THE NEW ORLEANS AXEMAN
By Tim Lambert
The New Orleans Axeman was a serial killer in 1918-1919. He was never caught and even the motive for the murders remains a mystery. The Axeman first struck on 23 May 1918. The axeman broke into the home of Joseph Maggio a grocer and his wife Catherine on the corner of Upperline Street and Magnolia Street. He used a chisel to remove a panel in their back door. The couple were sleeping when the Axeman attacked them with an ax then slit their throats. However the motive was not robbery - nothing had been taken. Andrew Maggio, the brother of Joseph was arrested but released after a few days.
On 28 June 1918 the New Orleans Axeman attacked another couple. Louis Besumer and his girlfriend Anna-Harriet Lowe were both hit with an ax. Both initially survived although Lowe died. Before she died she accused Besumer of hitting her with an ax. He was arrested and put on trial but he was acquitted. Meanwhile on 5 August 1918 the axeman attacked the pregnant wife of Edward Scheider. Luckily she survived and later gave birth to a baby girl. Next on 10 August 1918 the axeman murdered a barber named Joseph Romano.
Then on 10 March 1919 the New Orleans Axeman attacked a man named Charles Cortimiglia and his wife. Fortunately they both survived. However the axeman killed their 2 year old daughter. Rose Cortimiglia then accused two of her neighbors, Iorlando Jordano and his son Frank of the crime. Both men were tried for murder and found guilty. Frank was sentenced to death and his father was sentenced to life imprisonment. Fortunately Rose Cortimiglia withdrew her confession saving Frank's life. His father was also released.
On 10 August 1919 the axeman attacked a grocer named Steve Boca after using a chisel to remove a panel of his door. Fortunately Boca survived. Then on 2 September 1919 a pharmacist named William Carlson saw a chisel coming through the door of his home. He fired at the door and the axeman fled. However the next night 3 September 1919 the axeman attacked a 19 year old woman named Sarah Laumann as she slept. Fortunately she survived.
The New Orleans Axeman struck for the last time on 27 October 1919. He broke into the home of a man named Mike Pepitone and struck him with an axe. Pepitone later died but his wife saw the axeman. The New Orleans axe murders then stopped. Nobody knows why. Maybe the axeman died or perhaps he was imprisoned for another offence. The case remains a mystery. Meanwhile in 1919 a man named Joseph John Davilla wrote a song called 'The Mysterious Axmean's Jazz'.
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A History of New Orleans