An Ohio man serving a life sentence for the shooting deaths of 11 family members, including eight children, on Easter in 1975 has died.
James Ruppert, 88, died Saturday at the prison system’s Franklin Medical Center in Columbus. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced his death Monday, saying that Ruppert apparently died of natural causes but that the official cause of death is pending.
At the time of the shootings, Ruppert lived with his mother at her home in Hamilton. He reportedly struggled with alcohol and was unemployed.
Ruppert’s brother, sister-in-law and their eight children were visiting for the holiday when his brother asked him about his car, a remark Ruppert took as an insult because he thought his brother — a successful engineer — was judging him.
Authorities said Ruppert used three pistols and a rifle to fire 44 shots, with 40 hitting his victims. The bodies of the eight children — who ranged in age from 4 to 16 — were found strewn across the two first-floor rooms of the house:
A psychiatrist would testify that Ruppert lay on a couch for two hours after the shootings and contemplated suicide, but that it would have been a mortal sin and that Ruppert didn’t want that to be his last act, so he instead called police.
After three trials, Ruppert was convicted in 1982 of two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his mother and brother but was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the other killings. He was serving two consecutive life sentences and had been denied parole several times.
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