tv 2018 Gaithersburg Book Festival - Ann Marie Ackerman Death of an Assassin CSPAN May 28, 2018 5:10am-6:01am EDT
set in motion 183 years ago in the southwest of germany called burning am. who could have imagined this matter could finally be put to rest two centuries later in the city for thousand miles from gaithersburg, and before i introduce miss ackerman, i want to welcome cornelius van berger, the mayor of birmingham, germany, to the city of gaithersburg, given the great round of applause. it was a wonderful honor to
have you here. i am not going to spoil anything, steal any thunder. a former attorney, former prosecutor, and in germany, she came across historical records of researching and death of an assassin, the true story of the german murderer who died defending robert you me, she writes in german and english, to research archives in both countries. and the true crime -- she has written extensively about her hobby bird watching. and that the book festival, welcome anne-marie ackerman. [applause]
>> thank you for being here. if i am not mistaken, you will see a world record broken today for the oldest reward for solving a murder ever paid. the city has applied for a new guinness world record title, it takes guinness several months to make the decision and hope we will have that by the next gaithersburg book festival, you will see some history being made. what makes this case fascinating is that is not the only record. this case -- this case is cool of records and that is a good
way to bring you back to germany in 1835 and explain what happened and how that led to this moment in gaithersburg. first record, 19th century germany's coldest murder case ever solved. murder cases were usually solved within a few weeks and in the region where the murder took place. that is because they didn't have the forensic techniques we have like fingerprinting, photography, etc.. i researched volumes of criminal reports from germany from the 19th century, between murder and solution. this is the recordbreaker.
so what happens q here is the town that i live in now, the murder took place here, you see this salmon colored building is our palace and next to it, the gentleman's building, this is where our mayor lived in 1835. one day in october 18, '35 he was walking home from having dinner in a restaurant and somebody shot him with a string of pellets in the back. this is what the crime scene looked like with the picture taken out of the palace was the mayor was only four paces from his front door when a man standing in the corner of that green building shot him in the back, turned and ran away. he eventually ended up in the
united states. he was so horrified by this event, the new mayor hung up the old mayor's blood encrusted clothing in the city hall for over 37 years, as a reminder to the city that the crimes had not been solved. there was an investigator who handled the case. he ran down all sorts of leads. the investigative file runs up almost 800 pages but he could not crack the case. 37 years after the investigator had died, a letter came in from washington dc. this is just a snippet of it and it is written in the old gothic german handwriting so i don't expect you to be able to read it except the very top line. what does that say you
washington dc, april 29, 1872, a german immigrant wrote this letter. he left a year after the murder because the townsfolk thought he did it. he was never on the investigative radar but they made his life such hell that he and his whole family packed their bags and went to the united states. if that hadn't happened this case would never have been stalled because roque in washington dc discover the critical clue that cracked the case. the german prosecutor was able to find corroborating evidence in germany to prove that what roque was telling was true and could close the case, solved 37 years later. that brings us to the next record.
not only the coldest case ever solved but 19th century germany's only murder case ever solved in the united states. next one, first use of forensic statistics. we had a very frustrated detective in this case who could not find any good leads and out of frustration, he took the shock pellets the doctors autopsied from the victim's body and discovered funny little scratches on them. this is what police call striations, inside the barrel. what is unusual is the murderer uses a shotgun to fire shots, a rifle to fire bullets but this murderer happens to use a rifle to fire a shot and that left
striations on the bullet. he was able to tell by these striations this did not come from a normal rifle. it came from a finally groomed, rifled gun. most guns have 6 to 8 grooves, he collected all the rifles and he and a gunsmith testfired them and were able to eliminate suspects weapons which i used to work as a prosecutor the alarm bells went off because i knew forensic ballistics was supposedly invented in france in 1888 by a french path all just, i am thinking what is going on here? i did the only thing you could do in such a situation, i called the german police and i ended up in the state police
crime laboratory where the ballistic technician got so interested in this case, he thought he saw a narrow exception where somebody in 1835 given the technology we had then might have been able to use a ballistic analysis. this is him in the state crime laboratory trying to set up conditions similar to that of the murderer and he came to the conclusion this was possible, the detective in this case probably realized he was first to use forensic ballistics. the next record solves a riddle in american history. of this was only a german case i would not be talking to you today but the funny thing is the murderer led justice in germany and went to the united
states, joined the army and thought in the mexican-american war at the siege of veracruz in 1987. this is where they set up naval guns on land to try to break down city walls of veracruz and this battery was handled by a young captain who was so impressed with a person who died at his feet that he wrote a letter home. a whole half page describing the valor of one soldier hits twice with cannonballs didn't die, suffered for hours until he got hit by a cannonball from a giant spanish cannon that was used to fight pirates and that killed him instantly.
in the very end, the captain wrote, went too far? i don't know if you can read that. i doubt whether all mexico is worth to was the life of that man. this letter may have been forgotten if the captain didn't happen to be robert e lee. the virginia historical society acquired this letter from private position in 1881 and since then, the biographers haven't discussed this letter. why did he write about somebody? was he trying to balance the suffering of one man against the military goal of the united states, never mentioned the man's name, he probably didn't know the man's name, but it
turns out it was the assassin from germany who killed our mayor. if you read my book i will tell you how i came to that conclusion with documents from the national archives. i had to go through all the desks in the battery. .. >> identification of the killer. this was written -- this is a city council minutes from
germany written on the day after the mayor got shot offering in german 500 golden, 200 golden for information. the reward never got paid. i'm pretty sure i know the reason why. the city minutes got misfiled. the detectives in this case wrote an appeal in the newspaper for people to offer information and used the city council minutes as basis for his article and when he got done, he forgot to give it back to the city and he filed it in his own file and when the case was solved, that got filed in the state archives so when letter came in 1872, there may have been people who
remember the reward but they couldn't find the documentation that would authorize them to pay such a hefty size of money. when i discovered this omission three years ago, i went to my mayor and i said, why don't we pay it now. and he said, he didn't think the city was legally obligated to honor a reward from 1835, but wouldn't it be the moral and diplomatic thing to do? and that leads us up to the real event today, the reward from germany. i am going to turn it over to mr. bombergo, and this is the moment to watch history being made because i think we are about to break a world record.
maker frederick. we now know he didn't do it but wronged him. does he turn his life into a nightmare and force him to immigrate to the united states a year later. began a new life in washington, d.c., then he found a crucial clue in 1872, the evidence that cracked the case. the german prosecutor could corroborate and close the case as solved, but we never paid the reward. that was because the city minutes originally documenting it in 1835 got misfiled.
we weren't even aware of our error until ackerman discovered 183 years have passed since the murder, 146 have passed since he should have received reward that is a long time. the city has applied for new guinness world record title, the oldest reward for capturing a murder ever paid. if guinness grants us the honor, our two cities will also have a new world record. the passage of so many years makes no difference to me as a mayor. the assassination of the top city administrator will always remain a black chapter off
history. and i say bernikime should pay the reward even after so many years because justice is important to my town. the truth should always come out in the end and so should the recognition and the money. my gratitude goes to mayor and the city of which this presentation can take place. you were the first americans who believed me and this story. [laughter] [applause] >> your sponsorship gave my city the credibility to convince descendants and the press that this story is real. your hospitality has enabled me
as mayor to undertake the city's first diplomatic trip to the united states. [laughter] [applause] >> but my highest gratitude go to my descendants of fredrik, with the payment of this reward, i want to do more than just write wrong from the past. i'm also conferring on you the unofficial title of town heros. [laughter] >> if you ever come back to your role, bernakine will receive you as local celebrities. [applause] >> your ancestor became a
champion by solving the worst crime in our history and the best way we can honor him today is by honoring you. patricia of maryland, great, great, great granddaughter. jennifer, great, great, great granddaughter of fredrik. great, great, great grandson of frederick brook. robert l. and charles johnson of naples, florida, great, great granddaughter of frederick, will you please receive this check as
>> thank you. chuck, if you would come to me, please. i want to thank you so much for your invitation and i congratulate for this very organized book festival. it's perfect. [cheers and applause] >> thank you. >> in our city, we have a lot of wind yards and i took one for you, it's traveled thousands of miles in the plane for you to test it, 1225 year's old.
[inaudible conversations] >> i can take some questions but i thought first it doesn't make sense that we come all the way from germany and not show you a little bit of how beautiful our town is, so i will go a little bit further. like mayor said, we live in a town in the vineyards. our town lives primarily from the wine harvest and as a matter of fact fredrik and his family used to be a vineyard. this may have been where he worked. that's what the vineyard looked like in the fall.
palace, our city gates. we were hoping that this might entice you to come visit us. [laughter] >> oh, yeah, we don't have not only palace, we have a castle, this one dates back to the 1200's. pretty timbered homes and i offer city crime scene tours and if you -- [laughter] >> if you -- if you come and tell me you were at the book festival, i will give you one for free. [applause] >> it's a tradition in our town that the person giving the tour has to dress up in historical outfit and no produces in europe produces a mexican-american uniform but there are tons, it's unbelievable, there are tons of american civil war reenactment
clubs in europe, several in germany so it's easy to get a confederate outfit. i have with me a minstro who was a professional singer, germans had this great true crime story-telling tradition, they did it through songs. they would do tourists, show pictures and tell the story in songs, so i combined the story with old german tradition and we do the tour together. and then my credits and i'm opened to any questions. yes? [inaudible conversations]
>> was it ever determined why the assassin kaled the -- killed the mayor, was there a motive? >> oh, yeah, i reveal the motive at the very end of the book and that's the one thing i won't tell you because i want you to go out and buy the book to find out why he did it. [laughter] >> hello. after 37 years of the deceased mayor's clothes being hung up in the palace or city hall, why did they remove it? >> after 37 years of the mayor's bloody encrusted clothing, why did they remove it? actually they didn't remove it right away. i found an entry in archives that the clothing was still
hanging in the city hall in the early 1900's. unfortunately our city hall was hit by a bomb in april 1945 and the entire city hall and most of the archives were destroyed. i'm not sure what happened with the mayor's clothing, if they had been removed beforehand or burned during the bombing. >> thank you. how many years did it take for you to research all of this and put all of the puzzles together to solve the crime? >> about 3 years. i discovered the case in 2013 in a forester's dairy because he talked about the murder and it took me, i think, two years to get a book contract, some of the
research went on but i didn't do it all myself, i can't afford to fly to the united states every time i had a research question so i hired a couple of researches out here. one of them an extremely talented archivist from washington, d.c., she used to be the librarian for the washington historical society, gail mccormick, she knows the library of congress like her own backyard and was able to dig up a lot of this information. my thanks goes to her because she helped shape the book to what it is today. >> you described the recreation of the monument or the marker on the grieve site that they created or put back where it had been standing in the beginning. >> yeah, the question is could i describe the creation of the monument to the deceased mayor?
in germany, graves are reused. they're not like american cemeteries where once you're buried it says there forever. after 30 years, if the family doesn't renew the plot, the grave will be reused and the tomb stone removed. in a case like a celebrity like the mayor, they made an exception and his gravestone stood in the cemetery until the 1970's when the city decided to redo it and use it for grave. they kept the tomb stone in the attic of the fire department. when my research brought the case back to light, the city decided to take the tomb stone out of storage and monument to the mayor pretty close to the place where he got shot n the
same courtyard. >> the detective, the early detective who found the forensic federal, did he ever get credit historically? >> did the detective ever get credit for forensic discovery, no, at least not until now when my book came out. you have to realize, usually the person who publishes first gets the credit and it was alexander who published first about his discovery of forensic ballistics but a detective is morally and legally obligated to keep the details of an investigation confidential. what would have happened if the detective had published an article in 1835 saying, hey, i discovered a really cool new forensic technique and i know that the rifle in this murder
with one that had brass roots, what would the murderer have done, i would i would have buried the rifle in the woods. he was not allowed to say anything. we need to give them credit that he wasn't allowed to publish and i claim now that bernakine, germany is the origin of ballistic,i ask people if they know what it means, germany scored a goal against france. [laughter] [applause] >> how did the 200 golden reward
compared to the 1,000 euro and will the guinness book nitpick that as not paying the original reward? >> the question is how does the 200 golden compare to 1,000 euros and would the guinness world record committee would argue about it? i hope not. what do you use as your standard, do you use the price of gold, do you use the price of housing, do you use the price of food? the german bank came up with a rough estimate of 5,000 euros in today's money, but it depends on what standard you use. our city is not authorized to just give out 5,000 euros without some kind of reason. the reward that you have today
is partially from the city, 200, private individuals and bank have contributed to it to raise it to 1,000 euros, about $1,200 and the citizens of bernakine are so behind, mayor's trip, they even paid for part of this trip. this is our city's gift to you. [applause] >> we are not a very rich town, therefore, it's not very exactly changed from golden to euros and dollars. i hope you understand. [laughter] >> this is not a question. this is appreciation. the biggest reward that i received was the work that you
caused to be done, genealogy of my family. today i know where my grandmother and grandfather are buried and i have a much more complete record of -- of the ancestors and where we came from in germany, so i thank you very much, i appreciate it a great deal and that's my reward. [applause] >> how has the publication of this book impacted your life personally and professionally? >> it's enabled me to attend great events like this and speak, that has been a fun aspect of marketing the book but i feel like in my town, the fact that i have uncovered this
fascinating story has made me feel more like of a member of a town. when you're an american and move to a small german town at the beginning you can really feel like an outsider, maybe even more so than what a german might feel, if you dig up a fascinating story like this that the town finds interesting, suddenly you are one of them. i've noticed an increase in the town's acceptance of me as inhabitant and that has been really neat. [applause] >> a question over here. >> behind you. >> i was wondering what made you move there from the u.s.? >> question is why did i move
germany, i married a german. that isn't perhaps so strange as what it sounds because i'm german american. my father was german, immigrated to america. i have blood relatives there, but i married a german 22 years ago and we moved to bernakine about 20 years, a place coast to where he worked and had a great school system for the kids and i had no idea there was this murder case waiting, it seemed to me it would take an american in my town to cover the full depth and breath of this case. it was waiting for me. that's what it feels like. [applause]
>> where are you from in the united states? i know that you have family here with you today? >> yeah, i do have family, born and raised in indiana, lived every summer in new jersey. my mother lived in gaithersburg for a number of years. i practiced law in the state of washington for ten years before i got married and my family comes from new york, one is from -- two are from maryland and one from indiana. they've come all the way out today to see me and we are going to celebrate tonight. [applause]