On September 30, 1911, the Colorado Springs Gazette ran a brief snippet titled “Recalls Oregon Murders.” It tells of nine victims being killed with an axe or hatchet in the Portland area. By my count it was eight and I’m not sure where the ninth victim comes from. This wouldn’t be the only time the Springs Gazette would play loose with details. For example, in the Sep. 30 article the Gazette lists the similarities as “a hatchet was used, and the heads and faces were beaten to an unrecognizable mass.” In the November 10 issue of the same paper it is reported that the two crimes were “similar in every detail to the murders committed in Colorado Springs.” That, as you will see, was not true. The Sheriff from Portland did visit Colorado Springs in order to compare notes with investigators and it was reported that Sheriff Robert Stevens believed the two to be connected at that time but later it seems he had changed his mind. What were the similarities?
In both murders the weapons, axes, had been picked up at or on the way too the crime scenes. All of the victims were killed in their beds while asleep which means the crimes occurred late at night or early in the morning. The UNSUB washed his hands on the scene in both crimes and the murder weapon was “placed” at the crime scene after the murders. I say placed to differentiate from “dropped” or “thrown away.” The wounds were similar in nature. Overkill was definitely present but not severe overkill of the type seen in Fall River, 1892. In fact, Ruth Hill was hit with only one powerful blow starting diagonally from her right eye to her left jaw. The most severe overkill was directed at the children, particularly young Dorothy. She received three blows, each of which was instantly fatal, two on the front of her skull and one on the back. Philip Hill appeared to have been beaten with a bare fist first before being struck with the flat side of the axe and killed. This type of non-overkill overkill ™ was also present in Colorado Springs.
With those similarities there are some key differences. Along with the murders, the Hills had been robbed. Enough items were taken and evidence left of robbery for the Sheriff to believe robbery was the motive. Neither the Burnham’s nor Wayne’s had anything of note stolen from their homes and even had items of value sitting in plain sight. Both female victims in Ardenwald had been raped (whether or not it was post-mortem is not clear) and then sodomized. This was not an element of the Colorado Springs crimes. The bodies of the Hill family had clearly been handled by the UNSUB(s) post-mortem with bloody fingerprints found all over their bodies. No such handling was evident in Colorado Springs. In Colorado Springs, the most sever overkill was directed at the adults, specifically the most threatening adult in each crime scene, May Burnham and Henry Wayne. The children were killed with one blow each. The bodies of at least the Burnham’s and possibly the Wayne’s were covered. Usually this indicates some type of remorse on the part of the UNSUB and there was no such remorse at the Hill house.
So were these crimes done by the same UNSUB? IMHO, no. I’m no detective or profiler but certain things don’t fit, primarily the wounds to the bodies and to whom the most sever damage was done. In Colorado, the adults were attacked the most severely and the children were attacked as a means of taking complete control of the crime scene. In Ardenwald the adults appear to have been killed in order to get control of the children. Overkill was present on William Hill and the two children but not on Mrs. Hill who was killed with one powerful blow to the head. The bodies of both children and Ruth Hill were handled after they were murdered demonstrating a need to control and manipulate those bodies and the rape and sodomy of Mrs. Hill and Dorothy Rintule reinforces this belief. As I have said before, I believe at least the body of May Burnham had been posed after death which also demonstrates a need to control but she was not sexually assaulted in the traditional sense. The covering of the bodies in Colorado shows remorse by the UNSUB and indicates he may still have seen them as people and that any posing done was for his own twisted pleasure and not to humiliate the victim. The displaying of the bodies in Ardenwald shows how the UNSUB detested his victims and felt the need to treat them like garbage. This post ran longer than I thought it would so I’ll get to the suspect(s) in a later post.
*Description of Ardenwald crime scene taken from Why Some Men Kill, by George A. Thatcher