death.

On that fateful night of March, the entire city was alive with sound of Jazz. Music came from night clubs, radio, and many people had get-togethers to play jazz music so that they may live to see the next day. The Axeman made good on his demand for no lives were lost on that night, but that one night of mercy did nothing to save the lives of his last three victims.

On the nights of August 10 and September 3 The Axeman disfigured Steve Boca and Sarah Laumann respectively. This then leads to the last known murder of The Axeman, Mike Pepitone. This is the most interesting one because following the death of Pepitone a woman claiming to be his widow murdered a man named Joseph Momfre, claiming he was The Axeman who killed her husband. There is no information to support this woman’s claim of being a widow and after extensive investigating, no man with the surname Momfre with either a birth or death certificate was ever found.

The crimes committed against the people of New Orleans have to this day never been solved. For all the people of town knows The Axeman could have been a crazed racist killer or he could have actually been a demon from Hell come here to wreak havoc on the people of New Orleans.

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