Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Axeman of New Orleans


On December 7, 1920, Mrs. Cortimiglia, who had contracted smallpox, apparently had an attack of conscience.  She retracted her accusation against the Jordanos, admitting quite dramatically in the newspaper offices that she had lied. A saint had visited her, she claimed, who had instructed her to "redeem" herself.  She begged their forgiveness.

Both men were released.

Then the police received a report about an incident in Los Angeles, California, that had occurred on December 2.  Apparently. Mrs. Mike Pepitone, dressed in black, had accosted a New Orleans resident named Joseph Mumfre, stepping out from a shadowed doorway to shoot him.  He dropped dead on the sidewalk and she waited for the police to come and arrest him.  She insisted that she had seen him running from her husband's room the day he was killed.

Mumfre did have a criminal record and during the hiatus between 1911 and 1918, and from the last murder in 1918 until the first murder in 1919, he had been in prison.  During the time of each of the murders, he had been free.  He had left New Orleans right after Pepitone was killed.  Yet aside from Mrs. Pepitone's testimony, there was no evidence that directly linked Mumfre to any of the crimes.  Newton points out that author Jay Robert Nash, in Bloodletters and Badmen, fingered Mumfre as a Mafia hitman, but then identifies the flaws in his theory.  Despite the number of Italian grocers whom the Axeman victimized, not all of his victims were grocers and not all Italian. Tallant also points out that the Mafia did not murder women.

Mrs. Pepitone served three years of a ten-year sentence in Los Angeles, and then disappeared.

There were no more axe murders in New Orleans.

No one knows for sure who the Axeman was.

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