James Ruppert

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James Ruppert
Born James Urban Ruppert
(1934-03-29) March 29, 1934 (age 82)
Criminal penalty Sentenced to life imprisonment
Parent(s) Leonard Ruppert
Charity Ruppert
Date March 30, 1975
Location(s) Hamilton, Ohio, United States
Target(s) Family
Killed 11
Weapons .357 Magnum handgun
Two .22-caliber handguns

James Urban Ruppert (born March 29, 1934), is an American murderer, who was responsible for the deadliest shooting inside a private residence in US history.[citation needed] On Easter Sunday, March 30, 1975, Ruppert murdered 11 family members in his mother's house at 635 Minor Avenue in Hamilton, Ohio in what has been referred to as the "Easter Sunday Massacre."[citation needed] He is serving two life sentences at the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio.

Early life[edit]

James Ruppert's early life was troubled. His mother Charity told him that she would have preferred to have a daughter; 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 aged 12 and 14, respectively.[1]

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.[1]


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. had also married James' ex-girlfriend, had eight children, and held a job with General Electric, whereas James, at 41, was unemployed and was living with their his 65-year-old mother, Charity, in Hamilton, Ohio. Charity was frustrated with James' 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[edit]

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.

On March 29, 1975, his 41st birthday, witnesses had seen him engaging in target practice shooting tin cans with his .357 Magnum along the banks of the Great Miami River in Hamilton.

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 a.m.

The murders[edit]

On Easter Sunday, March 30, 1975, Ruppert's brother Leonard and his wife, Alma, brought their eight children (ranging in age from 4 to 17) to see their grandmother at the house on Minor Avenue.[2]

Ruppert stayed upstairs, sleeping off a night of drinking, while the other family members performed an Easter egg hunt on the front lawn. At one point, Charity was preparing lunch in the kitchen, in the company of Leonard Jr. and Alma. Most of the children were playing in the living room.[2]

At around 4:00 p.m, James woke up, loaded a .357 Magnum, two .22 caliber handguns, and a rifle, then went downstairs. Entering the kitchen, he first shot and killed his brother Leonard, then his sister-in-law and his mother. Next, he took the life of his nephew David and his nieces Teresa and Carol, all in the confines of the kitchen. Ruppert then proceeded to the living room, where he killed his niece Ann and his four remaining nephews: Leonard III, Michael, Thomas, and John.[2]

The Butler County coroner theorized that Ruppert had shot some victims more than once to prevent anyone escaping.[3] The massacre was over within five minutes.[2]

After spending three hours in the house, James finally called police to report the shooting. He waited just inside the front door for authorities to arrive.[2]


  • Charity Ruppert, 65, mother
  • Leonard Ruppert Jr., 42, brother
  • Alma Ruppert, 38, sister-in-law
  • Leonard Ruppert III, 17, nephew
  • Michael Ruppert, 16, nephew
  • Thomas Ruppert, 15, nephew
  • Carol Ruppert, 13, niece
  • Ann Ruppert, 12, niece
  • David Ruppert, 11, nephew
  • Teresa Ruppert, 9, niece
  • John Ruppert, 4, nephew


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. Ruppert had fired a total of 35 rounds, and all four weapons were recovered at the scene.[citation needed]

All 11 victims were buried in Arlington Memorial Gardens at 2145 Compton Rd Cincinnati, Ohio. A year later, the house was opened to the public and all of its contents were auctioned off. It was then cleaned, recarpeted, and rented to a family new to the area, whose members were unaware of the murders that had taken place there. The new family later left the house, claiming they were hearing voices and other unexplained noises. Other families have moved in and out, and the house is still occupied.[4]


The original trial was held in Hamilton, Ohio. The three-judge panel found Ruppert guilty on 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.[5]

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.[6]

On July 23, 1982, another three-judge panel found Ruppert guilty on two counts first degree murder (his mother and brother), but found him not guilty on the other nine counts of murder, by reason of insanity. He received one life sentence for each count, to be served consecutively.

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.

Current status[edit]

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.[7] He would not receive another hearing until April 2015, which was again denied. After the Virginia Tech shooting 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.


  1. ^ a b Morris, Jeff; Morris, Michael A. (2009-01-01). Haunted Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738560335. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Plaza, Valrie (2015-03-02). American Mass Murderers. Lulu.com. ISBN 9781312961401. 
  3. ^ Times, Special To The New York (1975-04-01). "A Motive Is Sought in Slaying of 11 in a Family in Ohio". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-10-30. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Killer of 11 Is Given 11 Life Sentences, The New York Times (July 15, 1975) Retrieved March 25, 2015 (subscription required)
  6. ^ "Hugh Holbrock". Archived from the original on February 15, 2005. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  7. ^ http://www.whio.com/news/news/parole-hearing-held-for-mass-murderer/nkk9G/?ecmp=whiotv_social_facebook_2014_sfp

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