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Serial Killer Index Short List
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Serial Killer Index
serial killers by name [g] amazon
  GOHL Billy ... +1928 USA ... ... ... 50+
aka 1903 1913 Aberdeen WA
... : ... ... ... ...
Nothing of substance is known about Billy Gohl's first forty years, and the stories he told in response to occasional questions were riddled with holes, contradictions, and some outright lies. By his own reckoning, Gohl was born around 1860, spending most of the next four decades as a laborer, sailor, or both. In 1903, he surfaced in Aberdeen, Washington, as a delegate for the Sailors' Union of the Pacific. Gohl's stocky build and clean-shaven scalp made him memorable, but his tales about previous lives scarcely set him apart from the seamen he served. The union office, in those days, functioned as a combination mail drop, bank, and general employment office for its members. Sailors new in Port might check for letters, scan the list of vessels needing crewmen, or deposit valuables before they made the rounds of various saloons. In many cases, sailors back from months at sea had large amounts of cash on hand. An honest union delegate would hold the money in a safe until it was reclaimed. In Aberdeen, the spoils belonged to Billy Gohl. His method was simplicity itself. When sailors turned up individually, Gohl checked the street for witnesses. If it was clear, and something of substantial value was entrusted to his care, he drew a pistol from his drawer and shot his victim in the head. That done, he paused to clean the weapon, stripped his prey of any extra cash and all identifying documents. Gohl's building had a trapdoor, with a chute extending to the Wishkah River, just outside, with currents flowing toward Gray's Harbor and the sea beyond. Within a few years after Billy Gohl's arrival, Aberdeen acquired a reputation as a "port of missing men." No records exist for his first six years of operation, but authorities pulled 41 "floaters" out of the water between 1909 and 1912, suggesting a prodigious body-count. Most of the nameless dead were presumed to be merchant seamen, and Billy Gohl was among the most vocal critics of Aberdeen law enforcement, demanding apprehension of the killers, more protection for his men. Gohl's downfall was precipitated by a timepiece and his own attempt at cleverness. While rifling the pockets of his latest victim, Billy came upon a watch bearing the engraved name of August Schleuter, from Hamburg, Germany. Alert to the potential for incrimination, he replaced the watch and dumped the corpse as always. When the "floater" came ashore, Gohl was on hand to identify Schleuter as one of his sailors, renewing demands for a thorough investigation of the murders. This time, Billy got his wish. It took some time, but homicide investigators learned the victim was, in fact, a Danish sailor named Fred Nielssen. He had bought the watch in Hamburg, from a craftsman who identified each piece he made with an engraving of his name. Gohl's effort to identify the corpse as August Schleuter smacked of guilty knowledge, and detectives finally built a case that brought him into court, in 1913, on a double charge of murder. Gohl was rescued from the gallows by Washington's repeal of the death penalty, in 1912. Convicted of two slayings, he rebuffed all efforts to compile a comprehensive list of victims. Even so, publicity surrounding Billy's case was adequate to win restoration of the death penalty in 1914. Safe in his prison cell, with no evidence to support further trials and possible execution, Gohl counted the years until his death, of natural causes, in 1928.
Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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