Monday, October 19, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Mass-murderer Howard Unruh is dead

UPDATE 10/20/09: Sources say Howard Unruh's body has been claimed by an unidentified niece. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

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Howard Unruh, who has been called (somewhat errantly) "the father of mass murder," has died in the New Jersey mental hospital where he has lived since gunning down 13 people in Camden, N.J., in 1949. He was 88 and spent more than 60 years in the asylum.

He was not, in fact, America's first mass murderer, nor even the first one to snap, pick up a gun and start killing people. He was, however, a rarity, in that he didn't commit suicide after his rampage.

Charles Cohen, a 12-year-old boy whose parents and grandmother were slaughtered in Unruh's angry, 12-minute spree, became the most outspoken survivor of the so-called "walk of death." When Unurh was seeking less restrictive accommodations in the hospital, Cohen campaigned to keep him under the strictest control. He kept artifacts of the killings in an old suitcase and yearned for the day the seriously psychotic Unruh would be dead, so he could bury the suitcase -- and his memory. Alas, Cohen himself died at age 72 less than two months ago and was buried on the 60th anniversary of the shooting.

Ironically, Unruh was a WWII veteran who might now be eligible for a burial with full military rites. No services have yet been announced.

The story of Howard Unruh's rampage and Charles Cohen's extraordinary survival will be part of a 2010 book by Ron Franscell about survivors of mass killers.

1 comment:

edward c. stengel said...

I'm going to miss Howard Unruh. It's like the end of an era. If
you think about it, old Howie was
different than all other lone-gunmen mass murderers. When he
committed his mass murder on Sep. 6, 1949, he was considered the 1st
in Modern America, and he did it
before the age of television, and
he spent 60 years afterwards in
mental institutions, which no other
mass shooter has ever done since.
Yes, he was unique, and he'll never
be duplicated, and no other mass
shooter will ever be such a well
kept secret, because today we're
living in the age of instant communication, and in old Howie's
day, there wasn't even TV. Old Howie just recently passed away,
on October 19, 2009, of illnesses.
He was 88 years old. How could he
have lived 60 years in a psychiatric hospital? I have a feeling if old Howie could have done it over again, he probably would have kept one of those bullets for himself. 60 years in
the looney bin is too long for
anybody. Farewell, old Howie,
wherever you are - you'll always
be my favorite mass murderer.