Recap of S01 E02: "Hell March 13, 1919"

Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories Recap: "Hell March 13, 1919"

 

“When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know whom they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with blood and brains of he whom I have sent below to keep me company.”

Three people have been slain, and the Axeman promises more death to come. Phones are ringing off the hook at the police department as terrified citizens file reports of the serial murderer lurking outside their homes. Some are claiming to have found one of his axes in their backyards. Others tell of more frightening encounters. One man hears scratching noises at his back door and shoots at the fiend with his shotgun. But when the police arrive, the only trace of the Axeman is a chisel laying on the ground outside.

While some of these stories are undoubtedly born of paranoia, other reports prove to be chilling evidence of the Axeman’s reign of terror.

In this week’s episode, Carter and Wenndy continue their investigation of the Axeman of New Orleans.

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Five days after the pregnant Mrs. Schneider is attacked in her bed, Pauline and Mary Bruno are awakened in the middle of the night by a commotion coming from the bedroom of their elderly uncle, Joseph Romano. As they go to check on him, they are met head on with the looming figure of a strange man dressed in a dark suit and slouching hat. Pauline screams.

The Axeman slips away without harming either of Joseph’s nieces, but Joseph Romano dies soon after in the hospital from deep gashes in his face. Neither Pauline nor Mary can identify the killer.

Police find a bloody axe in Romano’s backyard, along with a chiseled out panel in the rear door. All the evidence fits the Axeman’s M.O. – the only difference is that the house had been ransacked. While nothing had been taken, it appears our notorious serial killer was looking for something. But what?

In the wake of the latest four attacks, retired detective John Dantonio comes forward with a theory: this isn’t the Axeman’s first killing spree. “The man committing the axe murders today is the same one who killed several victims by axe back in 1911.” The detective further postulates that the Axeman has a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde dual personality – “he’s a normal, law-abiding citizen one moment and a cold blooded killer the next.”

While Mr. Romano’s murder has heightened the fears of the people in New Orleans, enough time passes that the city is lulled into a feeling of safety. But after seven long months, on March 10th, 1919, the Axeman strikes again.  

Charles Cortimiglia, his wife Rosie and two year old daughter Mary are attacked one night in their home. Charles and Rosie survive their gruesome head injuries but little Mary does not. A panel was chiseled out of their back door and the bloody axe that killed their daughter was left on their back porch. Nothing was stolen.

Rosie accuses her elderly neighbor Iorlando Jordano and his 18 year old son Frank of the attack. Her husband Charles vehemently denies this, and despite there being no physical evidence tying them to the crime, the Jordanos are still taken to court and found guilty. Rosie and Charles file for a divorce – and no wonder. Almost a year later, the former Mrs. Cortimiglia publicly confesses to having accused innocent men.

Just days after the attack on the Cortimiglia family, the New Orleans Times-Picayune publishes a letter written by the Axeman with a curious offer to the people of New Orleans: he will spare every person where a jazz band is playing on Tuesday night at 12:15am. Everyone else will get the axe.

As ludicrous as the offer sounds, the people in the city take the Axeman’s offer seriously and every dance hall in New Orleans is filled to capacity with people and live jazz music. If nothing else, the massive city-wide turnout is a testament to the level of fear and paranoia provoked by the Axeman’s serial murders. There seems nothing left to do but appease him with this musical offering, but will an insatiable killer such as the Axeman really stop killing?

Carter and Wenndy find out in next week’s episode “A Wife’s Revenge.”