The True Crime of Francis Lloyd Russell
Hamilton, Ohio, was a notorious hide-out for Chicago gangsters in the era of Prohibition, and they brought with them vice and violence. But the city’s most horrific crime in that time had nothing to do with bootleg whiskey or fancy women, but with a hard-working bachelor trying to take care of his sick brother’s family. He loved them so much, he would rather see them dead than homeless.
Deputy Sheriff Wesley G. Wulzen, a local war hero captain during World War I, lived a block over from the Russell home at 343 Progress Avenue. The shooting woke up his wife, Gertrude. She roused her husband, who dressed hurriedly and ran to the scene.
Although someone had already called the police, they had not yet arrived, and Wulzen found the neighbors gathered around the house screaming at Francis Lloyd Russell to stop shooting, but no one dared enter.
Russell was still shooting his pistols as Wulzen tried the doors and windows. The house was mostly dark, and he couldn’t see in, but Russell could apparently see out.
“I know you, Wulzen,” he said.
The deputy sheriff, still trying to gauge the situation, tried to humor him.
“Come on out,” Wulzen argued. “People will think you are crazy.”
“I am crazy,” Russell cried. “Look out! I’m going to shoot the clock.”
Several shots rang out. Hamilton Police Department officers Robert Leonard and Louis Keller arrived at the scene and knocked on the front door.
“Wait until I shoot the damn pictures off the wall,” Russell yelled and began firing again. Wulzen wasn’t counting, but later estimated hearing between 30 and 40 shots. Hamilton police detectives would say it was closer to 50, maybe more.
Leonard and Keller prepared tear gas bombs as Russell began to talk incoherently about the mortgage. Leonard, recognizing the possibility that Russell was not only distraught but out of his mind, pulled several small bills from his pocket saying, “It’s alright. We’re here to settle the mortgage for you.”
Then Russell said he was going to kill himself.
The deputy and two patrolmen broke down the door as Russell fired his final shot. The three men watched Russell sink to the floor. One of the revolvers, still smoking and containing four unfired cartridges, dropped from his grasp. A wet scarlet stain blossomed just below the pocket on his blue work shirt.
“I believe I missed my heart,” he gasped. “Kill me! Kill me!”
Wulzen and the patrolmen noticed dozens of empty shell casings littering the house.
“I did a damn poor job on myself,” Russell said, as the patrolmen removed him from the scene and escorted him to the county jail.
Russell told the officers that Dorothy, one of the children, escaped.
“Wulzen,” he said, “take care of Dorothy. I loved her.”
Wulzen walked through the house, every room giving evidence of Russell’s “carnival of death,” as the paper called it.
Wulzen noted that there were no bullet holes in the clocks, pictures or walls. He presumed that Russell had continued pumping shots into the already lifeless bodies of the eight members of the household….
“In all my experience in the trenches and battlefields of France I never saw a sight more ghastly than that at the Russell home this morning,” Wulzen later said.
What got into Lloyd Russell that he would murder his entire family? You can read all about what happened on that hot summer night in 1925, and about his 10-year-old niece Dorothy’s daring escape in A TWO-DOLLAR TERROR #8, Massacre on Prospect Hill: The True Crime of Francis Lloyd Russell, from True Crime Historian Richard O Jones.
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