It’s been 45 years since one of the deadliest shootings inside a private residence in U.S. history, and it all happened right here in southwest Ohio. It was Easter Sunday, 1975 on a quiet street when 41-year-old James Ruppert killed eleven members of his family while they gathered for a holiday dinner. Multiple generations annihilated in less than five minutes.
On that fateful day he gunned down his mother, brother, sister-in-law and eight nieces and nephews. In all, they were shot a total of 35 times. The shooter, James Ruppert called the police around 9:30 that evening to report dead bodies in the house. When policemen arrived at the scene they found Mr. Ruppert, standing in the doorway. As authorities initially spoke with Mr. Ruppert they noticed two bodies behind him in the living room.
When investigators questioned Ruppert at the scene he said, “My mother drove me crazy by always combing my hair, talked to me like I was a baby, and tried to make me into a homosexual.” It was also noted that Ruppert had spent the prior evening celebrating his birthday drinking at the bar, returning home after it closed at 2:30 a.m.
According to the police report, the only sign of struggle in all of the carnage was one lone, overturned wastebasket. There was also so much blood on the first floor, it was dripping through the floorboards into the basement.
James Urban Ruppert was immediately arrested and charged that day with eleven counts of aggravated homicide. He was a slight man at just 5’6″ 135 lbs. He was also uncooperative refusing to answer further questions when prompted by the investigators.
During the trial prosecutors revealed Ruppert’s diabolical plot for commandeering his family’s wealth that involved his plan to take their $300,000 nest egg for himself. He had hoped that after killing everyone he would later be declared not guilty by reason of insanity, rehabilitated in a mental hospital within a couple years, and be released back into society a wealthy man. His plan was foiled.
Ruppert was initially found guilty of all 11 murders. He would however be granted a new trial shortly thereafter along with a change of venue. At the second trial evidence was revealed that witnesses had seen Ruppert target shooting on his birthday prior to the murders and claimed he said he was going to get rid of his problem. He was again found guilty and sentenced to eleven consecutive life sentences. On appeal, in 1982 a third trial was granted on the grounds of insanity. Expert witnesses convinced the jury and in the end Ruppert was convicted on July 23, 1982, on just two counts of aggravated murder and acquitted of the nine others by reason of insanity.
He is currently in prison serving concurrent life sentences at Federal Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Ruppert is not eligible for parole until 2025. He is 86 years old. His family rests peacefully on this Easter Sunday, buried in Arlington Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Cincinnati. As for the two story, white house on 635 Minor Avenue in Hamilton it is still occupied to this day. It even has a little white picket fence.
Living in a Murder House: Hamilton Mom Copes with her Home’s Dark Past. wcpo.com. October 8, 2014
Ruppert Verdict Appealed Chillicothe Gazette. Tuesday, November 29, 1983. Chillicothe, Ohio.
The 1975 Easter Massacre: Uncle Jimmy Ruppert Kills His Family. The New York Daily News. April 3, 2008. New York, New York.
Wheels of Justice Inch Forward in Ruppert Massacre. Dayton Daily News. Sunday, April 6, 1975. Dayton, Ohio.
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