The First Celebrity Serial Killer

Now Available from History Press:

The First Celebrity Serial Killer in Southwest Ohio: Confessions of the Strangler Alfred Knapp

“But I think my wife is dead and
I suppose I shall go to the chair for it.”
– Alfred Knapp while in jail

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knapp back coverJust before Christmas of 1902 Alfred Knapp strangled his wife in her sleep. He put her body in a box and sent the box floating down the Great Miami River, telling everyone that Hannah had left him. When the truth came out, Knapp confessed to four other murders. Newspapers across the Midwest sent reporters to interview the handsome strangler. Despite spending most of his adulthood in prison, he had a charming, boyish manner that made him an instant celebrity serial killer. True Crime Historian Richard O Jones examines the strangler’s alleged crimes, the family drama of covering up Knapp’s atrocities, and how a brain-damaged drifter became a media darling.

 

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When Alfred Knapp signed a confession to the murder of five women and girls, Hamilton officials found themselves in the center of a media storm. They did not seem too sure how to handle it. Here Chief of Police Gus Kuemmerling and Mayor Charles Bosch posing for a photo with their hands on the strangler’s shoulder. Bosch lived next door to the strangler when his wife went missing, and was the only one able to get Knapp to confess. The guy reading over his shoulder is Director of Police Charles Mason. Behind the mayor is Sheriff Peter Bisdorf, and in the back row Deputy Luke Brannon and Detective Thomas Lenehan, the man who arrested Knapp in Indianapolis in the middle of the night. Seems like the only person missing was Warren Gard, the boy prosecutor (he was 29 at the time).

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The story of the Hamilton Strangler also features a soap opera of family drama, pitting two sisters against each other. Sadie Wenzel (above, although she looks about 15 in that picture but was in her mid-30s in 1903) stuck by her brother’s side and got into a public squabble with sister Mamie and her husband Edward King, who had told Hamilton police that Alfred had probably murdered his wife.

Related Stories from True Crime Historian:

The Work of a Fiend: The Attempted Abduction of Hattie and Stella Motzer

Unsolved: Mary Eckert

Unsolved: Emma Littleman