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  ALABAMA AXE Murders ...   ...  USA ... ... ... 8+
aka 1919 1923 AL
... : ... ... ... ...
Between November 1919 and October 1923, residents of Birmingham, Alabama, were terrorized by a series of brutal assaults, committed by ax-wielding blacks, which claimed the lives of at least fifteen victims , leaving others gravely injured. In most cases, the targets were immigrant merchants in outlying parts of the city, wounded or killed in their shops by assailants who afterward robbed them of money or merchandise. It is impossible to verify the final body-count in Alabama's four-year reign of terror. After Charles Graffeo's murder, on May 28, 1923, local journalists described him as the nineteenth murder victim, with another seventeen survivors adding up to thirty-six casualties in twenty-eight attacks. Seven months later, with the arrest of five suspects, the New York Times referred to twenty-four fatalities in forty-four attacks. At the same time, Birmingham reporters actually reduced their estimate of casualties, with published lists of fifteen dead and thirteen wounded since the raids began. However that may be, the crimes were indisputably initiated on November 28, 1919, with the death of merchant G.T. Ary. Slain on Christmas Eve, John Belser was the second victim, and his death appeared to satisfy the killers for a time. No further raids were publicly recorded until March 5, 1921, when unidentified attackers wounded J.J. Whittle in his shop. Another four months passed before the next attack, which wounded Charles Baldone, his wife and daughter, on July 13. Another survivor, H.I. Dorsky, was wounded on August 17. Three weeks later, on September 6, the killers scored another near-miss with Mrs. Sam Zideman, mistaking her for dead as they looted her shop. The Christmas season was obscured by tragedy that year, in Birmingham, as unidentified assailants murdered Joseph Mantione and his wife, December 21. The same attacker, or a copy-cat, moved on to Titisville that afternoon, and there dispatched Mose Parker, adding a black to the growing list of dead. The new year offered no relief from carnage, with Clem Crawford and his wife slaughtered on January 11. Two weeks later, Tony and Rosa Lomio were attacked in their shop, but both survived their injuries. Three members of the Lucia family were wounded -- one of them fatally -- on June 3, 1922. Survivor J.H. Seay was hospitalized on September 30, while Abraham Levine died on November 6, in an attack that also injured his wife. Police seemed baffled as the crimes continued into 1923. Joseph Klein was killed, his daughter wounded, on January 10. Two weeks later, Luigi and Josephine Vitellaro were hacked to death in their store. A welcome respite followed the Graffeo homicide, in May, but the killers returned with a vengeance on October 22, slaughtering Elizabeth Romeo and Juliet Vigilant. On January 6, 1924, police in Birmingham announced that five black suspects -- Peyton Johnson, O'Delle Jackson, Pearl Jackson, John Reed, and Fred Glover -- had confessed to eight of the unsolved murders. Confessions had first been obtained through the use of a "truth serum," scopolomine, and later confirmed without drugs. Petty robbery was listed as the motive, with members of a local "syndicate" drawing straws for the honor of committing the next murder. The founding father of the gang, a black named Garfield, was reported dead of natural causes during 1922. Solicitor James Davis reported that three other members of the group, including its unnamed ringleader, were still at large, hiding somewhere in central Alabama.
Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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