James Ruppert, II

James Ruppert, II

James U. Ruppert (born March 29, 1934), the son of Leonard and Charity Ruppert, was responsible for the deadliest shooting inside a private residence in American history. On March 30, 1975, Easter Sunday, Ruppert murdered 11 family members in his mother's house at 635 Minor Avenue in Hamilton, Ohio in what is referred to as the Easter Sunday Massacre. He is serving two life sentences at the Allen Correctional Institute in Lima, Ohio.

Early life

James Ruppert's mother Charity had always made it clear that when James was born, she would have rather had a daughter. His late father Leonard, an unsuccessful man with a violent temper and little affection for his two sons, constantly told James that he would be a failure and would never amount to anything. He died in 1947 when James and his brother Leonard II were 13 and 14 respectively.

Leonard II became the father figure of the family and constantly picked on James during their upbringing. At 16, James was so dissatisfied with his home life that he ran away and attempted to commit suicide. Hanging himself with a sheet, he was unsuccessful and returned home.


As an adult, James stood 5'6", a mere 135 pounds, described as a modest and helpful man who was unremarkable and quiet. He had no police record, but was an avid gun collector.

James was envious of his older brother as he was the more successful of the siblings with a wife, eight children and a job at General Electric. In fact, Leonard II had married James' ex-girlfriend, one of only 2 girls he dated during his entire life. James had flunked out of college after 2 years while his brother had earned a degree in electrical engineering and excelled in athletics. He was constantly reminded that he was an outcast in his own family.

James was unemployed at the age of 41 and had moved back in with his 65-year old mother Charity Ruppert. The family home was a modest two-tone, wood-frame row house on a quiet, tree-lined street just east of Pleasant Avenue 2 miles south of downtown Hamilton, Ohio. Charity was frustrated with her son's inability to hold a steady job and his constant drinking and threatened to evict him. James owed his mother and his brother money and had lost what little he had in the stock market crash of 1973-4.

The final month

A month before the massacre, James inquired about silencers for his weapons while purchasing ammunition. His behavior in general became more unusual as he neared the breaking point, battling a deep depression.

On March 29, 1975, his 41st birthday, witnesses had seen him engaging in target practice shooting tin cans with his .357 Magnum along the banks of the Great Miami River in Hamilton.

James went out drinking that night as he did nearly every night. He would frequently visit the 19th Hole Cocktail Lounge to drink and talk with employee Wanda Bishop, a 28-year old mother of 5 who was separated from her husband. She would later admit that James told her he was frustrated with his mother's demands on him and his impending eviction and that he needed to solve the problem.

He left the bar at 11:00 PM that night and later returned. When Bishop asked him if he had solved the problem, he replied "No, not yet." James stayed at the bar until it closed at 2:30 AM.

The murders

On Easter Sunday, March 30, 1975, Charity Ruppert's oldest son Leonard II was visiting her house on Minor Avenue. He and his wife Alma brought their 8 children (ranging in age from 4 to 17) to see their grandmother.

Leonard Ruppert II's younger brother James was upstairs in the 2-story house sleeping off his previous night of drinking while the other family members enjoyed an Easter egg hunt in the front yard. Upon entering the house, Charity Ruppert began fixing sloppy joe sandwiches in the kitchen while Leonard and Alma sat at the kitchen table. The majority of the children were playing in the living room at this time.

Around 4:00 PM Central Time, James awoke, loaded a .357 Magnum, two .22 caliber handguns and a rifle and descended the staircase. He entered the kithcen, placed the rifle against the refrigerator and shot and killed his brother Leonard. James then killed his sister-in-law Alma and his mother Charity as she attempted to thwart her son's progress. Next, he took the life of his nephew David and his neices Teresa and Carol all in the confines of the kitchen.

Leaving the kitchen, James entered the living room where he killed his neice Ann next to her Easter basket. He also murdered his 4 remaining nephews (including 4-year old John and his 3 oldest brothers).

During the rampage, James typically fired the first shot to disable his victim and the second through the head to finish them off. A few victims were shot a third time and one was shot through the heart. James killed so quickly and methodically that no victim escaped or even left evidence of a struggle in the 5-minute massacre. The closest to escaping was Leonard's daughter Carol who had managed to crack the back door in the kitchen before she was killed.

After spending 3 hours in the house, James finally called police to report the shooting. He waited just inside the front door for authorities to arrive.


The murders shocked the town of Hamilton and the entire country. Those who knew James Ruppert did not think he was capable of violence, especially at the magnitude of this particular massacre. By all accounts, neighbors considered the Rupperts a nice family.

James was arrested and charged that day with 11 counts of aggravated homicide. He refused to answer questions asked by the police and was very uncooperative. He made it clear he would plead insanity.

County prosecutor John Holcomb viewed the crime scene and stated that there was so much blood on the first floor, it was dripping through the floorboards into the basement. A total of 35 shots had been fired by Ruppert and all 4 weapons were recovered at the scene.

All 11 victims were buried in Arlington Memorial Gardens in Cincinnati, Ohio. A year later, the house was opened to the public and all of its contents were auctioned off. It was then cleaned and recarpeted and sold to a family new to the area who was unaware of the murders that had taken place there.


The original trial of James Ruppert was held in Findlay, Ohio 125 miles north because it was believed he could not receive a fair trial in the city of Hamilton where the murders had occurred. The proceedings began in June of 1975 and prosecutors revealed evidence involving the witnesses that had seen Ruppert engaging in target practice, asking about silencers for his gun collection and admitting that his mother's expectations were a problem that he needed to solve.

Defense attorney H.J. Bressler hired doctors to analyze James Ruppert, including legendary Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Lester Grinspoon. It was discovered that Ruppert was obsessed with the belief that his relatives and even police and the FBI were involved in a conspiracy to ruin his life. It was determined that this supressed rage had accumulated since his childhood and that avoiding a horrendous act such as the massacre was nearly possible.

James Ruppert entered a plea of insanity but that was rejected when it was discovered he stood to inherit $300,000 worth of his victims' insurance policies if found not guilty for any reason.

Eventually, the 3-judge panel found Ruppert guilty on all 11 counts of murder and sentenced him to life in prison.

On appeal, a new trial was granted in 1982. Defense attorney Hugh D. Holbrook, convinced his client was insane, personally funded the hiring of expert psychiatrists and psychologists from all over the country.

On July 23, 1982, a second 3-judge panel found James Ruppert guilty of first degree murder in the case of his mother and brother but this time, they found him not guilty on the other 9 counts of murder by reason of insanity. He received life sentences for each of the two charges to be served consecutively rather than concurrently.

Because capital punishment had been suspended in the United States from 1972 to 1976 as a result of the Supreme Court's decision in "Furman v. Georgia", and because the massacre on Minor Avenue had occurred in 1975, James Ruppert could not receive the death penalty for his crimes.

Current status

James Ruppert remains incarcerated in the Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio. In June of 1995, he was granted a visit before the state Parole Board at the age of 61, but his release was denied. He will not receive another hearing until 2015 at the age of 81. After the Virgina Tech massacre on April 16, 2007 became the deadliest homicidal incident in American history, Ruppert's murderous spree dropped to the 9th deadliest massacre in history.

Ruppert is the only person among the country's 10 deadliest massacre killers who is still alive in prison. The other murderers on that list are deceased except Howard Unruh who resides in the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey.

On December 22, 1987, Ronald Gene Simmons began murdering family members at his home in Russelville, Arkansas. By December 28, Simmons had killed 14 family members, surpassing James Ruppert in the worst case of familicide in American history. However, because Simmons killed 8 of his victims by strangling them, no murderer to this day has ever killed more family members in a shooting massacre than James Ruppert.


Charity Ruppert, 65
Leonard Ruppert II, 42
Alma Ruppert, 38
Leonard Ruppert, III, 17
Michael Ruppert, 16
Thomas Ruppert, 15
Carol Ruppert, 13
Ann Ruppert, 12
David Ruppert, 11
Teresa Ruppert, 9
John Ruppert, 4



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