tv 2018 Gaithersburg Book Festival - Ann Marie Ackermann Death of an Assassin CSPAN June 30, 2018 9:15am-10:01am EDT
programs. twitter.com/booktv. >> this is an amazing and odd story to say the least. we are not only to learn about ann marie ackerman's book to witness the actual closure of a murder case set in motion 183 years ago in a small town in southwest germany called birmingham. who could have imagined at the time or at any time that this matter could be put to rest two centuries later in a city more than 4000 miles away in gaithersburg. it was enough to get the mayor of birmingham here to fly over and join us today. before introduce miss ackerman i would like to welcome mayor
cornelius van berger, mayor of birmingham, germany, to our book festival. let's give him a great round of applause. it is a wonderful honor. such a juicy story. i'm not going to steal any thunder. ann marie ackerman is a former attorney, former prosecutor in the state of washington. 18 years ago she moved to birmingham, germany, where she came across the historical record the letter down the path of researching and writing the book she is here to speak book she is here to speak today, "death of an assassin: the true story of the german murderer who died defending robert e. lee". ann marie ackerman reads and writes in both german and english, which enabled her to research archives in both
countries. fun facts, in addition to her pension and the true crime genre, she has written extensively about her hobby, birdwatching. ladies and gentlemen, welcome ann marie ackerman. [applause] >> thanks for being here. if i am not mistaken, you are going to see a world record broken today for the oldest reward for solving a murder ever paid. the city of birmingham applied a new world record titled, unfortunately it takes guinness a while to make the decision. i hope we will have that by the next gaithersburg book festival.
it is my hope if you stay even though guinness hasn't decided yet, you will see history being made. what makes this case so fascinating is that is not the only record. this case is pool of records and that is a good way to bring you back to germany in 1835 and explain to you what happened and how that led up to this moment here in gaithersburg. first record, 19th century germany's coldest murder case ever solved. back in the 19th century, murder cases were usually solved within a few weeks and within the region where the murder took place because they didn't have the forensic techniques that we have right
now like fingerprinting, photography, etc.. i researched volumes of criminal reports from germany from the 19th century, and the closest i found was 12 years between murder and solution. this is the recordbreaker. what happened? here is the town i live in now and the murder took place here, you see this salmon colored building, our palace. and right 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 spray of pellets in the back.
this is what the crime scene looked like with the picture taken out of the palace. 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 actually ended up in the united states. the new mayor hung up the old mayor's ability encrusted clothing in the city hall. for over 37 years, as a reminder to the city the crime had not yet 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 later after the
investigator died a letter came in from washington dc. this is just a snippet of it and written in the old gothic german handwriting, don't expect to read it. except for the top line. what does that say? washington dc, april 29, 1872. a german immigrant wrote this, a year after the murder because townsfolk thought he did it. he was never on the investigators radar, but made his life, he and his whole family packed their bags and moved to the united states. in washington dc, the critical
clue that cracked the case, the german prosecutor was able to find corroborating evidence in germany to prove that what work was telling was true and close the case solved 37 years later but 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 forensics, we had a very frustrated detective in this case who could not find any good leads. out of frustration, he took the shot pellets the doctors autopsied of the victim's body and discovered funny little scratches on them. this is what police called
striations, and the murderer, usually you use a shotgun to fire shots, a rifle to fire a bullet but this murderer happened to use a rifle to fire shots 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 grooved rifles gun, and 6 to 8 grooves, this gun had many more. and testfired them because -- able to illuminate suspect weapons. and was suspended in france in
18884 alexander -- i am thinking what is going on here. the only thing you could do in that situation, i called the police, the german police and ended up in the state police crime laboratory where the ballistic technicians got so interested in this case, he thought he saw a narrow exception where somebody in 1835 given the technology they had been might have been able to use a forensic 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 was the first to use for insect ballistics. the next record, a riddle in american history. if this was a german case i wouldn't be here talking about it today but the murderer went to the united states, joined the army and thought the mexican american war at the siege of veracruz in 1847. this is a naval battery where they set up naval guns on land to breakdown the city walls of veracruz. and this was handled by a young captain who was so impressed with the person who died at his feet that he wrote a letter
home. a whole halfpage, when the soldier the price of cannonballs didn't buy, suffered for hours until he got hit by a cannonball from a giant spanish cannon used to fight pirates and children instantly. at the end the captain wrote we went too far. i don't know if you can read that. i doubt whether all mexico is worth to us the life of that man. this letter may have finally been forgotten if the captain didn't happen to be robert e lee, the virginia historical society acquired this letter from private possession in
1881, and biographers discussed this, widely right that about somebody? was he trying to balance, a military goal to the united states. never mention the man's name, didn't know the man's name, turns out it was the assassin from germany who killed the mayor. if you read my book, and came to that conclusion with documents from the national archives, go through all the desks in the battery, and matched the description. one an opportunity to do that. and we are coming up to the exciting part, the oldest
reward, to america. in 1872, the city had long issued a reward, and the identification of the killer. this was written, this was a city council from germany written on the day after the mayor got shot. this was in german, 500 -- for information leading to the identification. what happened when roque sent a letter in 1872? the reward never got paid. i am pretty sure i know the reason why. the city minutes got misfiled. the detective in this case wrote an appeal in the
newspaper for people to offer information, and the city council minutes on the basis of the article. and he filed it in his own file and the state archives, in 1872, there may have been people in the city who know the rewards but couldn't find the documentation that would authorize, pay such a healthy sum of money. when i discovered this three years ago i went to my mayor and said why don't we pay it now. and didn't think the city was legally obligated to honor the reward from 1835 but would that 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. bob berger now, to watch world history being made. mr. bob berger? [applause] >> thank you. ladies and gentlemen, i am happy to join you today, this is my first trip to your country. [applause]
>> my first impression is it is a wonderful country with wonderful people. [applause] >> many things unite american cities in german cities, not only the cost of immigration, in gaithersburg, an unusual tale of crime and international intrigue binds us. and my predecessor in 1835, a reward of 200 golden leading, who would have thought it would be here at the gaithersburg book festival so many years
later. the -- town in the 19th century. also top-notch investigator tracked down leads. and their own suspect and one of them, he did not do it but burning i'm robbed him. and forced him to immigrate to the united states a year later. began a new life in washington dc where he found a crucial clue in 1872. the evidence the cracked the
case. the german prosecutor could corroborate and close the case but burning i'm robbed fabric once again. we never paid the reward. they were originally documenting it in 1835, we were not even aware of the error until ackerman discovered it while researching the "death of an assassin: the true story of the german murderer who died defending robert e. lee". 183 years have passed since the murder, 165 have passed since this reward. the city of burning time has applied for a world record title, the oldest reward
involving a murder ever paid. our two cities also have a new world record by trust. the passage of so many makes no difference to me as a mayor. the assassination of the top city administrator will always remain a black chapter chapter of burningheim's history and they should pay the reward after so many years because it is important to my town. the truth should always come out in the end and so should the recognition and the money. our gratitude goes to the city of gaithersburg for providing a
before him in which this presentation can take place. you were the first americans who believed me and this story. your sponsorship gave my city the ability to convince the press that this story is real. your hospitality has enabled me to undertake the city's first diplomatic trip to the united states. [applause] >> my highest gratitude goes to the descendents of frederick, with the payment of this reward i want to do more than right the wrongs of the past. i'm also conferring the
unofficial title of town hero. if you ever come back to your ancestral home, we will receive your summit right here. [applause] >> a champion of burninghim by solving the worst crime in our history and the best way we can honor him today is by honoring you. patricia paes and her, great-granddaughter of frederick, jennifer manion of gaithersburg, maryland, great-granddaughter, richard lee humphreys from new jersey,
great great-great-grandson of frederick, humphreys of georgia, great friend grandson of frederick could not attend today but also receive a portion of the reward. johnson of naples, florida, great-granddaughter of frederick, please check as a small token of my city's appreciation, yes? [applause] [inaudible conversations]
the vineyards. our town, primarily from the wine harvest. used to have a vineyard, this may have been where he worked? that is where vineyards looked in the fall. the palace, our city gates, we were hoping this might entice you to visit us. not only a palace, we have a castle, this dates to the 1200s, have to numbered homes and i offer city crime scene tours and if you tell me you
were at the gaithersburg book festival i will give you one for free. it is a tradition in our town that the person giving the tour has to dress up in a historical outfit. no settler in europe produces a mexican-american war uniform but there are tons of american civil war reenactment club in europe, several in germany, easy to get a confederate outfit. i have with me a minstrel who is a professional singer. in the 19th century, germans had this great true crime storytelling tradition, they did it through song, they would tell the story and song so i combined this true story with old german tradition it be we
do the tour together. i am open to any questions. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> was it ever determined why the assassin killed the mayor? was there a motive? >> yes. my book is structured that way. i reveal the motive at the very end of the book and that is 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.
>> after 37 years of the deceased mayor's clothes being hung in the palace or city hall, why did they remove? species after 37 years of the mayor's ability encrusted clothing hanging in city hall, why did they remove it? they didn't remove it right away. i found an entry in our archives the clothing was still hanging in city hall in the early 1900s. unfortunately our city hall was hit by a bomb in april 1945 and the entire city hall and most of the archives were destroyed and i'm not sure what happened to the mayor's clothing. if they were removed beforehand or if they burned during the bombing.
>> how many years did it take you to research office and put all the puzzles together to solve a crime? >> about three years. i discovered the case in 2013 in the forrester's diary. it took me two years to get a book contract, the research went on but i didn't do it all myself as i can't afford to fly to the united states every time i have a research question so i hired a couple researchers, one of the men extremely talented archivist from washington dc who 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 information. my undying thanks to her
because she helped shape the book to what it is today. >> could you describe the re-creation of the monument or the marker on the gravesite they created or put back that had been standing in the beginning? >> the question is could i describe the creation of the monument to the deceased mayor? in germany, graves are reused, not like american cemeteries where once you are buried at days forever. after about 30 years if the family doesn't renew the plot, the graves will be reused and the tombstone removed. in the case of a celebrity like our mayor they make an exception and his gravestone stood in the cemetery until the 1970s when the city decided to
remove it and reuse it for a grave but they kept the tombstone in the attic of the fire department and when my research brought this case back to life the city decided to take the tombstone out of storage and erect a monument to the mayor pretty close to the place where he got shot in the same courtyard. >> the early detective who found the forensic materials did he ever get credit historically? >> did the detective get credit for his forensic discovery? know. 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 but his
discovery of forensic ballistics, a detective is morally and legally obligated to keep the details of an investigation confidential. what would have happened if the detective published an article in 1835 saying i discovered a really cool new foreign zika technique and i know the rifle in this murder case was one with -- what would the murderer have done? if it was me i would have buried my rifle in the woods. he was not allowed to say anything and he died before the case was solved and we need to give him credit that he wasn't allowed to publish and i claim now that brimmingheim, german is the birthplace of forensics.
i ask people what this means, talk, dig in front, germany scored a goal against france. >> how does the 200 golden reward compared to the 1000 and pick that as not paying the -- original reward. >> how does this compare to 1000 and will the guinness world record committee nitpick about it? i hope not. a reward is a reward. even economists would argue about what to do, what do you use as your standard, the price
of gold, price of housing? price of food? the german bank came up with a rough estimate of 5000 in today's money but it depends what standard you use. our city is not authorized to give out 5000, private individuals and to raise it, $1200 and the citizens are so behind the trip, they paid for part of this trip. this is our city's gift to you. [applause]
>> we are not a very rich town so it has not exactly changed from euros and dollars. i hope you understand. >> this is not a question but appreciation. to know where my grandmother and grandfather are buried, i have a more complete record of ancestors, where we came from in germany. so i thank you very much, appreciate it a great deal and that is my reward. [applause]
>> has publication of this book impacted your life personally, professionally? >> it enabled me to attend great events. and a fun aspect of marketing the book, and uncovered this fascinating story. and a small town, you feel like an outsider and even more so than what the german might feel, and a fascinating story like this, the town finds interesting, suddenly you are one of them. i noticed an increase in the town accept texans of me.
that has been really neat. [applause] >> a question over here? >> what made you move there. >> why did i move to germany? i married a german. that is not as strange as it sounds, and i had blood relatives there, to birmingham time, 20 years ago, a place close to where he lived and a great school system. i had no idea this murder case,
it would take an american in my town to cover full depth and breadth of the case. it is waiting for me. that is what it feels like. [applause] >> where are you from in the united states? i know you have family here with you today. >> i do have family, born and raised in indiana, lived in new jersey, my mother lived in gaithersburg, maryland for a number of years so this is not my first time here. i studied and practiced law in the state of washington for ten years before i got married and my family comes from new york,
>> i have a theory about why the left is also hostile and it goes back to election day. think about all of their friends who are liberals who about 8:00 on election evening were about to pop the champagne, break the glass ceiling, they were going to get a left-wing supreme court justice, they were going to have policies on the left, they were going to have weakness overseas, they were going to raise taxes, life was good. two hours later, some of you may have lived through this, seen it in whatever room you were in, they were suddenly staring at each other beginning to realize not only is she not going to be president, but that means donald trump is going to be president. i believe what happened was a traumatic event comparable to a psychosis that the intensity
and speed of the change was so great that most liberals today suffer from a political variance of ptsd. the part of trump's genius is he tweets every morning and so these people who go to bed and spend the night trying not to think of the nightmare that is occurring and they wake up in the morning and they are about to begin a happy new day and they see a trump tweet and suddenly realize he is still president. they can't get over this, like watching groundhog day as a political film and come back to it again and again and again and that is a big part of why you have this extraordinary level of anger. >> you can watch this and other programs firstname.lastname@example.org.
best-selling author brad for will be on in-depth fiction addiction live sunday at noon eastern. 's latest book spymaster will be published on july 3rd. his other books include use of force, the lines of lucerne, black list, state of the union and 14 more thrillers. .. . [ cheers and applause ]. >> ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage alyssa