On this date in 1906, Adolph Weber hanged in California for “one of the most revolting [crimes] in the annals of criminal history”:* the slaughter of his entire family.
On the night of Nov. 10, 1904, a fire at the Auburn mansion of Julius Weber, the onetime owner of the (still-extant) Auburn Alehouse, raised the town’s alarm. Firemen responding discovered four bodies within: Julius, his wife, and two of the couple’s three children. The coroner’s inquest soon determined that all four victims had met a violent death (three by shooting, one by beating) prior to the conflagration, and suspicion naturally fell on the one kid who survived and now stood to inherit the boodle.
(And, it transpired, had robbed a bank earlier that year.)
“Young Weber,” as the papers began to call him, soon became the object of widespread public opprobrium; the case against him was circumstantial but, with the addition of a man who claimed to have sold Weber the very make and model of a pistol found hidden some days after the crime, more than compelling enough for the judiciary. (The text of an appellate decision here outlines the case in greater detail.)
Meanwhile, the legislative branch got busy on a new 1905 Patricide Law to disinherit any homicide beer baron scions of the future. Since the previous statutes had not bothered to anticipate the present circumstance, Adolph Weber inherited all his purported victim’s money (after all, the other potential heirs were also now dead): he promptly blew through most of it on his legal expenses.
Weber’s phenomenal sangfroid from the moment of his arrest up to that of his noosing was his outstanding characteristic. Considered horrifying “vanity” and coldness while his guilt was adjudicated —
The life and character of Adolph WEBER have come under more notice than those of perhaps any other California criminal, unless DURRANT was the exception. And he is more of an enigma than DURRANT. The latter was industrious in protesting his innocence, while WEBER has never deigned to aver his, except when the direst question of his guilt or innocence was put to him at the trial, and even then his answers were in monosylables.
— it had become by the time the doomed Weber coolly ran out the clock to execution “the nerve which has characterized him as one of the most remarkable criminals of the century.”
“Never,” the Los Angeles Times wrote on the morrow of Weber’s execution, “did an assassin meet death with firmer step, or cooler nerve, than did the boy murderer of Auburn.”
* Los Angeles Times, Sep. 28, 1906
Part of the Themed Set: Americana.