The Servant Girl Annihilator

On Christmas Eve in 1884, Austin became the scene for the first reported serial killer in America. For one year he terrorized Austin killing 9 people. All but two were black servant girls, killing them with an axe and then raping them. The last two murders, on Christmas Eve 1885, were that of upper class white women. To this day the murders have never been solved. All of this happened three years before the famous Jack the Ripper in England.

Mollie Smith, was discovered in the snow next to the outhouse behind 901 W. Pecan St
Eliza Shelley’s murder May 6 corner of San Jacinto and Cypress Streets
Irene Cross was brutally murdered with a knife
That August, a servant named Rebecca Ramey was knocked unconscious while she slept in her bed. Her eleven-year-old daughter, Mary, was dragged to a backyard and stabbed through the ear with an iron rod, and raped.

ON September 27th, early in the morning, Mr. W. B. Dunham heard a noise coming from his servant’s cabin, followed by a woman screaming. Dunham grab his gun and swung open the door to see a woman fighting with a man at his gate. He leveled his gun at them and yelled at them to stop making all that noise. The man fled into the dark streets to the big thicket a few blocks back of the houses. The woman was Lucinda Boddy and she occupied the cabin with a man named Orange Washington and his wife Gracie Vance and anther woman named Patsie Gibson. The killer entered the room of the sleeping occupants through a window, and before any of them awoke succeeded in striking all four of them on the head with an axe. Seizing Gracie Vance, he dragged her through a window, threw her over a fence, and then pulled her through weeds across a vacant lot to a rear stable. Gracie recovered consciousness and was overpowered and her head battered with a brick that was found nearby smeared with her blood. While she was struggling between life and death, her murderer brutally raped her. A watch was found on her person with the chain tied around her arm. A horse was also found saddled and tied to a tree near the scene.

All the previous victims had been black. On Christmas Eve, Sue Hancock, a white woman, was discovered by her husband lying in their back yard. Her head had been split open by an ax, and a sharp, thin object was lodged in her brain through her ears like Mary Ramey.

About an hour later, Eula Phillips was found dead in the wealthiest neighborhood in the city, near where the Austin Public Library stands today. Lying in an unlit alley behind her father-in-law’s home where she lived with her husband and son, her bare body was discovered with her skull bashed in by an ax, and heavy pieces of timber had been placed across her arms, as if to keep her pinned down during the attack. And she had been raped. Jimmy, her husband was found in his father’s home lying in their bed, nearly unconscious, a severe gash in the back of his head. The little boy was next to him, unharmed, holding an apple. Eula was found by following the trail of blood from the bedroom to the alley.

To this day the murders have remained unsolved. The City erected the now famous “Moonlight Towers” in 1895 in order to light up the neighborhoods so people would feel safe walking around after sun down. The women forever rest in some-what peace in Oakwood Cemetery.