||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2009)|
|Born||March 29, 1934|
|Sentenced to life imprisonment|
|Date||March 30, 1975|
|Location(s)||Hamilton, Ohio, United States|
|Weapons||.357 Magnum pistol, two .22 caliber handguns and a rifle|
James Urban Ruppert (born March 29, 1934), is an American murderer, who was responsible for the deadliest shooting inside a private residence in American history. On March 30, 1975, Easter Sunday, Ruppert murdered 11 family members in his mother's house at 635 Minor Avenue in Hamilton, Ohio in what is referred to as the Easter Sunday Massacre. He is serving two life sentences at the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio.
James Ruppert's early life was troubled. His mother Charity said that she would have rather had a daughter, and his father Leonard had a violent temper and little affection for his two sons. Leonard died in 1947 when James and his brother Leonard Jr. were 12 and 14, respectively.
Leonard Jr. became the father figure of the family and constantly picked on James during their upbringing. At 16, James was so dissatisfied with his home life that he ran away and attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself with a sheet. He was unsuccessful and returned home.
As an adult, Ruppert stood 5'6", 135 pounds, described as a modest and helpful man who was unremarkable and quiet. He had no police record.
Ruppert was envious of his older brother's successful job and family. Ruppert flunked out of college after two years while his brother earned a degree in electrical engineering and excelled in athletics. Leonard Jr. also married his brother's ex-girlfriend, had eight children, and held a job with General Electric, while James was unemployed at the age of 41 and had moved back in with his 65-year old mother Charity Ruppert in Hamilton, Ohio. Charity was frustrated with her son's inability to hold a steady job and his constant drinking; she threatened to evict him. James also owed his mother and brother money, having lost what little he had in the stock market crash of 1973-4.
The final month
A month before the massacre, James inquired about silencers for his weapons while purchasing ammunition. His behavior in general became more unusual as he neared the breaking point, battling a deep depression.
The night before the murders James went out as he did nearly every night. At the 19th Hole Cocktail Lounge he talked with employee Wanda Bishop, a 28-year old mother of 5. She would later state that James told her he was frustrated with his mother's demands on him and his impending eviction and that he needed to solve the problem. He left the bar at 11:00 PM that night and later returned. When Bishop asked him if he had solved the problem, he replied "No, not yet." James stayed at the bar until it closed at 2:30 AM.
On Easter Sunday, March 30, 1975, Charity Ruppert's older son Leonard II was visiting her house on Minor Avenue. He and his wife Alma brought their 8 children (ranging in age from 4 to 17) to see their grandmother.
Leonard Ruppert II's younger brother James was upstairs in the 2-story house sleeping off his previous night of drinking while the other family members enjoyed an Easter egg hunt in the front yard. Upon entering the house, Charity Ruppert began fixing sloppy joe sandwiches in the kitchen while Leonard and Alma sat at the kitchen table. The majority of the children were playing in the living room at this time.
Around 4:00 PM (EDT), James awoke, loaded a .357 Magnum, two .22 caliber handguns and a rifle and descended the staircase. He entered the kitchen and shot and killed his brother Leonard. James then killed his sister-in-law Alma and his mother Charity as she attempted to thwart her son's progress. Next, he took the life of his nephew David and his nieces Teresa and Carol all in the confines of the kitchen.
Leaving the kitchen, James entered the living room where he killed his niece Ann and his four remaining nephews: Leonard, Michael, Thomas, and John.
During the rampage, James typically fired the first shot to disable his victim and the second through the head to finish them off. A few victims were shot a third time and one was shot through the heart. The massacre was over within 5 minutes.
After spending 3 hours in the house, James finally called police to report the shooting. He waited just inside the front door for authorities to arrive.
The murders shocked the town of Hamilton and the entire country. Those who knew James Ruppert did not think he was capable of violence, especially at the magnitude of this particular massacre. By all accounts, neighbors considered the Rupperts a nice family.
James was arrested and charged that day with 11 counts of aggravated homicide. He refused to answer questions asked by the police and was very uncooperative. He made it clear he would plead insanity.
County prosecutor John Holcomb viewed the crime scene and stated that there was so much blood on the first floor, it was dripping through the floorboards into the basement, which to this day can still be seen on the wood. A total of 35 shots had been fired by Ruppert and all 4 weapons were recovered at the scene.
All 11 victims were buried in Arlington Memorial Gardens in Cincinnati, Ohio. A year later, the house was opened to the public and all of its contents were auctioned off. It was then cleaned and recarpeted and rented to a family new to the area who was unaware of the murders that had taken place there. The new family later left the house due to thoughts of hearing voices and other noises. Other families have moved in and out but the house is still occupied.
The original trial was held in Hamilton, Ohio. The 3-judge panel found Ruppert guilty on all 11 counts of murder and sentenced him to life in prison. A mistrial was declared and it was decided that the retrial would be held in Findlay, Ohio, 125 miles north because it was believed he could not receive a fair trial in the city of Hamilton.
The second trial began in June 1975 and prosecutors revealed evidence involving the witnesses who had seen Ruppert engaging in target practice, asking about silencers for his gun collection and admitting that his mother's expectations were a problem that he needed to solve. In July 1975 Ruppert received 11 consecutive life sentences.
On appeal, a new trial was granted in 1982. Defense attorney Hugh D. Holbrock, convinced his client was insane, personally funded the hiring of expert psychiatrists and psychologists from all over the country.
On July 23, 1982, a second 3-judge panel found Ruppert guilty of first degree murder in the case of his mother and brother but this time, they found him not guilty on the other 9 counts of murder by reason of insanity. He received life sentences for each of the two charges to be served consecutively rather than concurrently.
Because capital punishment had been suspended in the United States from 1972 to 1976 as a result of the Supreme Court's decision in Furman v. Georgia, and because the massacre on Minor Avenue had occurred in 1975, Ruppert could not receive the death penalty for his crimes.
James Ruppert remains incarcerated in the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio. In June 1995, he was granted a visit before the state Parole Board at the age of 61, but his release was denied. He would not receive another hearing until April 2015, which was again denied. After the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007 became the deadliest mass shooting in American history, Ruppert's murderous spree dropped to the 9th deadliest massacre in U.S. history.
- Alter, Maxim (Oct 8, 2014). "Living in a murder house: Hamilton mom copes with her home's dark past". WCPO-TV. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Killer of 11 Is Given 11 Life Sentences, The New York Times (July 15, 1975) Retrieved March 25, 2015 (subscription required)
- "Hugh Holbrock". Retrieved 2 June 2011.[dead link]