James Ruppert

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James Ruppert
James Urban Ruppert

(1934-03-29) March 29, 1934 (age 85)
Parent(s)Leonard Ruppert
Charity Ruppert
Criminal penaltySentenced to life imprisonment
DateMarch 30, 1975
Location(s)Hamilton, Ohio, United States
Weapons.357 Magnum handgun
Two .22-caliber handguns
Rifle (not used)

James Urban Ruppert (born March 29, 1934), is an American murderer, who was responsible for one of the deadliest shootings inside a private residence in US history.[1] 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."[2] 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, had told him that she would have preferred to have a daughter as her second child; his father, Leonard, also had a violent temper and held little affection for his two sons. Leonard died in 1947 when James and his brother Leonard Jr. were aged 12 and 14, respectively.[3]

Leonard Jr. became the father figure of the family and constantly picked on James during their upbringing, often taunting him for being a weakling.[4] 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.[3]


As an adult, Ruppert stood 5'5" and weighed 135 pounds. He was described as a modest, bookish, and helpful man who was unremarkable and quiet. In addition, he had no police record.

By 1975, Ruppert was envious of his older brother's successful job and family.[5] Ruppert himself had dropped out of college after two years, then trained as a draftsman, although by 1975, he was unemployed, had never married, and was still living at home with his mother. In contrast, his older brother, Leonard Jr., had earned a degree in electrical engineering, had married James' ex-girlfriend, owned his own home in the city of Fairfield, and had eight children.[6] Charity was frustrated with James' inability to hold a steady job and his constant drinking; she had threatened to evict him from her home on more than one occasion. James also owed his mother and brother money, having lost much of what little cash 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. According to Bishop, Ruppert stated that his mother had complained that if he could afford to buy beer seven nights a week, he could afford to pay rent.[7] Ruppert left the bar at 11:00 p.m. that night and later returned. When Bishop asked him if he had solved the problem, he replied, "No, not yet."[8] 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.[9]

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.[9]

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.[9] One child had been shot once in the chest; the remaining 10 victims had been shot three times, to ensure they had died.[10] The only sign of a struggle at the crime scene was one overturned wastepaper bin.[11]

The Butler County coroner theorized that Ruppert had likely shot some victims more than once to prevent anyone escaping.[12] The massacre was over within five minutes.[9]

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.[9]


  • 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.[13]

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, 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.[14][irrelevant citation]


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.[15]

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.[16]

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 Corrections Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. In June 1995, he was granted a visit before the state Parole Board at the age of 61, but his release was denied.[17] He received another hearing in April 2015, which was again denied. The next hearing is set for April 2025, when he will be 91.[18]


  1. ^ The Encyclopedia of Mass Murder ISBN 0-7472-0897-2 p.244
  2. ^ "Living in a Murder House: Hamilton Mom Copes with her Home's Dark Past". wcpo.com. 2014-10-08. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  3. ^ a b Morris, Jeff; Morris, Michael A. (2009-01-01). Haunted Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738560335.
  4. ^ Killers: The Ruthless Exponents of Murder; the Most Evil Crime of All ISBN 0-752-20850-0 p. 255
  5. ^ The Encyclopedia of Mass Murder ISBN 0-7472-0897-2 pp.244-245
  6. ^ Killers: The Ruthless Exponents of Murder; the Most Evil Crime of All ISBN 0-752-20850-0 p. 254
  7. ^ Killers: The Ruthless Exponents of Murder; the Most Evil Crime of All ISBN 0-752-20850-0 p. 255
  8. ^ "The 1975 Easter Massacre: Uncle Jimmy Ruppert Kills His Family". The New York Daily News. April 3, 2008. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e Plaza, Valrie (2015-03-02). American Mass Murderers. Lulu.com. ISBN 9781312961401.
  10. ^ Killers: The Ruthless Exponents of Murder; the Most Evil Crime of All ISBN 0-752-20850-0 p. 254
  11. ^ Killers: The Ruthless Exponents of Murder; the Most Evil Crime of All ISBN 0-752-20850-0 p. 254
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Notorious Rampage Killers and Mass Murderers in the Tri-State". wcpo.com. 2016-04-22. Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Killer of 11 Is Given 11 Life Sentences, The New York Times (July 15, 1975) Retrieved March 25, 2015 (subscription required)
  16. ^ "Hugh Holbrock". Archived from the original on February 15, 2005. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  17. ^ http://www.whio.com/news/news/parole-hearing-held-for-mass-murderer/nkk9G/?ecmp=whiotv_social_facebook_2014_sfp
  18. ^ Pack, Lauren (6 April 2015). "No parole for James Ruppert in Easter mass murder". Hamilton Journal News. Retrieved 23 July 2018.

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