October 24, 1959
Ann Arbor, Michigan
James Vogel shoots and kills his sister Gwendolyn after an argument regarding who would sit in an armchair

James (17) got in an argument Gwendolyn (14) over who would sit in an armchair as they watched television. After the argument, James grabbed a bolt-action single shot shotgun. His mother screamed at him and attempted to stop him, though she ran to a neighbor’s to call police after James threatened to kill her. James then shot his sister twice — once in the neck and shoulders, the second in her head — and fled.

As James was running he shot at a bystander and police. Birdshot pellets struck Mary Elaine Root (22) in the face and neck, some of which penetrated an eye. When Root was discharged from the hospital several days later, she still had pellets in her eye and her vision was “markedly impaired,” but required no further treatment. James also wounded patrolman Charles Anderson in the leg and arm as the officer attempted to subdue the teen.

While in custody, James told police “I hate everyone,” “I’m going to be a dictator someday,” and lamented “people are always laughing at me behind my back.”

James was declared insane and committed to a mental health facility following the testimonies of three psychiatrists. He was ordered to remain in Ionia State Hospital until he was “restored to sanity.” He was released from the hospital in 1963 and acquitted after the judge deemed James was insane at the time of the killing.

Clipping: Lansing State Journal. October 26, 1959


  • “1959 Slayer Freed From Ionia Hospital.” Port Huron Times Herald [Port Huron, Michigan] December 7, 1963
  • “Commissioners Appointed for Sanity Hearing.” The State Journal [Lansing, Michigan]. September 7, 1963
  • “Slayer of Sister Declared Insane.” Escanaba Daily Press [Escanaba, Michigan] December 7, 1959
  • “Youth Enters Stars Hospital.” Ironwood Daily Globe [Ironwood, Michigan]. December 5, 1959
  • “Ann Arbor Boy, 14, Who Killed Sister Gets Sanity Hearing.” Escanaba Daily Press [Escanaba, Michigan]. November 21, 1959
  • “Vision of Shooting Victim Is Impaired.” Battle Creek Enquirer [Battle Creek, Michigan]. November 5, 1959
  • “Ann Arbor Youth, 17, Murders 14-Year-Old Sister.” The Ann Arbor News [Ann Arbor, Michigan]. October 26, 1959
  • “Had Delusions Of Hitlerism.” The Times Herald [Port Huron, Michigan]. October 26, 1959
  • “Killer Likes Dictators. Ann Arbor Youth Calm in Jail Cell.” Lansing State Journal [Lansing, Michigan]. October 26, 1959
  • “Police Pursue, Capture Youth Who Killed Sister, Wounded 2.” The Racine Journal-Times Sunday Bulletin [Racine, Wisconsin]. October 25, 1959

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