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Fresh Light on the Axeman of New Orleans

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  • Fresh Light on the Axeman of New Orleans

    From a blog on the Fortean Times:

  • #2
    Dear Lavaughn:

    Thanks for the link.

    I wonder whether that letter from "HELL" was really legitimate considering who was alleged to have penned it. What do you make of it?
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    • #3
      All the victims were Italian? Was Anna Lowe Italian?

      Not necessarily to the press but other serial killers between this guy and JtR also reputedly wrote letters to police and victim's families and all these letters are reputed.

      Thanks for posting.


      • #4
        I'm updating Itowell's link because I think it does shed fresh light.


        What's interesting to me is the mention of Francis Joseph in the letter from Hell. I had to look him up even though my ancestors were servants in his court. So who would know to mention Francis or Franz Joseph, who died three years earlier in 1916.

        I entertained the idea of a non-Italian "nativist" serial killer targeting Italians but now I'm back to he being an Italian or it being an Italian thing. The article mentions Monfre's prison record and says he was awaiting sentencing during the first "Axeman/Cleaver" killings and then was out on parole in 1915, back in for breaking parole in 1916 and out by 1918 in time for the first "canonical" Axeman slaying. Attached are his prison records from the Louisiana State Penitentiary Records, 1866-1963. Click image for larger version  Name:	monfre3.png Views:	0 Size:	666.6 KB ID:	574229 Click image for larger version  Name:	monfre4.png Views:	0 Size:	644.0 KB ID:	574230


        • #5
          They must be talking about some other "initial" Axeman grocer killing, one or ones between 1906 and 1908 or 1909, because he was convicted on August 21, 1908 for blowing up a grocer in 1906, and received at the State Pen on Jan 13, 1909. He wouldn't have come back out until 1915.


          • #6
            Joseph Monfre
            US Census 1910
            Joseph Monfee[Joseph Monfre]
            abt 1874
            Police Jury Ward 7, West Feliciana, Louisiana
            Augala State Farm Quarters E
            immigration 1896
            Wage Earner
            Read Yes
            Write Yes
            I believe this Census record indicates Monfre was working on a State Farm during his incarceration. The State Pen is also in West Feliciana.

            Monfre (his father's name is given as Manfre in a Family Tree) came in 1896 when he would have been 22 so there's no way he didn't have an Italian accent. The Axeman is thought to not have an accent but I only saw one witness say that, and she was Mary Davi from the Cleaver attack in July 26/27, 1911, when Monfre was in jail.


            • #7
              Monfre appears to be a short form for Manfred.

              MONFRE and related surnames: MONFREDA, MONFREDINI.

              Monfreda seems to have two stocks, one in Caserta (Campania) and one in Bari,
              Monfredini should have more stocks, on the Milan, Cremona, Modena and southern Trentino lines.
              They should derive from the medieval Italo-Germanic name Manfredo or Monfredo.

              It certainly fits my geo-profile for an Italian axeman. But we already had a main suspect with an Italo-Germanic name to go with the letter in 1919 naming Franz Joseph....


              • #8
                Here I attempt a timeline and breakdown of the Mafia/Grocer and Pasta etc Wars, as recounted in the linked blog.

                Left side of the list is the Genova/Di Christina/Monfre side with the Axeman thrown in where applicable IMO.

                1902 Genova and Di Christina win Macaroni War
                1907 Genova's Black Hand, w Stefano and Joseph Monfre involved, kidnap/kill 8 year old Walter Lamana

                Mar 1910 Di Christina tries to kill incoming Boss Moreci
                Apr 1910 Di Christina killed by Grocer Peter Pepitone
                Jul 1910 Black Hander (?) Spenazzio kills Grocer Manzella
                ............... Spenazzio killed by Grocer Manzella's daughter
                May 1912 A shooter kills Grocer Sciambra in bed. Mrs. Tony survives
                Nov 1915 Monfre and associate Albani suspected of ) killing Moreci
                May 1918 Axeman attacks Maggios (Mrs. Tony graffito left outside)
                Oct 1919 Axeman kills Mike Pepitone
                Dec 1920 Monfre is killed by Mrs. Pepitone


                • #9
                  Click image for larger version

Name:	axemanmap4.jpg
Views:	52
Size:	246.5 KB
ID:	574945

                  Here's my mapping of the "Axeman" attacks using the original newspaper map. It has 16 attack locations which are not specified. I whittled down some canonicals and added the Cleaver attacks.


                  • #10
                    • P. Giuseppe Manfre
                    • Birth
                      26 December 1873
                    • Death
                      5 December 1921
                      Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States
                    • Burial
                      Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America

                    Other Information
                    • Alternate Name
                      Doc Manfre
                    • Custom Event
                    • Residence
                      629 St. Philip St., New Orleans
                    • Residence
                      Police Jury Ward 7, West Feliciana, Louisiana, United States
                    • Residence Sept 1918 1201 Saratoga St., NO
                    • Custom Event
                      Military Draft Registration
                      New Orleans City no 1, Louisiana, United States
                    • Occupation
                    familysearch Family Trees


                    • #11
                      Nice work, San Berdoo.

                      The Axe Man murders and the Atlanta Ripper murders of the same time period are, IMHO, somewhat similar in that there appears to have been more than one perp in the commission of the murders.
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                      • #12
                        Yes, I think it becomes obvious with the geoprofiling. The crimes are all over the place with rashes of them near railroad terminals. I personally believe not only in a buffer zone between the killer's base and crime, but between the crimes. Even Richard Chase spaced them out, even if it was only a km apart.

                        Monfre looks good for some of the canonicals, from where he was living in September 1918. He was discharged in April 1918. The "accepted" Axeman crimes were from May 1918–October 1919.

                        Click image for larger version  Name:	monfre6.jpg Views:	0 Size:	64.5 KB ID:	574943

                        P.S. A literate Sicilian-American like him can't be ruled out as the jazz-loving letter writer. I hear Sicilians liked jazz. I'm not surprised.


                        • #13
                          The Monfre in Sicily appear to be Swabian Sicilians who came from Swabia, a region that included part of Bavaria and Switzerland. Many of them settled in Lipari, an island near Messina. In the 1700s, they were sent to the island of Ustica off Palermo to colonize it and keep out the Barbary Coast Pirates. Swabians would tend to be loyal to the Hapsburg House, and at least would be conscious of Emperor Franz Joseph, thereby explaining his mention by the letter writer. I'm not sure if the "enterprising jazz musician" theory would equally explain that.

                          P.S. This is the third recent case I've done where Swabia or a Schwab was involved.


                          • #14
                            The "enterprising jazz musician" thought to have written the letter, Joseph John Davila, was probably Mexican. Franz Joseph's brother was the Emperor of Mexico for a couple of months in 1867 so I guess there would be reason for him to mention Franz and call him Francis too. But a Sicilian-American would probably also call him Francis.
                            Originally posted by Howard Brown View Post
                            Nice work, San Berdoo.

                            The Axe Man murders and the Atlanta Ripper murders of the same time period are, IMHO, somewhat similar in that there appears to have been more than one perp in the commission of the murders.
                            I'll have a look at the Atlanta case.

                            People are susceptible to all kinds of biases regarding the Axeman case -- from there being one sole perpetrator accounting for all 16-20 attacks, (with only a couple of copycat killings), to the perp being a laborer and illiterate, and the Mafia never killing women and children. Even I had to be shown that the Mob eventually graduates to killing females and kids. Monfre and the Black hand were suspected of involvement in the killing of an 8 year old in 1907. So they already had a 10 year head start.


                            • #15
                              The Atlanta Ripper looks like he's a real serial killer, good for at least 8 murders. A grand jury ruled he didn't exist but that was a bit of a cop out, as in sour grapes.

                              The Axeman is also a real serial killer if you just look at the canonicals, so I'd say he's good for at least 5. It would still count as an SK, even if he's Mafia related, if he's branched out on his own, even with a partner in crime.

                              The only serial crimes that are doubtful or could be considered almost a myth because of copycats, that I can think of, are the ones that involve indoor crimes: the Boston Strangler and the Lipstick Killer. The Axeman would fall into that category with probably more than 2 to 1 copycats or similar weapon/MO, but he still had at least five and they spanned the entire time of the crimes.