Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories Recap: “A Wife’s Revenge”
Citizens of New Orleans have read the Axeman’s letter in the city’s largest newspaper, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and his offer to spare those listening to live jazz music at 12:15am on Tuesday night, March 19th, 1919 is the talk of the town. With five people dead and four seriously wounded, people across the city are taking his proposition very seriously. By midnight, New Orleanians everywhere are attending gatherings in private homes, clubs, bars, restaurants and dance halls where live jazz music is played in hopes that the Axeman will keep his word to spare them from grisly murder.
As crowds of people eat, drink, listen to music and dance the night away, appearing to enjoy the revelry, a serial murderer is on the loose and no one feels completely safe. But come morning, the city is relieved to find that no one has been axed in the middle of the night.
Days, weeks, and then months pass – the Axeman remains silent. There have been no more axe murders or creepy letters postmarked from Hell. Should the people of New Orleans dare to think the Axeman’s killing spree is finally over?
Our Hosts Carter and Wenndy take one final look at the Axeman of New Orleans and reveal who they think is responsible for the murders.
After the city-wide jazz party in March, the Axeman rewards the citizens of New Orleans with five months of reprieve. The peaceful interlude ends on August 10, 1919 when Steve Boca awakes to find a dark figure towering over him in bed. With one blow, he is knocked unconscious. Moments later, Mr. Boca comes to and rushes out into the street looking for the intruder, not realizing his head has been cracked open.
Boca survives and the police find tell-tale evidence at the crime scene proving that they have another classic Axeman case on their hands. It is chilling news for the people of New Orleans who believed the gruesome serial murders and sleepless nights were over.
A little more than three weeks later, the neighbors of Sarah Laumann, a young woman living alone, found her unconscious, but alive, on her bed with a serious head injury. A bloody axe was found on the front lawn of the apartment building, but unlike the Axeman’s usual M.O., the perpetrator entered the apartment building through an open window and used a blunt weapon in the attack – not the axe.
It is unsure whether Sarah Laumann was one of the Axeman’s victims or not.
On the night of October 27th, 1919, police find Mrs. Esther Pepitone standing over the body of her husband Mike. His blood pools on the floor beneath her feet and is splattered across the wall. With an eerie calm, she states, “It looks like the Axeman was here and murdered Mike.”
Mrs. Pepitone is considered a suspect, but the crime scene fits the Axeman’s M.O. perfectly. No charges are brought against her.
A year later, Esther allegedly waits in the shadows on the streets of Los Angeles for a man named Joseph Mumfre, who used to live in New Orleans. When he arrives, Esther pulls a gun on Joseph Mumfre and kills him. She tells the police that he murdered her husband.
While Mrs. Pepitone is sentenced to ten years in prison for killing Mr. Mumfre, the police reportedly began investigating her story and found that Joseph Mumfre had been in prison during the periods when the Axeman attacks ceased and moved out of New Orleans right after the last attack in October of 1919.
Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories host Carter is convinced Joseph Mumfre is the Axeman killer, but his partner Wenndy believes the story of Mr. Pepitone’s avenging widow to be the stuff of urban legend – there are no extant records of a Joseph Mumfre or Mrs. Pepitone’s trial anywhere in New Orleans or Los Angeles. Also, the killing didn’t stop.
On October 30, 1947 in Tacoma, Washington, police are sent to investigate the screams coming from the house shared by Bertha Kludt and her daughter Beverly June. When the police arrive, they see a man burst through the back door. After a long chase and fight to get him into cuffs, the police arrest Jake Bird, a 45 year old drifter born and raised in Louisiana, who just brutally hacked Bertha and Beverly June to death with an axe.
Bird confesses and is sentenced to death. In the courtroom, however, he makes a strange declaration, also known as the Jake Bird Hex. He says, “All of you would die before me.”
Sure enough, before Jake Bird’s execution, six different men in the courtroom died that day – five by heart attack and one by pneumonia. Furthermore, while on Death Row, Bird confesses to 44 more murders across the country, making him one of America’s most prolific killers.
Still, Carter isn’t convinced – surely Jake Bird would have confessed to the sensationalized Axeman killings if he was truly the notorious culprit, right? Wenndy asserts it was Jake Bird, not Joseph Mumfre.
It appears the jury is hung on this one. Who do you think was the Axeman of New Orleans? Go to our Facebook page and take our poll. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Was it Joseph Mumfre, Jake Bird or someone else? Something else?