Long-lost reward for German assassin’s ID to be paid 146 years later at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland
Author Ann Marie Ackermann, German mayor will present the reward in May.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Gaithersburg, MARYLAND – A year after releasing her debut true crime book, “Death of an Assassin,” author Ann Marie Ackermann will be joined by special guests at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland on May 19 to present a reward that has remained unpaid for 146 years. The recipients are the American descendants of a man who solved the assassination of a German mayor in 1835. Two of the descendants, Jennifer Manion and Patricia Beisner, live in Gaithersburg, Md. Descendant Robert Humphreys lives in Clarkston, Ga., and Richard Humphreys lives in Fanwood, NJ. All four will be attending the May 19 event.
Ackermann’s book, released by Kent State University Press in 2017, tracked the never-before-told story of the assassin, Gottlob Rueb, who fled Germany and later died in Mexico defending Robert E. Lee’s position in battle during the Mexican-American War. Frederick Rupp, a German immigrant in Washington, D.C., provided the crucial tip in 1872 that solved the murder, but the reward was never paid after the city council minutes recording the decision to offer the prize were misfiled and archived.
“I believe this is the oldest reward for solving a murder to have ever been paid out – a case, perhaps, for the Guinness Book of World Records,” said Ackermann.
The current mayor of Bönnigheim, Germany, Kornelius Bamberger, and Gaithersburg Mayor and Book Festival Founder Jud Ashman will accompany Ackermann on May 19 to finally bestow the long-lost reward of €1,000 to members of the family of the man who originally solved the case.
“Over the past eight years the Gaithersburg Book Festival has played host to many wonderful stories,” said Mayor Ashman, “but I don’t recall one quite as intriguing as this one.”
“The reward ceremony will bring a 180-year-old cold case to its closure,” said Ackermann. “That man did our city an incredible favor 146 years ago and Bönnigheim owes its descendants the recognition. They are town heroes in Germany.”
About Ann Marie Ackermann and The Gaithersburg Book Festival
Ann Marie Ackermann is a former attorney with focuses on criminal and medical law. Eighteen years ago, she moved to Bönnigheim, Germany, the town in which the assassination occurred, and is a member of its historical society. Ackermann’s intimate knowledge of the town and of the German language enabled her to bring the German and American sides of this story together. She has a number of academic publications in law, ornithology, and history.
The Gaithersburg Book Festival is an annual all-day celebration of books, writers and literary excellence. Quickly becoming one of the premier literary events in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, the 2018 Festival is scheduled for Saturday, May 19, on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall, in Olde Towne Gaithersburg, Md. Activities will include author appearances, discussions and book signings; writing workshops; a Children’s Village; onsite sales of new and used books; literary exhibitors and food, drink, ice cream and more. FREE admission and accessible shuttle will be available from Shady Grove Metro and Lakeforest Mall. The Gaithersburg Book Festival also hosts author events in Montgomery County throughout the year as a way to encourage continued appreciation for all things literary. For more information please visit www.gaithersburgbookfestival.orgor follow on Twitter @GburgBookFest.
About the Book:
“Death of an Assassin”
Ann Marie Ackermann | September 1, 2017 | Kent State University Press
Historical True Crime
The first volunteer killed defending Robert E. Lee’s position in battle was really a German assassin. After fleeing to the United States to escape prosecution for murder, the assassin enlisted in a German company of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Mexican-American War and died defending Lee’s battery at the Siege of Veracruz in 1847. Lee wrote a letter home, praising this unnamed fallen volunteer defender. Military records identify him, but none of the Americans knew about his past life of crime.
Before fighting with the Americans, Lee’s defender had assassinated Johann Heinrich Rieber, mayor of Bönnigheim, Germany, in 1835. Rieber’s assassination became 19th-century Germany’s coldest case ever solved outside of a confession and the only 19th-century German murder ever solved in the United States. Thirty-seven years later, another suspect in the assassination who had also fled to America found evidence in Washington, D.C. that would clear his own name, and he forwarded it to Germany. The German prosecutor Ernst von Hochstetter corroborated the story and closed the case file in 1872, naming Lee’s defender as Rieber’s murderer.
An Interview with Ann Marie Ackermann
How did you discover this case chronicled in “Death of an Assassin?”
In a 19th century forester’s diary detailing the murder, committed in 1835, and the solution in 1872 from Washington, D.C. It was highly unusual for a cold case that old to be solved in the 19th century. That piqued my interest. The assassin had fled to the USA and I started tracking him through the American archives. When the trail led me to Robert E. Lee – the assassin had died at his feet and Lee had written a letter about him – I knew this was more than just a German true crime story. It’s also American history.
What obstacles did you encounter in your international research?
Learning to read the old script you find in the German archives was daunting. I had to wade through nearly 800 pages of it in the original investigative file. I also hired a talented archivist to help me with research in the American archives because I couldn’t afford to fly over the pond every time I had a question.
Why did the original reward for solving this case never get paid?
The city minutes authorizing the reward got misfiled in the state archives. I suspect the city couldn’t find the minutes when the murder was finally solved and was hence unauthorized to pay out the money.
How in the world did you track down the descendants of the man who solved this case?
Gail McCormick, an American archivist and genealogist who helped me with American archival research for this book, helped track them down.
That must have been a bizarre experience for the family, to hear that their ancestor provided the information that identified a German assassin and there was a long-lost reward. What was their reaction when you told them about all of this?
At first they thought it was a hoax! Only after I sent them a copy of my book and my German mayor wrote their mayors did they believe us.
When did you move to Germany from the United States?
1996. I married a German.
For people who have never visited, what is Bönnigheim, Germany, like?
A rural town with a 1,200-year-old history nestled among the rolling vineyards of southwest Germany.
What’s next for you?
So many Germans want to read the story too! Kent State University Press and I are looking for a German publisher. In the meantime, I lead crime scene tours about this case, both in English and German.
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