Easter is normally spent around a hot meal with family and friends, but that isn’t always the case. Easter weekend 2014 served as a stark reminder that even a presumably peaceful day like Easter can be the backdrop for unthinkable violence. Forty-five people were shot on the streets of Chicago that weekend, with nine of those 45 ultimately dying. It was an outburst of violence that captured the nation’s attention, but it wasn’t the first time that violence and murder made headlines over Easter weekend.
Here are three other time times when Easter weekend murders have captured the attention of America.
1. James Ruppert, Easter Sunday 1975 Hamilton, OH
James Ruppert is responsible for the deadliest shooting in a private residence in U.S. history. Ruppert, who had turned 41 the day before, shot and killed his mother, brother, sister-in-law and eight nieces and nephews on Easter Sunday in 1975.
The shooting spree started around 4pm when James woke up after yet another night spent drinking. He loaded a .357 magnum, two .22 caliber handguns and a rifle before heading downstairs to the kitchen. Once in the kitchen, Ruppert shot and killed his brother Leonard. He then shot and killed Leonard’s wife Alma and his own mother, Charity, when she attempted to stop his rampage. Ruppert went on to kill Leonard and Alma’s eight children who were at the house for Easter dinner.
Ruppert’s first trial ended in a mistrial. At the re-trial, Ruppert was convicted on 11 counts of murder and received 11 consecutive life sentences in 1975. Ruppert appealed the conviction. In 1982, Ruppert was convicted of the murders of his mother and brother, but was found not guilty of the other nine murders due to insanity. Ruppert was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. He was denied parole in 1995. He is eligible for another parole hearing in April 2015.
2. Rev. Gerald John Robinson, April 5, 1980, Toledo, OH
The murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl went unsolved for twenty-six years until police received a letter from a woman claiming to have been sexually abused by Rev. Robinson many years prior. The woman claimed the abuse involved satanic rituals and human sacrifice. Ultimately the case was thrown out because it was well past the statute of limitations, however, it led to discoveries that would implicate Robinson in the 1980 murder of Sister Pahl.
Pahl had been strangled and stabbed 31 times during her murder. A sword-shaped letter opener had inflicted many of the stab wounds. During the investigation into the sexual abuse claims, the letter opener was found amongst the Robinson’s belongings.
Robinson was convicted of murdering Pahl in 2006. It was just the second time in U.S. history that a catholic priest was convicted of murder. Paul unsuccessfully appealed his conviction numerous times before dying in a prison hospice unit in 2014.
3. Dana Ewell, Easter Sunday 1992, Fresno, CA
After his father informed him that he was being cut off from the family fortune, Dana Ewell hired his college classmate to kill his father, mother and older sister on Easter Sunday in 1992.
Ewell hired his college roommate, Joel Radovcich, to kill his family after learning that his father was going to cut him off upon graduating from college. The Ewell’s were a prominent and wealthy family in the Fresno area. Dana’s father informed him that he would be cut off after learning that Dana had been telling friends that he was an independently wealthy stock market savant and ran a multi-million dollar corporation. In reality, his mother and father were still supporting Dana financially.
Angry that he was going to be cut off, Ewell planned to murder of his family so that he could gain access to the family fortune. Radovcich entered the family home and killed Ewell’s mother, father and sister in exchange for a portion of Dana Ewell’s inheritance.
No physical evidence was left at the crime scene, and it appeared that the case would go unsolved. However, upon the reading of his father’s will, it was revealed that Dana would inherit his father’s fortune in installments instead of in a single lump sum. Not having access to the whole fortune immediately angered Dana greatly. This anger, combined with his seeming indifference to the death of his parents and sister led Dana’s uncles to suggest to investigators that Dana may have been behind the murders.
Ewell was finally arrested in March 1995. In a trial that lasted 8 months, Ewell and Radovcich were convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in May 1998. Ewell has since exhausted his appeals.