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November 18, 2016     Post-Gazette
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November 18, 2016

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PAGE 8 POSY: AZEI" I"E , N'ovi MBER 181 2016 THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS 8< THAT with Daniel A. DiCenso The Axema. of New Orleans: The Faceless Killer Largely forgotten today, the "Axeman" of New Orleans was responsible for several gruesome killings in the Big Easy from May of 1918 to October of 1919. Though the killer behind the name was never identified, his peculiar method of attacks, his taunting of police, and bizarre obsession with jazz has given way to a series of legends and much speculation. One thing remains certain; the city was held in terror for over a year. After the first few attacks, a strange pattern began to emerge. The attacks were al- ways done with an axe which usually belonged to the victims themselves. The killer would usually enter the house by breaking in through the back- door and would never take any property from the home, eliminating robbery as a mo- five. Adding to the mystery, the killer seemed to prefer killing women and male victims were just collateral, this conclusion arrived at by the number of times a couple was attacked and only the woman was killed. Many of the victims were Ital- ian-American, a factor which has produced two schools of thinking. One group advocates that the killings were a result of anti-Italianism, something which the city had a dark his- tory of. Another proposes Mafia involvement, but while the New Orleans docks were controlled by the Matranga crime family, no evidence found has linked the killings to a gang war. Perhaps hardest to explain is the Axeman's love for jazz. In what is perhaps his most famous communication with not only the police but the people of New Orleans, he an- nounced on a given night that he would spare any house in which jazz was playing. In many ways, the first mur- der set the formula to follow. Local grocer Joseph Maggio and his wife Catherine were killed in their home on the night of May 22, 1918. The killer entered the home by chiseling out a panel in the backdoor, slit their throats, and bashed their heads with 'an axe before leaving the house. Joseph sur- vived just long enough to utter a loud moan which caught the attention of his brothers Jake and Andrew who resided in the adjoining apartment; but he died by the time police arrived. Perhaps because they were too horrified by the gruesome sight, police left the premises without conducting a thorough search. Later, however, they discovered a razor in a neighboring proper- ty which they identified both as the one used to slit the victims' throats and as coming from Andrew Maggio's barbershop (a detail corroborated by Maggio's employee Esteban Torres). After his arrest, Maggio did mention to police having seen a strange man lurking around the build- ing. Although the police were perplexed by Maggio's failure to hear the intruder breaking into his brother's apartment, they released him when no further evidence against him materialized. Over a month later, the Axeman struck again, attacking another grocer named Louis Besumer and his mistress Annie Lowe with an axe that belonged to Besumer himself. Both would survive the attack and Lowe's testimony added further confusion. Upon re- gaining consciousness, Lowe claimed that it was Besumer who attacked her. Her story was substantially discredited when she failed to explain how and why Besumer attacked himself with the same axe. Instead, her account led to the arrest of a black man named Lewis Oubicon who was later released for lack of evidence. If anything, Lowe's wild accusations seemed to be a way to shift attention from the scandalous revelafion that she was not Besumer's wife, but his mistress. Upon her release from the hospital, Lowe took advantage of the media frenzy which had grown after documents written in Yiddish, Russian, and German were discovered in Besumer's apart- ment. Speculation had spread that Besumer was a German spy and Lowe seemed eager to corroborate this. Besumer was arrested on charges of espio- nage, but was released almost a year later. Two months later, Mrs. Schneider would become the killer's next victim. She too would survive (giving birth to a healthy baby girl two days after the attack), but would be unable to provide any solid clue as to her attacker's identity. Once more, nothing was taken from her home and the suspect apprehended (an ex-convict by the name of James Gleason) had to be released due to a lack of evidence. Five days later, Joseph , The Respectful M Romano would not be so lucky. Although he was discovered by his two nieces when they heard a Commotion coming from his apartment, Romano would die two days later due to the trauma from the axe attack. However, the Romano case proved a turning point in this baffling mystery. His two nieces arrived just in time to see the suspect fleeing, whom they described as a dark-skinned heavy-set man with a hat. It was with Romano's murder that the Crescent City went into a panic. Residents barred their doors and went to bed armed with shotguns. Local detective John Dantonio began investigating the killings and produced the theory that the killer could well be a common resident with an incontrollable urge to kill. After Romano's murder, the Axeman disappeared for seven months (though citizens did come forward with evidence that the Axeman has attempted to enter their home). But he struck again with a vengeance on March 10, 1919. Iorlando Jordano, a grocer, heard loud screams coming from the house of his neighbors Charles and Rosie Cortimiglia. Jordano rushed over and found that both Charles and Rosie had been attacked and badly in- jured, but were stable enough to talk. Their two-year-old daugh- ter Mary, however, succumbed to the attack. Upon recover- ing from her injuries at the hospital, Rosie claimed that the attack was committed by Iorlando Jordano and his son Frank. Authorities doubted this as Iorlando was in too poor physical shape to commit such an attack, and Frank was too large a man to fit through the backdoor panel the attacker had once again chiseled out. In addition, Charles vehemently denied his wife's accusations, which strained their marriage (undoubtedly already affected by the death of their daughter) and the couple divorced soon after. Nonetheless, police ar- rested both Jordanos and the two were declared guilty, They were only released and spared from hanging when Rosie Cortimiglia admitted she had fabricated the story. Three days later, the big- gest twist in this perplexing case occurred. The Axeman (or someone purporting to be the Axeman) sent a letter to the local press promising to visit the city again on March 19% This letter added a bizarre super- natural element to the tale and a peculiar twist: a love of jazz. The letter read: "Esteemed Mortal: They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish. police call the Axeman. When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know who they shall be. I shall' leave no clue except my bloody (Continued on Page 10) COPYRIGHT, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED MAMA'S RICOTTA GNOCCHI (Pasta) 3 cups unbleachedflour (preferably King Arthur or Gold Medal) 1 beaten egg 1 teaspoon salt 1 pound ricotta whole milk cheese 4 quarts boiling salted water In a bowl, mix ricotta cheese, beaten eggs and salt. Add flour gradually to the mixture, mixing by hand, until dough is soft. Re- move dough from bowl and place dough on a floured pastry board to knead. If dough sticks to your fingers or hands, add a little flour and continue kneading until the dough is soft, smooth and pliable. Cut and roll portions into long 8- or 10-inch roils of about one-inch thickness. Place in bowl and cover. Taking one roll at a time, flatten roll slightly with your hand or a rolling pin. Cut into one-inch portions. With index and middle fingertips, press into each piece of dough and roll fingers forward in the dough. This will curl the dough into gnocchi. Continue until all dough is used. For cooking gnocchi, boil about four quarts of salted water. Af- ter dropping gnocchi into the boiling water, stir and cover. Watch carefully because water boils over quickly. Gnocchi will float to the top as they cook. They cook rapidly. Check for consistency desired. Drain and place in a bowl. Add your tomato sauce and serve. Serves four. NOTE: I love the memories of watching my parents make home- made macaroni. They didn't seem to have a written recipe. It was all stored in their minds. Through the years, I decided their recipes should be written out. I watched Mama measure out the fiour, add the water or beaten eggs and all the necessary ingredients for gnocchi. Papa kneaded the dough. Mama always took out her extra- long wooden rolling pin when the dough had to be rolled into thin round portions before Papa could fold it and then cut itinto Iinguine. For gnocchi, Papa cut up the dough after kneading it. Mama, with her fingers, patiently formed the small portions of cut-up dough into gnocchi. Before my brother Peter and I knew it, the homemade macaroni was ready to serve at noontime for Sunday dinner. They always made it seem that it was such a pleasure serving homemade macaroni, and it was. Boston Harborside Home Joseph A. Langone 580 Commercial St. - Boston, MA 02109 617-536-4110 Augustave M. Sabia, Jr. Trevor Slauenwhite Frederick J. Wobrock Dino C. Manca Courtney A. Fitzgibbons A Service Family Affiliate of AFFS/Service Corporation International 206 Winter St., Fall River, MA 02720 Telephone 508-676-2454 J 1st Generation FrO~l MYBakery Perch VITA ORLANDO SINOPOLt Italian-American Vita Orlando Sinopoli Shares with us a delighO ul recollection of her memories as a child growing up in Boston's "Little Italy" and a collection of Italian family recipes from the homeland. Great as Gifts FROM MY BAKERY PERCH available on AMAZON.COM and in local bookstores -- ask for Hard cover #1-4010-9805-3 ISBN Soft Cover #1-4010-9804-5 ISBN For on advertising in the , 617.227-8929