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True CrimeGuillotine For Family Killer
The young engineer Jean-Baptiste Troppmann was prepared to do anything to make his fortune – even if it meant murdering an entire family. It was a crime that appalled 19th-century France…
On the morning of Monday, September 20th, 1869, a farm labourer was crossing a field on his way to work in Pantin, four miles north-east of Paris, when he noticed a patch of recently disturbed earth. Taking a closer look, he saw patches of blood and brain fragments. However, they were not the remains of an animal as he first thought, for a child’s hand protruded from the ground, and later that morning the shallow grave of a woman and five children – four boys and a girl – was uncovered.
Each had received a vicious blow to the head and suffered many knife wounds. The girl’s abdomen had been ripped open and her intestines exposed, an eye of one of the boys had been gouged out and, when the six bodies were examined more closely, 107 stab wounds were discovered. Furthermore, the victims’ faces had been slashed in an apparent attempt to hinder identification.
News of the discovery spread rapidly, however, and within hours their identities were known. It was learned that they had arrived in Paris the previous day from Roubaix, and had made their way to the Hotel du Chemin de Fer du Nord. They were 40-year-old Hortense Kinck and her children, 13-year-old Emile, Henri, 10, Achille, eight, Alfred, seven, and Marie, two...Read the complete report in True Crime October - out now... more »
Master Detective'I Couldn't Stop Killing People'
Marion Albert Pruett hadn’t revealed what had happened to his hostage, Mrs. Peggy Lowe, and the Mississippi Police hoped he would disclose where she was. The other law-enforcement agencies agreed to delay pressing their charges until Pruett had been tried in Mississippi.
Then shortly after midnight on October 19th, 1981, Pruett banged on the bars of his cell to attract the attention of his jailers. He shouted at them: “Wake up those turkeys who have been questioning me! I’ve been thinking it over – and I’ll tell them where to find the woman!”
In a videotape recording, he said he had taken Peggy Lowe to a field alongside a dirt road near Livingston, Alabama, 130 miles east of Jackson. He hadn’t initially intended to murder her. He had led her out of the car and into a field, where he forced her to remove her clothes. “I told her that, if she waited there, I’d call her husband and tell him where he could find her,” he said. “She was laying there naked, scared to death and crying when I left her. But when I got in the car, I couldn’t remember the phone number she’d given me.”
Pruett said he returned to the field and saw his hostage huddled in the grass, attempting to hide her nudity. “I don’t know why, but I thought, what the hell, I’ll put her out of her misery. I shot her on top of the head. I knew she was dead, because I saw blood oozing out of her ears.”
It was 3 o’clock in the morning when Pruett, in a lead car followed by several other vehicles, headed for Livingston for a meeting with Sumter County Sheriff Melvin Stephens and District Attorney Nathan Watkins.
Pruett’s memory was clear, although it had been more than a month since he abducted Mrs. Lowe, as he pointed out a dirt road north of Livingston. Calling for the driver to stop the car, he pointed to a meadow. “See that tree over there?” he said. “You’ll find her there.”
It was agreed that Pruett would be tried in Mississippi. This pleased him because it was a state with the death penalty. “I want to die – and I deserve to die,” he told reporters. “I’ve killed a lot of innocent people – and unless they kill me, who knows, if I ever got out, I might do it all over again.” Did Marion Albert Pruett get out? Find out in Master Detective October – out now… more »
True Detective"I Think I’ll Kill Someone Today"
On Friday, December 31st, 1999, as the rest of the world was preparing to celebrate the arrival of the new Millennium, 13-year-old Kaylene Harris rolled into the bottom bunk in her bedroom in a mobile home in Del Rio, Texas, and went to sleep.
At around 4.30 a.m. a man with a knife climbed through the window. He slashed her throat, leaving her to die in a pool of her own blood.
But the killer made a mistake. He had assumed that Kaylene, whom he was afterwards to claim he killed for no reason at all, was alone.
As the killer straightened up from the bottom bunk her friend Krystal Surles, 10, who had come to stay with her over the holidays put her hands around her neck, begging him not to kill her as well. Without a word the man slashed her throat and ran from the mobile home into the night.
Somehow Krystal survived. From her hospital bed, her neck swathed in bandages, she described her best friend’s killer to a police sketch artist. And when the drawing was seen by Kaylene’s father, Terry Harris, he knew at once who it was. The man in the picture was Tommy Sells, with whom he had once or twice gone to church, a drifter he had befriended.
At 6.30 a.m. on Sunday, January 2nd, 2000, two police officers went to Sells’s caravan home and arrested him. Sells, 35, a travelling fairground worker who on occasions when he wore a full beard bore a passing resemblance to Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was calm, almost complacent, as they began to question him. The first thing he said was, “That girl’s alive? Wow, that was a mistake.”
Then he said, “Well, I guess you’ll want to know about all the others as well, won’t you?”
“The others?” he was asked. “Tell us about them.”
Sells shrugged. “That’ll be difficult, because I can’t remember how many there are. It could be anything between 20 and 70. I’m sorry, I don’t keep records.”
In answer to the question “Why?” he shrugged again. “Why did I kill? I really don’t know. I’ve got a billion theories myself, but anything I say won’t justify it.”
At first interrogating officers were reluctant to take all this seriously. But it soon became clear that Sells knew a lot of things about homicides committed in the previous dozen or so years that only the killer could have known about. The claims he was making readily, almost proudly, were pouring out of him.
He claimed that he got the taste for killing in 1981. Sometimes, he said, he would kill two or three people a month, and sometimes he would kill an entire family. Sometimes he would go for months and even years without killing, until the fancy took him again. Before the attack on the two girls in the Harris family mobile home he had always made a point of killing all his witnesses, he said. “My dad used to tell me that dead men tell no tales,” he remarked.
He boasted that he made a point of never leaving any evidence. No hair, no fingerprints because he always wore gloves.
Tommy Sells talked about his murders as a crime writer talks about his plots. A police spokesman said, “My God, the guy is a killing machine. He is a sadistic individual.” Read the full horrific account of Tommy Lynn Sells crimes in True Detective October – out now... more »
Murder Most FoulThe Beautiful And The Damned
Miss Frances Drake could have come straight out of a Scott Fitzgerald novel. She would have been a perfect fit in The Great Gatsby, or in Tender is the Night. Fitzgerald would have had no need to add a single virtue to her paragon.
This was because she already had all the virtues of Fitzgerald’s people. She was beautiful, a brilliant scholar, a university graduate, a fine athlete and a tennis and swimming champion. She could even hold her own in the boxing ring.
The allusion fits the better because Frances married her college sweetheart in 1925, the year of Tender is the Night, the year that was the apogee of the jazz and gin age.
He was Jacob Nesbitt, and he lived completely in the shadow of Frances. If there is any truth in the axiom that opposites attract, the young couple were living proof of it. It was said of Jacob that when he was with Frances “he had the appearance of someone already defeated at birth and subsequently never able to recover from the defeat.”
They seldom had much time together. If her husband was busy, Frances, now a fiercely driven and independently successful businesswoman, drove into Dayton to see a show. She had no fear of returning home alone in the dark. She was afraid of nothing and no one.
A year after they were married, when she was 25, she was murdered.
It happened on Friday, February 19th, 1926, in the “funny little cottage” they had made their first home and before she succumbed Frances put up a gallant fight for her life, as might be expected from a woman of her physique and undoubted mental strength. She left behind evidence of a terrific struggle.
That day Jacob had been on an all-day business trip to nearby Dayton, Ohio. He explained how he found his young wife’s body when he got home that night:
“Because there were no lights on in the house, I thought Frances had gone to her mother’s home. So instead of going inside, I went straight over to my in-laws’ expecting to bring her back with me. When her mother told me she hadn’t been there, I figured Frances was in bed. There was no need for me to hurry so I stopped at a restaurant before going back home.
“The front door was unlocked, as I had left it when I went to Dayton. I turned on the lights and called to Frances. There was no answer.
“I went towards the bedroom to see if she was in bed and then I saw stains on the wall outside the bedroom. I rushed forwards in a panic, but she wasn’t there.
“I went into the bathroom, turned on the light and she was lying in the bath nearly full of water. I knew at once she was dead.”
In fact her killer had smashed in her skull, one blow penetrating to her brain, and then strangled her to the point where a vein in one of her eyes had been ruptured.
Jacob Nesbitt said: “I didn’t know what to do. My first thought was to find the person who did it. I wanted to do the same to him. I ran to a neighbour’s house. The neighbour, Jonathan West, came back with me and we took her out of the bath. It was terrible.”
It was an investigation that ranged far and wide, but it would take a private investigator employed by Frances Drake's parents to unlock the case…as you will discover in Murder Most Foul 93 on sale now…... more »
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