tv 2018 Gaithersburg Book Festival - Ann Marie Ackermann Death of an Assassin CSPAN August 5, 2018 7:15am-8:01am EDT
feminist agenda has upended the nuclear family and negatively impact how we view relationships between men and women and i wrap up our primetime programming at 11 with john law who explores john wesley powell's journey down the colorado river or the grand canyon. all happens tonight on tv on c-span2, television for serious readers. reminder the full schedule is available on our website, booktv.org . >> ladies and gentlemen, this is an amazing and odd story, to say the least. we are here today not only to learn about ann marie ackerman's book but to witness the actual closure of a murder case set in motion 183 years ago in a small town in the southwest of germany nigheim. right? nigheim. who could have imagined at the time or at any time that
this matter could finally 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 bonnigheim to fly over and join us today so before i introduce miss ackerman, i'd like to welcome mayor cornelius hamburger, the mayor of bonnigheim germany to gaithersburg to our book festival. let's give him a big round of applause. [applause] it is a wonderful honor to have you here.
this is such a juicy story. i am not going to spoil anything. i'm not going to steal anything, i'm just going to tell you about the author. ann marie ackerman is a former prosecutor in washington. 18 years ago she moved to germany where she came across ca historical records that led her down the path of researching and writing the book she's here to speak about today, "death of an assassin: the true story of german murderer who died defending robert e. lee" miss ackerman reads and writes in german and english which enabled her to research archives in both countries. fun fact in addition to her penchant for the true crime genre, miss ackerman has written extensively about her hobby of birdwatching. so this is an amazing story. i'm so excited to present it at the bookfestival. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome ann marie ackerman . >> thanks so much for being here. if i'm not mistaken, we're going to see a world record broken today for the oldest reward for solving a murder ever made.
the city of bonnigheim has applied for a new world record title. unfortunately it takes several months to make the decision and i hope we will have that by the next gaithersburg book festival. but it's my hope if you say even though they haven't decided yet we willsee history being made. what makes this case so hafascinating is that not the only record . this case is full of records and that's 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, oldest murder case ever solved. in the 19th century murder cases were usually solved within a few weeks and within the region where the murder took place and that's because they didn't have the forensic techniques that we have right now like fingerprints and photography, etc.. i researched volumes of criminal records from germany from the 19th century and the closest i found was 12 years between murder andsolution. this is the recordbreaker . so what happened?? here's bonnigheim, the town that i live in now and the murder took place here , what you see. this salmon colored building is our palace and right next to it, the gentleman's
building. this is where our mayor lived in 1835, johann heinrich rieber and one day in 1835 he was 18walking 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 look like with a picture taken out of the palace. the mayor was only four cases from his front door when a man standing at the corner of that green building shot him in the back, turned heel and ran away. he eventually ended up in the united states . bonnigheim was so horrified by this event, the new mayor or old mayor with bloodied encrusted clothing in the city hall for over 37 years
as a reminder to the city that the crime had not yet been solved. there was an investigator who handled the case. he ran down all sorts of leads. the investigator filed runs of almost up to 800 pages. and he could not crack the case. years later, 37 years later after the investigator had died, letters came in from washington dc. this is just a snippet of it and it's written in the old gothic german handwriting so i don't expect you to the evil to read it except perhaps the very top line. what does that say? washington dc, april 29 1872. a german immigrant named frederick roth wrote this letter. he used the live in
bonnigheim and left a year after the murder because his sons thought he did it. he was never on the investigators radar but the town made his life such hell that he and his whole family pack their bags and moved to the united states and the funny thing is that if that hadn't happened, this case would never have been solved because rook in washington dc discovered the critical clue that crack the case. german prosecutors were able to find corroborating evidence in germany to prove that what rook was telling was true and could close the case solved 37 years later. that brings us to the next record. not only the coldest caseever solved the 19th century germany's only murder case ever saw in the united states . next one. first use of forensic ballistics. we had a very frustrated
detective in this case who could not find any good leads. and out of frustration, he l took the pellets that the doctor had autopsied out of the victim's body and discovered tiny little scratches on them. this is what police call striations and their cause by the rifling inside the barrel which is unusual because 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 that this did not come from a normal rifle . it came from a finely grooved rifle, a gun. most guns have six to eight grooves.
this gun had many more. he selected all the rifles in bonnigheim and he and a gunsmith test fired them and were able to eliminate the suspects weapons. i used to work as a prosecutor and immediately the alarm bells went off bebecause i knew ballistics was supposedly invented in france in 1888 by a french pathologist named alexander. and i'm thinking what in the heck is going on here in this case and i did the only thing you could do in such a situation.i called the police. the german police and i ended up in the state police crime laboratory in stuttgart where the ballistics got so interested in this case he thought he saw a narrow exception where somebody in 1835 given the technology that 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 murder and he came to the conclusion all my goodness, this was possible. the detective in this case probably really was the first to use forensic ballistics. the next record, it solves the riddle in american history, if this was only a german case i wouldn't be here talking to you today but the funny thing is that the murderer fled justice in germany and went to the united states. join the army and fought in the mexican-american war at the siege of veracruz in 1847. this is the naval battery
where they set up naval guns on land tried to break down the 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 letterhome . whole happy describing the valor of one soldier who was it twice with cannonballs, didn't die, suffered for hours until he got it by a cannonball from a prominent spanish cannon that was used to fight pirates and killed him instantly but at the very end, the captain wrote -- we went too far. i don't know if you can read that. i doubt whether all mexico
was worth the life of batman. this letter may have been forgotten if the captain didn't happen to the robert e lee. the virginia historical society acquired this letter from private possession in 1881 and since then, lead biographers have discussed this letter. why did lee write back about somebody ? the suffering of one man exempts the military goal of the united states. he never mentioned the man's name. he probably didn't know the man's name but it turns out it was the assassin from bonnigheim germany who killed our mayor. as you read my book, i tell how i came to that conclusion with documents from the national archives. i had to go through all the deaths in the battery to
eliminate the ones that did not match the description so what a wonderful opportunity to tell american history and a true crime story, and a record-breaking true crime story. but now we are coming up to the exciting part, theoldest reward ever paid . bonnigheim germany chase frederick road to america. when he wrote the letter in 1872, the city had long issued a reward for identification leading, for information leading to the identification of thekiller . this was written, this is a city council minutes for bonnigheim germany. written the day after the mayor got shot. offering, this is in german, 500 golden for information
leading to the events identification. what happened when rook set the letter in 1872? the reward never got paid and i'm pretty sure i know the reason why.ec the city minutes got misfiled. the detectives in this case wrote an appeal in the newspaper or people to offer information and use the city council minutes as a basis for his article. and then when he got done he forgot to give it back to the city and he filed it in his own file and when the casewas solved , that got filed in the state archive. when rook's letter came in in 1872 there may have been people in the city who remembered the reward but they couldn't find the documentation that would authorize to pay such a hefty sum of money. when i discovered this
permission three years ago i went to my mayor, mister bomb burger and i said why don't we pay it now?he said he didn't think the city would really be obligated to honor a reward from 1835 but wouldn't it be the moral and diplomatic thing to do? that leads us up to the real events today. the reward from germany. i am going to turn it over to mister bomberger now and this is your chance to witness a world record. mister bomberger? [applause]
>> thank you miss ackerman. ladies and gentlemen, i'm happy to join you today with my son marcus and miss ackerman. this is my first trip to your country. [applause] and my first impression is a wonderful country with wonderful people. [applause] many things unite german cities and american cities, not only the culture of immigration. in the case of gaithersburg, an international tale of intrigue finds us . and assassin gunned down my predecessor in 1835 and we
issue a reward of 200 golden for informationleading to the assassins identification , who would have thought it would end up here at the gaithersburg book festival in a gaithersburg resident so many years later? [applause] the murder of chairman johann heinrich rieber was in my town in the 19th century. although top-notch investigators tracked down leads, the town people have their own suspects and one of them was identified as a-year-old carmaker named frederick rupp. we now know he didn't do it but they wronged him.
they turned his life into a nightmare and forced him to enter emigrate to the united states year later. rupp began a new life in washington dc where he found the crucial clue in 1872. evidence suppressed the case. the german prosecutor would cooperate corroborate reps to . but frederick rupp once again, we never paid the reward. that was because the minute documenting it in 1835 got misfiled.n we are aware of our error until ann marie ackerman discovered it while researching her book.
183 years have passed since the murder. 146 since rupp should have received this reward. that is a long time. we have applied for a new world record title, oldest reward for solving a murder. wit grants us the honor our two cities will also have. the passage of so many years makes no difference to me as a mayorma. the assassination of the top city administrator will always remain after chapter after chapter of bonnigheim's history and i say bonnigheim
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 recognition and the money. tiour gratitude goes to the mayor and the city of gaithersburg for providing the forum for this presentation can take place. you were the first americans liwho believed me and this story.y your sponsorship gave my city the credibility to convince rupp defendants in the press that this story is real. your hospitality has enabled me as bonnigheim as mayor to undertake the city's first diplomatic trips to the united states.
but my highest gratitude goes to the defendant of frederick rupp. with the payment of this reward i want to do more to right the wrongs of this town. i'm also conferring on you the unofficial title of town hero. if you ever come back, if you ever come back to your old, bonnigheim will receive you with propriety. [applause] your ancestor frederick rupp became a champion of bonnigheim by solving the worst crime in our history and the best way we can honor him today is s by honoring you.
patricia basinger of gaithersburg maryland, great-grandfather of frederick rupp, great granddaughter of frederick rupp, richard humphreys of new jersey, great-great-grandson of frederick rupp. robert humphreys of georgia, great-great-grandson of frederick rupp could not attend today but will also receive a portion of the reward . doris johnson of naples , florida, great, great granddaughter of frederick rupp, will you please receive this as a small token of my cities appreciation, yes? okay. [applause] if you'll take
i want to thank you so much for your invitation and i congratulate to these very perfect organized gaithersburg book festival. it's perfect. thank you. >> in our city we have a lot of wind gusts and i took my representation whines for you. it travel thousands of miles in the flame for you to test with and a small booklet of our city, it's a very small town and you can have some impressions of it. thank you so much for you and your self, thank you. [applause]
>> i can take questions but it doesn't make sense that he come all the way from germany and not show you a little bit of how beautiful our town is. so i'll go a little bit further. as mayor bomberger said, we live in a town nestled, our town lives primarily from the wine harvest and as a matter of fact, frederick rupp and his family used to have a vineyard, this may have been where he worked. that's what the vineyard looked like in the fall. bonnigheim's palace. our city gates. see, we are kind of hoping this might entice you to come visit us . we have not only a palace, we
have a castle, this one dates back to the1200s . pretty half timbered homes and i also offered city crime scene tours and if you come to bonnigheim and tellme you were a gaithersburg book festival, i'll give you one for free . it's a tradition in our town that the person giving the tour have to dress up in ndhistorical outfits and no cover in europe produces a mexican-american war 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 minstrel who
is a professional singer because back in the 19th century , germans had this great true crime story telling tradition. they get through songs. they would do tours, show pictures and tell the story in songs so i combined this true story with the old german tradition and we do the tour together. and then my credits and i'm open to any questions. [inaudible] >> was it ever determined why the assassin told the man, what was their motive?
>> my book is structured not as a whodunit but how catch them? sei revealed the motive at the end of the book and that's one thing i will tell you because i want you to go out and buy the book to findout why did . >> hello. after 37 years of the disease mayors close being hung in the palace by the city hall, why they remove it? >> the question is after 37 years of the mayor's blood encrusted clothing hanging in the city hall, why do they haremove it? they didn't remove it right away. i found the entry in our archive that the clothing was still hanging in the 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 , it had been removed beforehand or if they heard. during the bombing. >> thank you. how many years did it take for you to research all this and put all the puzzles s together to solve the crime? >> about three years. i discovered the case in 2013 in a forrester's diary talking about the murder and took me two years to get a book contract, some of the research wenton 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 no i hired a couple researchers
and one of them an extremely talented archivist from washington dc. she's been a 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 undying thanks goes 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 that they created were put back and had been standing in the beginning? >> the question is i describe the creation of amonument to the disease mayor . in germany, graves are reused . they are not like american cemeteries where one is here
and they stay there forever so after about 30years as a family , the family doesn't renew the plot and the grave wouldn't be used and the tombstone removed. in the case of a celebrity like our mayor, they make an gexception and his gravestone stood in the cemetery until the 1970s when the city decided to remove it and reuse it for a grade but they kept the tombstone in the attic of the fire department. and when this, when my research brought the 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 thesame courtyard . >> the detective, the early detective who found the
material, did he ever get credit historically? >> did the tech give ever get credit for his discovery, no. at least not until now when my books 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 the detective is morally and legally obligated to keep the details of an investigation confidential. what would have happened if the detective had published eyan article in 1835 day and hey, i discovered a really cool new forensic technique and i know the rifle in this murder case was one that had bristling, what with 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 closed and i think we need to give him credit for that that he wasn't allowed to publish and i claim no, that bonnigheim germany is the birthplace of forensic ballistics. when i get my tours in german , iasked the people if they realize what this means . germany just went vertical against france. >> how does the 200 gulden reward compared to the b,1000? do you pick that is not
paying the original reward? >> the question is how does the 200 gulden compared to b,1000 and will the guinness world record committing about it? i hope not. even economists today would argue about what 200 gulden is worth today? do you use the price of gold, housing, do you use the price of food?the german bank came up with a rough estimate of b,5000 in today's money, but it depends on what standard you use. our city is not authorized to just get out b,5000 without some kind of reason. the reward you have today is partially from the city, 200 gould and the private individuals and the bank have contributed to raise it to
b,1000 about 1200 dollars and the citizens of bonnigheim are so behind mayor bomberger's trip they even paid for part of the trip. this is our city's gift to you. [applause] >> we are not a value rich count. therefore, not very changed from euros to dollars, i hope you understand. >> this is not a question, this is actually an appreciation. the biggest reward that i received was the work that you cause to be done from genealogy of my family. today, i know where my grandmother and grandfather buried and i have a much more
complete record of the ancestors and where we came from in germany. so i thank you very much. i appreciate it a great deal. >>. [applause] >> how has the publication of this book impacted your life personally, professionally? >> it 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 a member of the town. when you're an american and
moved to a small germantown at the beginning you can feel like an outsider, maybe even more so than what a german might feel, but then if you tell a fascinating story like this , suddenly you are one of them.i noticed an increase in the town's acceptance of me as an inhabitants. and that's been really neat. [applause] we have a question over here.>> i was wondering what made you move there? >> why do i live there, why did i moved to bonnigheim germany? i married a german.
and that's not as strange as what it sounds because i'm german-american. my fatherwas german, immigrated to america . i have blood relatives there but i married a german 22 years ago and we moved to bonnigheim about 20 years ago , this place close to where you work and it had a great school system for the kids and i had no idea there was this murder case. it seemed to me it would take an american in my town to cover the full depth and breadth of this case. it was waiting for me there. that's what it feels like. [applause] >> where are you from inthe united states, i know you have family with you today . >> i do have family, born and raised in indiana.
we summer in new jersey and my mother lived in gaithersburg maryland for a number of years so this is not my first time here and i studied law and practiced law in the state of washington. for 10 years before i got married. and my family comes from new york, one is from maryland. two are frommaryland and one from indiana . they come all the way out today to see me and we are going to celebrate tonight . [applause] >> book tv recently visited capitol hill to ask members of congress what they are reading. >> i've got a couple books i am reading, one is the
american experience by david mccullough, a compilation of speeches that is given and mccullough is one of my favorite authors . he wrote a biography of john adams, written a number of buyout biographies but he also wrote a book in 1776 that is about that year and the founding of america but it's really about george washington who is my favorite president. the other book is restoring quality healthcare by scott alice and i come from the think tank background, that's what i did for 25 years before i ran for congress so i'm kind of a nerd i guess and i've been to meetings with scott and am so impressed ideas on what we need to do to have a quality healthcare system and i think i would add an affordable healthcare system.a couple other books that i've read this summer, one back in the spring was the little things by andyandrews . it's a really good little book.
i think i've read everything and he has written, he's an excellent author and my wife is reading one ofhis books right now the travelers get . and then also just finished a book called the power of a humble life and it's really convincing by a guy named richard simmons who is a resident in birmingham, an outstanding book and then on my list for the rest of the summer is a book by eric matanzas called if you can keep it and then one that by gordon wood, france divided and it's important reading that now because it's about thomas everson and john adams and i think most people understand the importance of those two. obviously adams was our
second president i'm not sure they know the back story and that's what i think this book is about. adams and jefferson were great friends, adams had a tremendous opinion of jefferson and his intellect and writing ability and it was adams that insisted that jefferson aspart of a committee , jefferson be the one who wrote the draft of the declaration. and later in life they became estranged. jefferson ran for the presidency and be adams. adams was notable to serve a second term .and that caused the feud between the two and over the years after jefferson left office their friends began to encourage them to be reconciled and they began by writing letters .
fascinating, insightful letters and they were reconciled and all i could take people on private tours of the capital and i'll take them to the rotunda and i'll show them a draw jonathan trouble thinking of the signing of the declaration and trumbull was a contemporary and he knew the dynamics of the relationship and i don't know how many people would notice this but in the painting he painted jefferson standing on adams left foot which i think was his way of capturing that division that existed for a while. but the good news is they were reconciled. adams died on july 4, 1826, 15 years to the day and it's reported that his last words if not his last words, close to his last words were thank god jefferson lives and jefferson died four hours later though i think it's really interesting but the
path that these two gentlemen took and how theycame back together toward the end of crtheir life . i look forward to reading that and getting more of the back story's book tv wants to know what you are reading. send us your summer reading list on twitter, instagram or facebook. book tv on c-span2: television for serious readers. >> .. from the school of journalism at columbia. for his courage, sorry, for his coverage of drug trafficking in incumbent corruption along the board