Illinois

Woman shoots man she was obsessed with, US’s first recognized case of criminal stalking

June 14, 1949
Chicago, Illinois
Obsessed fan Ruth Ann Steinhagen shoots baseball player Eddie Waitkus in the first recognized case of a stalker crime

Steinhagen (19) had become obsessed with Waitkus while he played for the Chicago Cubs, collecting hundreds of photographs and newspaper clippings of him.

On June 14, Steinhagen sent a note to Waitkus asking to meet her in her hotel room regarding an important matter, signing the note “Ruth Ann Burns,” the same name as a woman Waitkus was dating. In the note, she mentioned that the issue demanded his immediate attention. Waitkus attempted to call the room but Steinhagen remained vague and stated it was not something that could be discussed over the phone.

Waitkus visited Steinhagen’s room where she originally intended to stab him. When he brushed passed her into the room, making his way to a chair, she fetched a .22 caliber rifle from her hotel closet instead. Various sources recounted Steinhagen telling Waitkus different things before she shot him: the Associated Press reported Steinhagen said “I have a surprise for you;” in 1989 the Los Angeles Times quoted Waitkus as saying Steinhagen told him “if I can’t have you, neither will anybody else;” and the Chicago Tribune wrote in a 2001 article that Steinhagen said “you’re not going to bother me any more.” Regardless of what was said, Steinhagen then shot Waitkus in the chest.

Steinhagen had intended to kill herself as well but, when she apparently couldn’t find another bullet, she instead called the front desk of the hotel to report the shooting. The front desk alerted police and medical services whose prompt response saved Waitkus’ life.

Steinhagen was found insane and sentenced to a mental health facility until her release in 1952. She died in 2012. Waitkus returned to baseball the year after he was shot. He died of cancer in 1972 at the age of 53.

Steinhagen’s hands are coated in paraffin wax to test for gunpowder marks.

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