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Terrible Tragedy Five Persons Murdered Indiana Weekly Messenger May 6, 1874


Feb 16, 2016

Terrible Tragedy
Five Persons Murdered
Indiana Weekly Messenger
May 6, 1874

On Wednesday night last, a most terrible murder was committed near Homestead, on the Monongahela river, a few miles above Pittsburgh. On Thursday morning, about 4 o’clock, the house of Mr. Hamnett, a well-to-do farmer, was discovered to be in flames, and before aid could be rendered the house was totally destroyed. none of the family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Hamnett, two children aged respectfully 9 and 13 years, and a bound boy, could be found, and it was supposed they had perished in the flames. As soon as possible the ruins were searched and the blackened remains of the family were found, when it was discovered they had all been murdered and the house burned to hide the crime. A hired man, a German named Love, was missing, and suspicion pointed to him as the murderer. A reward of $2,000 wa offered for his apprehension, and on Friday he was arrested in a saloon in Allegheny city. A reporter of the Pittsburgh Telegraph, with the assistance of Mr. Holderman, as an interpeter, interviewed the man at the Allegheny lock-up, the substance of which we give below:

“Going inside the cell, Mr. Holderman stood beside the prisoner and in answer to his questions, he gave the following account of himself: His right name, he said, is Ernest Mintsinger, and his native place is Stuttgart, in Germany. His father and mother are dead, but he has two sisters and three brothers lving in Germany. He came to this country a year and a half ago, and first worked for a Peter Ramsey, on a farm at Okley, N.Y. In germany he was a brewer, though he has never followed that trade in this country. The next place he worked was on a farm near Brooklyn, N.Y., and he remained there until he came to work for the Hamnetts, three months ago. Although Mintzinger at first stated that he could give no reason for committing the crime, he now acknowledged that the object was money, but he expected to get more than he did. When asked how much he did get, he replied, fifteen dollars. He gave the details of the murder as follows:

He had been at work digging post holes all day, and when he came home in teh evening Mr. and Mrs. Hamnett were calling at the house of a neighbor, leaving their daughters and the adopted boy at home. When Mintzinger was about to take the money he says he thought the children might detect him and tell on him, and to prevent this he would murder them. Accordingly he prcured an ax and murdered them while they were in bed. He first killed the boy, and then the younger girle – though he did say when he murdered her elder sister. They did not make the least resistance he says, and is supposed that they were sleeping peacefully at the time, in utter ignorance of the terrible instrument in the hands of a murderer which was hanging o’er their heads.

When the parents came home, Mintzinger, who was lying in wait for them, struck the father on the head with the ax as he came in the door, felling him at once to the floor. The woman, he says, gave two or three screams, and then a blow of the murderous weapon silenced her forever.

In personal appearance the prisoner is rather heavy set, five feet eight or nine inches in heigh, has dark-brown hari and a light, sandy moustache, and gives hsi age at twenty-eight years. The effects of the excitement and the liquor he has lately drank have combined to give him a sissipated appearance, his face being flushed and his eyes read and bloodshot. His new suit of clothes, which he said he purched in Ohio stree, were considerably soiled and his gaiters were quite muddy.

Below we give another account ofthe murderer:

I left Hamnett’s house, just after supper on the evening of hte murder, and went directly to Homested, I called at a saloon and drank two glasses of beer; that was all I had that night; after leaving the saloon I went to a grocery store kept by a German, and purchased some cigars and five cent’s worth of candy for the children; I don’t know the name of the store keeper, but I had been there several times; think I was at the store about nine o’clock in the evening. Just as I was leaving it came into my head that I must have Hamnett’s money.

The “Love of Money” the motive

I thought he had a great deal of money in the house, and as I felt so queer all at once in my head I thought I must get it. I went directly to the house, but don’t know how I got there. I suppose I must been out of my mind. After getting into the house I found Mr. and Mrs. Hamnett had not come home. It occured to me that to get the money I must kill the children. I found the ax in the kitchen, and taking that with me, I went up into the room over the kitchen, where Robert Smith and myself slept. The bed was in the corner ofthe room, and I saw that Robert was sleeping soundly, with his face toward me.

Murdering the innocents

I took a position at the foot of the bed, and with one blow killed the boy. He never moved. I can’t say how it was that the boy’s throat was cut; I may have struck him twice, but he never groaned. After the boy was dead, I went into the adjoining rom, where Ida and little Emma were sleeping. There were two beds in the room – one in the corner and the other, the one occupied by the children, near the entre. Both of the girls were sleeping. I struck Ida first, and she never moved. I then raised the axe and struck at Emma; she uttered a cry and I hit her a second time, and she did not groan again.

The Butchery of the Parents

After this I went down stairs and took a position just inside the door fo the room adjoining hte kitchen, and waited for Mr. and Mrs. Hamnett to come home. The came between ten and eleven o’clock. Mr Hamnett came into the room first; I was standing so that he could not see me, and I struck him from behind using the same ax; he fell to the floor; Mrs. Hamnett then came rushing into the room, and as she passed through the door I struck her but did not kill her; she shrieked once or twice “Oh God, John!” and I struck her a second blow which killed her instantly; Mrs. Hamnett and the baby were the only ones that I hit twice; the others were killed with one blow; I used the ax all the time.

The Plunder Only Fifteen Dollars!

I committed the deed to get Mr. Hamnett’s money. I searched Mr. Hamnett’s pockets and obtained his pocket book. It contained only fifteen dollars in paper money. I found Mrs. Hmnett’s pocket book on the sewing machin; there was only fity cents in it. I looked over the house, but all the money I got was fifteen dollars. The silver money I spent yesterday I brought with me from Germany. I did not get it from the house. My only motive for doing this deed was to get money.

Flight of the Monster

I never had any ill feeling towards any of the Hamnetts; I always liked the little children, and always brought them candy when I went to Homestead. The boy Smith and I were always good friends, and I always liked Mr. and Mrs. Hamnett. I did not fire the house, and it was not a part of the plan to cover up the murder. When searching the house I put an oil lamp in the settling room, and when rushing away from the building it was overturned. i thought it would go out; I did not think the house would burn. As soon as I left the building I proceeded at once to the railroad, and walked direct to Pittsburgh.

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