Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

James Ruppert: The Easter Sunday Mass Murders

A Disturbed Childhood

It was a hot September morning in 1944 and 10-year-old James U. Ruppert was already up and going about his daily chores.  He hated feeding the chicken because of an allergy to the feathers.  This, combined with his asthma and other allergies, made him sickly and frail.  He walked with his shoulders hunched over from his illnesses and was severely limited in participating in most childhood activities.  To make matters worse, he was constantly teased by neighborhood children and his own brother.  The children called him "sissy" and mocked the way he walked and behaved.  All of this led to James becoming introverted and bitter.      

Ohio map with Hamilton area locator
Ohio map with Hamilton area locator

As he fed the chicken in the rear of his parents' barn-like house, James remembered the previous night.  Once again his brother, 12-year-old Leonard, had ridiculed and assaulted him by striking him with a hose and sitting on his head until he finally screamed out loud.  He ended up tying James with a rope and locking him in a dark closet, as he often did.  It was almost a daily occurrence and one that only served to make James feel more frightened and insecure.  He saw Leonard as a sadistic torturer and unrelenting teaser who enjoyed taunting him.  In his mind, Leonard was an executioner.

James harbored a growing hatred for his parents and his bullying brother.  None of them seemed to care about him and his needs.  Every day seemed like hell on earth.  Yet, he needed what little comfort and care he received from his dysfunctional family.  As he tried to finish his chores James heard his father yelling at his mother, Charity.  His father was a frustrated and unsuccessful man who was prone to violent outbursts.  He very seldom displayed warmth and affection to James. 

Hardly a day passed without him and Charity screaming and fighting over something.  This time James felt sure it was over him.  He strongly felt his father didn't like him, always comparing his failures and inadequacies to Leonard's successes.  It was clear that Leonard was his favorite son.  Hardly a day passed without his father warning him that he would never be capable of holding onto a job and supporting himself as an adult. 

James finished his chores and headed for school.  Summer break was over.  It was the first day of school and he dreaded going because of the teasing and harassment that he knew awaited him.  They just did not understand why he could not take gym classes and play other competitive sports like they could.  His physical limitations and short stature not only denied him athletic abilities, but the friendships he so desperately wanted.  Nobody seemed to like him and all of these things had a lasting effect upon him.

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