The Axeman of New Orleans | Unsolved Crimes

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April 20, 2019

The Axeman of New Orleans is an American serial killer that was active from May 1918 until October 1919. The killer was never caught for any of his attacks, and the murders are still unsolved to this date.

The Axeman's victims were attacked using an axe as the name implies. It would usually be an axe that belonged to the victims themselves and was usually left at the crime scene. They would break into the homes of their victims, kill the occupants inside, but never steal anything.

People began to notice that many of the victims were Italian immigrants or Italian-Americans, which made them think the attacks were hate crimes. It caused hysteria throughout New Orleans, especially among the Italian community. Eventually, people would start to believe that the Axeman was not human at all, and believed they were some sort of demon.

There have been a few theories as to why the Axeman committed their crimes, but nothing is known for sure. It's believed that the crimes were targeted against females as any males that were harmed had just got in the way during the attack. This is a possibility as some men were spared when the Axeman entered their homes, and only the women were attacked or murdered.


The less likely theory was that the killer was a huge jazz fan and was trying to promote the genre of music. This theory came about because of a letter sent to the press saying they would spare the lives of anyone playing jazz in their homes on the evening of March 19th 1919. On that evening the jazz halls were full and jazz bands were playing parties at homes throughout town.

Nobody was killed that night.

Then in October 1919, the spree ended just as abruptly and mysteriously as it had begun.

In the time they were active the Axeman attacked 12 people in total, and 6 of those victims died from their injuries.

Attention! The content of this article or section may seem obscene or offensive to some readers.


The Victims


Joseph and Catherine Maggio. Joseph was an Italian grocer that was murdered with his wife in their home with a straight razor.

Louis Besumer and Harriet Lowe. The couple was attacked with Besumer's hatchet. They were hit over the head and found in a pool of blood. 

Anna Schneider. Attacked August 1918 when she was 8 months pregnant. She was beaten in the face repeatedly and was found by her husband. After the attack, she didn't remember anything about it but she gave birth to a healthy daughter.

Joseph Romano. He was an elderly man living with his nieces at the time of the attack. It happened August 1918 when the nieces heard noises coming from his room. When they entered his room to check they found him bleeding from 2 open wounds on his head. He would die from his injuries 2 days later.

Charles, Rosie and Mary Cortimiglia. The family were attacked at their home in March 1919. Their two-year-old daughter Mary died from a blow to the back of her neck, but Charles and his wife Rosie survived.

Steve Boca. Steve was attacked in his bedroom and hit over the head. He was knocked unconscious by the blow, but when he woke up he remembered nothing. He had suffered a serious head injury, and even though he fully recovered he never remembered what happened.

Sarah Kaumann. Attacked in her own home in September 1919. She was discovered by her neighbours when they broke in to check on her. She had a head injury and was missing some of her teeth. The weapon was found covered in blood on the front lawn. Sarah would go on to recover from her injuries but remember nothing.

Mike Pepitone. He was attacked in October 1919 in his bedroom. His wife heard the noises and woke up to find a man fleeing the scene. Mike had a serious head injury and was covered in blood. Unfortunately, Mike died of his injury, and this is the last of the Axeman's alleged murders.

The Suspects



The police questioned several suspects but no arrests were made due to a lack of clues and leads, which meant the killer was never caught. Even today nobody knows the true identity of the Axeman. 

One theory I found was by crime writer Colin Wilson, and he believed that the killer was a man called Joseph Momfre. They also stated that Mike Pepitone's widow shot Momfre dead and this is why the Axeman's spree ended so abruptly. However, there is no evidence to support this theory or any police record that proves the murder took place.

Final Thoughts


I find it crazy that there is still very little known about the killer after so many years. They don't know who actually committed these crimes, nor do they know the motivation behind them. We will probably never know the truth, but I find this case particularly interesting because of the mystery behind it. 

What do you think of the Axeman and their killing spree? Let me know in the comments.

Also please let me know if there are any unsolved cases you'd like me to cover on the blog! Thank you so much for reading.
22 comments on "The Axeman of New Orleans | Unsolved Crimes"
  1. It always baffles me when there is a case like this with no leads or main suspects. As much as the murders were horrible, it makes me really happy that the murderer didn’t hurt the baby.

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    1. It baffles me too! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. :)

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  2. Its crazy to imagine that the murderer died a free man. This was a scary read.

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    1. It really is crazy! I do wonder if we will ever find out. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! :)

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  3. I think the thing that scares me most about this is the fact that none of the victims who survived remembered anything. I guess this was either a) deliberate, because he seemed to hit lots of them on the head or b) something scarier, like for some reason they felt they needed to protect him (blackmail?). You told this so well, anyway.

    I wonder if this would have been solved today, if fingerprints on that weapon, for example, could have unmasked him...

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    1. Yeah! Nobody remembered anything about their attacker, and it is scary they were never able to find them. With the technology we have now they probably would've been caught by now.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! :)

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  4. Wow, what a read, you have done your homework here. Got to wonder what was going on inside the head of the person who did this. Absolutely horrific.

    Wonder what happened to the person to make the murders stop all of a sudden.

    Trace

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    1. It really is a mystery who did it and why. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! :)

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! :)

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  6. I’ve never heard of this story, it’s crazy how it can still be unsolved to this day when someone must know/did know about it and carried that secret. It’s sad too how the lack of technology left many cases years ago unsolved and there could be no justice for families.

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    1. I agree with you! I would love to have the evidence from old cases like this tested again by modern technology, but it's a shame we can't. Thanks so much for reading! :)

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  7. Wow! Stories like this are insane to me. It's so, so interesting how none of the surviving victims remembered anything! I really hope Colin Wilson's theory is true and Mike's widow stopped him. Although I'm really interested in how he found the name Joseph Momfre and why he believes it was him?

    Renee @ Maritime Mama

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    1. It's really baffling that it started and ended so abruptly. I hope they were caught for something else. Something must've happened to them to stop like they did! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. :)

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  8. Wowza.My first time on your blog. Won't be my last. Intriguing

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    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. :)

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  9. I have never heard of this before. So interesting!

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  10. That's so creepy! How could have there been no clues as to who committed these crimes all this time? It's mind-boggling that something like this which sounds like it was from a movie actually happened in real life.

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  11. I love watching crime dramas, and trying to figure out 'who dunnit' throughout the episode. As the victims were killed with their own axe, it makes me think that the killer must know them, to know that they have one in the house.

    Ellyn x | Life Of A Beauty Nerd

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  12. I think very often in these cases when a spree suddenly ends with nobody caught the perpetrator ends up in jail for a separate crime or just dead from whatever cause.
    I have in my head a serial killer who ended up being caught because there kept being all these weird gaps and they put it together with prison records and found that it was because he kept going to jail for mail fraud (or something) but I'm not sure if that's a plot from a crime thriller that I'm remembering or from real life!

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  13. I just watched a documentary on this! Scary! Thanks for all the detail! I wish it could be solved!!

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  14. A terrific, mystifying story and this should be a mini-series!

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