Ohio mass murderer who gunned down 11 family members dies in prison

Ohio mass murderer who gunned down 11 family members dies in prison

June 7, 2022

Ohio mass murderer who gunned down 11 family members – including eight children between the ages of 4 and 16 – in horror Easter weekend shooting in 1975 dies in prison at age 88 from natural causes

  • James Ruppert, 88, died on Saturday at Franklin Medical Center in Columbus
  • He was serving two life sentences for killing 11 family members on Easter Sunday in 1975 
  • Ruppert lived with his mother, was unemployed and struggled with alcohol at time of the murders
  • He had gone to the shooting range before Easter celebrations and when he arrived home, his brother asked him: ‘How’s the Volkswagen?’ 
  • Ruppert took it as an insult, as his brother was a successful GE engineer 
  • He would then fire 44 shots using three pistols and a rifle
  • The murderer then sat on the couch for two hours before calling police, saying that suicide was a mortal sin and he didn’t want that to be his last act 

An Ohio man serving a life sentence for the shooting 11 family members dead, including eight children, on Easter in 1975, has died in prison of natural causes.

James Ruppert, 88, died on Saturday at the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus. 

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced his death Monday, saying that Ruppert apparently died of natural causes, but that the official cause of death is pending.

At the time of the shooting, Ruppert lived with his mother Charity at her Minor Avenue home in Hamilton, Ohio. He reportedly struggled with alcohol and was unemployed.

Ruppert told a psychiatrist that he had gone to a shooting range before the Easter celebrations and had slept most of the day beforehand, according to Cincinnati.com. 

Upon returning home, his brother Leonard Jr., sister-in-law Alma, and their eight children – Leonard III, 17; Michael, 16; Thomas, 15; Carol, 13; Ann, 12; David, 11; Teresa, nine; and John, 4 – were visiting for the holiday. 

Leonard asked Ruppert: ‘How’s the Volkswagen?’ 

The criminal took the remark as an insult because he thought his brother – a successful GE engineer – was judging him.

Authorities said Ruppert used three pistols and a rifle to fire 44 shots, with 40 hitting his victims. The bodies were found in the kitchen and living room. 

James Ruppert, 88, died on Saturday. He murdered 11 family members on Easter Sunday 1975

Authorities said the only sign of struggle within the home was an overturned trashcan.  

A psychiatrist would later testify at his trial that Ruppert laid on a couch for two hours after the shooting and contemplated suicide. He decided against it as suicide is a mortal sin and Ruppert didn’t want that to be his last act, so he instead called police, telling them there were ‘bodies in the house.’

After several trials, Ruppert was convicted in 1982 of two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his mother and brother but was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the other killings. 

He was serving two consecutive life sentences and had been denied parole several times.

Ruppert’s case circulated the courts for seven years. The murderer originally pleaded guilty to killing his family, but argued insanity. 

His defense also claimed the he had been beaten and taunted by his brother after their father died when Ruppert was only 12, Cincinnati.com reported. 

Ruppert (middle, at his 1980 retrial) started shooting after his brother Leonard asked him: ‘How’s the Volkswagens?’ Leonard was a successful GE engineer and Ruppert told the question as an insult 

The murderer (middle, in 1975) had gone to a shooting range before the Easter celebrations and fired 44 shots, with 40 hitting his victims, with three pistols and a rifle, killing them all

Prosecutors, however, claimed he killed his family for money. The brother and mother’s estates were worth around $300,000. 

Two psychiatrists testified that Ruppert suffered from paranoia and delusion and was unable to control his actions during the shooting. 

‘In fact, if there had been more people in the house they might have been killed also,’ a psychiatrist testified at the time. 

He later opted for a three-judge panel, rather than a jury, and two ruled Ruppert was sane and convicted him of 11 counts of aggravated murder. One just found him insane. 

The Ohioan was originally sentenced to 11 life sentences, however in 1977 and 1978, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the judges’ wrongly told him that their votes had to unanimous. 

Ruppert was then granted a new trial in 1980, which wouldn’t take place until 1982. 

He opted for a trial by jury the second time around, where he was convicted of two life sentences for his mother and brother and was ruled insane on the other nine counts. 

At the time of his death, Ruppert was only a few years off his fourth parole hearing, set for 2025.  

He had been denied parole in 1995, 2005, and 2015 beforehand. 

The shooting happened inside the home he shared with his mother (pictured). He was living with her as he was reportedly struggled with alcohol and was unemployed

In 2015, he was denied parole because he was ‘not suitable for release’ as he had ‘not completed any recommended programming and does not appear to be willing to do so.’ 

The parole board also cited that there was a ‘strong community objection’ to his released and that it ‘would not be in the best interest of justice.’ 

 wrongly told him that their votes had to be unanimous. Ruppert was then granted a new trial in 1980, which wouldn’t take place until 1982. 

He opted for a trial by jury the second time around, where he was convicted of two life sentences for his mother and brother and was ruled insane on the other nine counts. 

He died at Franklin Medical Center in Columbus (pictured) 

At the time of his death, Ruppert was only a few years off his fourth parole hearing, set for 2025.  

He had been denied parole in 1995, 2005, and 2015 beforehand. 

In 2015, he was denied parole because he was ‘not suitable for release’ as he had ‘not completed any recommended programming and does not appear to be willing to do so.’ 

The parole board also cited that there was a ‘strong community objection’ to his released and that it ‘would not be in the best interest of justice.’ 

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