Yet another in a
series of murders and assaults by the Axeman created sweeping fear in the
city. Police were inundated with reports from citizens
claiming to have seen an axeman lurking neighborhoods, axes chisels found
in back yards, and doors and windows that appeared to have been tampered
with. People began to carry loaded shotguns and family members took turns
watching over their families at night. One report alleged that the Axeman
was masquerading as a woman, another that he had been seen leaping over a
The people were
afraid, determined to protect themselves, and bordered on panic. But,
perhaps the heat generated by that terror was somehow transferred to the
Axeman, as the killings and assaults stopped, as quickly as they had
Over the months,
the fear waned and the neighborhoods returned to normal until March 10,
1919 when the Axeman struck again.
Charles Cortimiglia was an immigrant and grocer who lived with his wife,
Rosie, and two-year-old daughter, Mary, in the town of Gretna, just across
the Mississippi River from New Orleans. When screams were heard coming
from the Cortimiglia residence in the early morning hours, neighboring
grocer, Iorlando Jordano, rushed across the street to investigate. There
he found that the three had been attacked.
had awakened to find her husband struggling with a large man wielding an
axe. When her husband fell to the floor the assailant turned on her as she
held her daughter and begged for their lives. Undaunted, the killer
slammed the axe down on both mother and daughter. When the neighbor
arrived, Charles lay in a pool of blood on the floor as Rosie stood in the
doorway with a serious head wound, clutching her deceased daughter. The
couple was rushed to the hospital where both were treated for skull
fractures. Charles we released two days later, while his
wife remained in the care of doctors.
Upon gaining full consciousness,
Rosie stated that the attack was made by neighboring grocer Iorlando Jordano and his 18-year-old son, Frank.
Though Iorlando, a 69-year-old man, was in too
poor of health to have committed the crimes and Frank Jordano was too big
to have fit through the panel in the back door, the pair were arrested.
Though Charles Cortimiglia denied his wife's claims the Jordanos were
charged with the murders, and would later be found guilty. Frank
was sentenced to hang, and his father to life in prison. After the trial Charles divorced his wife.
About a year later Rosie
Cortimiglia reversed her claim, stating that she had falsely accused the two out of jealousy and spite.
With her claim being the only evidence against the Jordanos, and they were
released from jail shortly thereafter.
Following the Cortimiglia murders, New Orleans was again filled with
terror and once again began to arm themselves. The police stated that they believed all of the crimes to have
been committed by the same man... “a bloodthirsty maniac, filled with a
passion for human slaughter”.
Then a new twist
came upon the scene when the Times-Picayune newspaper received and
taunting letter on March 14, 1919 that promised another attack:
Hell, March 13, 1919
They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me,
for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not
a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what
you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman.
When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know whom
they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with
blood and brains of he whom I have sent below to keep me company.
If you wish you may tell the police to be careful not to rile me. Of
course, I am a reasonable spirit. I take no offense at the way they have
conducted their investigations in the past. In fact, they have been so
utterly stupid as to not only amuse me, but His Satanic Majesty, Francis
Josef, etc. But tell them to beware. Let them not try to discover what I
am, for it were better that they were never born than to incur the wrath
of the Axeman. I don't think there is any need of such a warning, for I
feel sure the police will always dodge me, as they have in the past. They
are wise and know how to keep away from all harm.
Undoubtedly, you Orleanians think of me as a most horrible murderer, which
I am, but I could be much worse if I wanted to. If I wished, I could pay a
visit to your city every night. At will I could slay thousands of your
best citizens, for I am in close relationship with the Angel of Death.
Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night [March 19,
1919}, I am
going to pass over New Orleans. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a
little proposition to you people. Here it is:
I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether
regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in
full swing at the time I have just mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band
going, well, then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain
and that is that some of your people who do not jazz it on Tuesday night
(if there be any) will get the axe.
Well, as I am cold and crave the warmth of my native Tartarus, and it is
about time I leave your earthly home, I will cease my discourse. Hoping
that thou wilt publish this, that it may go well with thee, I have been,
am and will be the worst spirit that ever existed either in fact or realm
the killer's statement that no one listening to jazz on March 19 would get
the axe, the music flowed from homes across much of the city, dance halls
were filled to capacity, and professional and amateur bands played jazz at
parties at hundreds of houses around town, and no one was killed.
For several weeks all was quiet, but people still lived in fear. On August
10, 1919 another grocer named Steve Boca was attacked in his bedroom as he slept. Boca awoke during the night to
find a dark figure looming over his bed. Suffering from a blow from an
axe, he survived and upon regaining consciousness,
he ran to the home of his neighbor,
Frank Genusa, where he lost consciousness and collapsed. He was then
treated for his injuries but was unable to remember the details of the
attack. Like others who had been assailed by the Axeman, nothing was
taken from his home and a panel on the back door of the home
had been chiseled away.
On September 2, a local druggist
named William Carson escaped the lethal Axeman when he fired several shots
at an intruder who had broken into his home. The killer left a broken door
and an axe behind.
On September 3, 1919
a young girl named Sarah Laumann was attacked with an axe
while she slept in her locked and shuttered home. When neighbors came to
check on the young woman, who had lived alone, they discovered her lying
unconscious on her bed, suffering from a severe head injury and missing
several teeth. Though she suffered from a brain concussion she recovered.
A bloody axe was discovered on the front lawn of the building
Once again, New
Orleans was in a state of hysteria. But, nothing more would be heard from
the Axeman for nearly two months.
The last attack came on October 27, 1919, when grocer
Mike Pepitone was slain. That night his wife heard a noise and arrived at the door of
the bedroom just as a
large, axe-wielding man was fleeing the scene. Pepitone had been
struck in the head, and was covered in his own blood. His murder left his
wife and six children behind. Mrs. Pepitone, the mother of six children, was unable to describe any
characteristics of the killer. The usual clues had
been left behind.
continued to work on the case, but, it would be in vain. Pepitone's murder
was the last known of the Axeman Killer. He was never seen or heard from
in New Orleans again.
of America, updated June, 2016.
The Line Up