January 19th, 2013 Meaghan
(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)
On this day in 1894, Albert F. Bomberger was hanged in the four-year-old state of North Dakota for the gruesome mass murder he’d committed the year before. His execution within sight of the Kreider home where he’d slaughtered six people (and raped a seventh) went off smoothly, but it almost didn’t: when the trap was sprung, his feet were only six inches above the ground.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1871, Bomberger left home as a teenager and worked his way west. At some undetermined point, he was hired to work on the Kreider on a farm southeast of Cando, North Dakota, a job that came with his own room within the farmers’ home. Bomberger was apparently a relative of some sort, and hailed from the same part of Pennsylvania the Kreiders were originally from.
The Kreider family was a large one. Besides Daniel S. Kreider* and his wife Barbara, there were eight children: sons Aaron, 12, David, 7, and Henry, 3, and daughters Annie, 15, Bernice, 13, Murby, 11, Mary, 9, and Eva, 5.**
Bomberger became infatuated with the eldest daughter Annie and would not be put off by her rebuffs. After midnight on July 6, 1893, he sneaked into her bedroom, which was next to his own; Annie kicked him out and threatened to tell her parents if he didn’t quit bothering her. Bomberger slunk back to his bed, furious and humiliated, and plotted revenge.
On the morning of July 7, Bomberger found Daniel Kreider asleep in bed and shot him with a double-barreled shotgun.
Then he went down to the kitchen where Mrs. Kreider was fixing breakfast and shot her to death as well.
And last, he penned up Annie, Aaron, Eve and Henry in his bedroom.
With those kids locked up, Bomberger tracked down Murby, Mary and David, and blasted them with a single load of buckshot each.
13-year-old Bernice attempted escape by jumping out a second-floor window and running for help. Bomberger caught her, and she cried and begged to be allowed to see her family again. He obligingly took her inside, showed her each of the dead bodies (Mary turned out to be still alive, so Bomberger slit her throat), then then shot Bernice dead at close range while she cowered in the corner with her hands over her face.
While Bomberger was thus occupied, Aaron, Eva and Henry escaped his room and hid elsewhere in the farm. The murderer wasn’t interested in them anyway; he turned his attentions to Annie. He raped her in her bedroom, took her to the barn, raped her again and then forced her to make his breakfast, give him $50, and pack his lunch.
Bomberger then tied Annie up, put her in the barn’s loft, saddled up and rode straight for the nearby Canadian border on one of the children’s horses.
He did make it to Manitoba, but that didn’t stop Cando’s sheriff from hopping the 49th parallel himself to arrest the murderer. Bomberger had little to say for himself. He seemed indifferent to his fate and, when asked to explain why he’d committed such a horrific crime, blamed booze.
He even pleaded guilty: the entire court procedure lasted fifteen minutes.
Almost 120 years later, amateur historian R. Michael Wilson would say that, of all the criminals he’d written about in his extensive studies of crime in the western United States, Albert Bomberger stood out as one of the most horrible.
The dead Kreiders were buried together in one grave at a Mennonite cemetery in their home state of Pennsylvania. Some 15,000 people attended their funeral. The murder farm was sold at auction; the house where the murders took place burned down in 1917.
As for the surviving children, they stayed in Pennsylvania after the murders. Annie married, had at least two children and lived a long life: she died in 1960, age 82.
* The brother of future Pennsylvania Congressman Aaron Kreider (R).
** Various sources give them different ages; these are the best estimations I could make. It’s also worth noting that Murby’s name is occasionally given as “Merby” or “Melby” and Bernice may be called “Beatrice”. I’m going with the names as they were listed in the cemetery records, but those could well be wrong.
Also on this date
- 1894: John Hardy, desperate little man
- 1476: Israel, the last execution of the Trent blood libel trial
- 1891: James Eubanks
- 1880: Prevost, predatory Parisian policeman
- Daily Triple: 1880 and death
- 1866: Martha Grinder, the Pittsburgh Borgia
- 1661: Thomas Venner and the Fifth Monarchy Men
- 1870: Jean-Baptiste Troppmann, mass murderer