A Knapp-tastic Time

A Serial Killer's Story, Based in Ohio

Ever wonder about the life of the man known as the "Serial Strangler?" Or maybe, you haven't heard of him at all. This man's legacy is not taught in all schools, if any, but is very intriguing none the less. So, whether you just want some research material, knowledge, or something to pass the time by, enjoy this tale I have offered you; a tale that begins and ends with a man named Alfred Knapp.

Alfred Knapp was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in the year 1863. Alfred did find himself in jail for the first time at the young age of 18; he served his two-year sentence at Joliet Prison in Illinois. After Alfred was released, he went back home to Indiana and married a girl named Emma Stubbs—only to go back to jail in three months time for robbery charges. Then in 1885, Knapp was released from the correctional facility in Jeffersonville, Indiana and moved to Lawrenceburg. It was in Lawrenceburg, that our young trouble-maker married a woman named Jennie. They'd only known each other for three days, and the marriage would last for nine years before one meets their own tragic demise. During those nine years, Mr. Knapp went to prison three more times on different charges: stealing a pool table, stealing cash and jewelry, and assaulting a woman in broad daylight. After the third charge, Alfred was sent to Ohio State Penitentiary from July of 1890 to November of 1893. 

June 21, 1894: Emma Littleman was found choked to death. And, on August 1, 1894, the body of Mary Eckhart was discovered, strangled with a towel. Both cases were ruled as suicides. Alfred later admitted that he killed Mary because he was afraid that she'd tell Jennie of his affair. On the morning of August 7, 1894, Alfred and Jennie were seen walking along the Central Parkway towards the offices of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Jennie waited outside the office building while Alfred walked in to discuss some business. The next morning, Jennie Knapp's body is found in the canal along the parkway; her body was covered in cuts and bruises covered her face, head and neck. the skull was fractured. Police blamed some broken glass and a canal boat for the injuries. Jennie's post-mortem examination was deemed unnecessary by the coroner after Alfred's sisters convinced him and the police that Jennie was in fact suicidal.

Six weeks after the death of Jennie Knapp, Alfred was remarried to a young lady named Hannah Goddard. The newlyweds moved around Cincinnati multiple times before finally settling down in Hamilton, Ohio. However, in the summer of 1895, Alfred and his new wife left Hamilton for West Indianapolis. Soon after getting settled into their new home, Alfred was arrested for assaulting a young girl. While in jail, Alfred confessed to murdering a young Indianapolis woman named Ada Gebhart, but he was not charged with her murder. The reasoning behind him not being charged with murder is unknown; perhaps the police just thought he was insane or covering for someone else. However, young Knapp did spend the next ten years of his life behind bars at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City for the assault. He only served 7/10 of his time before being released on parole in 1902. After his release, Alfred and Hannah moved back to Hamilton, Ohio and got an apartment there.

Alfred was still causing trouble though. He ended up attacking six-year-old Stella and her four-year-old sister Hattie Motzer in September of 1902 after luring them both into an alley with the promise of free candy. Stella told the police that their attacker was Joseph Roth, a well-known vendor who sold homegrown vegetables in that very alley. However, veterans of the police force, and even the local grocer claimed that Joseph would never do anything to harm anyone, and that he was completely innocent. Of course, Joseph himself denied having anything to do with the attacks. Knapp married once again in February of 1903 to a woman named Anna May Gamble and moved to Indianapolis.

Later that month, Alfred was tracked down and arrested by Hamilton officers, and brought back to Hamilton, Ohio. On February 26, 1903, Alfred wrote a confession to killing five women via strangulation. He confessed to murdering Mary Eckhart, Emma Littleman, and Jennie Knapp in 1984; Ada Gebhart in 1985, and his previous wife Hannah on December 22, 1902. Just one week after his confession to the police, Hannah's body was found in the Ohio river near New Albany, Indiana. At his court hearing, Alfred told the judge that Joseph was at the doctor's office when the attacks occurred; Joseph was acquitted of the crime, and Knapp was accused of being the attacker. The media dubbed him "Knapp the Strangler" and compared him to Jack the Ripper.

In July of 1903, Alfred pleaded insanity. He was found guilty and sentenced to death via electrocution. He tried for an appeal, but the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the death sentence. Knapp's final moments were spent playing the accordion to try and lighten the mood of the situation he was in. While imprisoned, he wrote a confession to attacking the Motzer children on September 16, 1902. Alfred Knapp was sent to the electric chair on August 19, 1904 at Ohio State Penitentiary, and was dead within minutes. Doctor H. H. Hoppe, a neurologist, said that Knapp's brain was normal; he wasn't as insane as he'd led them all to believe. Alfred Knapp is buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.

So, what do you readers think? Was Alfred really that insane up until the moment he accepted his fate? Do you think his many wives were killed for finding out about what he did, including his affairs? Is he someone to feel sorry for, or no? I hope you have enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it for you. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I found Knapp to be very intriguing. I was most interested to see how he was never caught for Jennie's murder, and how his sisters convinced even the coroner that it was a suicide.

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