Serial Killers · Washington

Two women killed with axe by serial killer

October 30, 1947
Tacoma, Washington
Serial killer Jake Bird kills Bertha Kludt and her 17-year-old daughter Beverly June with an axe

Bird was apprehended on the night of October 30, shoeless and covered in blood, when officers Evan “Skip” Davies and Andres “Tiny” Sabutis responded to a call about a woman screaming. When Bird spotted Davies, he charged the officer with a knife. Sabutis arrived soon after and witnessed Davies beating Bird over the head with his gun. As they two officers attempted to handcuff Bird, he managed to cut Davies’ hand and Sabutis’ back.

After finally subduing Bird, the officers found the bodies of Bertha and Beverly June, both hacked and bludgeoned to death with an axe. Bird confessed to the murders, claiming he burgled houses often, choosing homes which were unlocked, and carried an axe during each burglary “for protection.” He stated Bertha had interrupted his theft and he threatened her, stating he was only looking to rob the woman, not kill her. At that point Beverly jumped on Bird’s back. Both women screamed and Bird attacked each. He said he didn’t remember how many times he struck his victims. In addition to the Kludts, Bird claimed to have murdered over 40 people during his time traveling the country as a transient, with victims in Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

During trial, Bird recanted his confession, claiming it was forced. He claimed that, in addition to the documented beating during his arrest, police also broke his ribs, knocked out four of his teeth, and whipped his legs until “he had no skin left,” according to World Encyclopedia of 20th Century Murder. Though no fingerprints could link him to the scene and some evidence was mishandled, the prosecution secured a conviction when brain matter and blood from two different blood types were found on the pants he wore at the time of his arrest. Of the 40+ murders he claimed responsibility for, he was convicted of 11.

While in prison, Bird placed “hexes” on several people involved in his arrest and incarceration. Six of the eight hexed died — five of heart attacks — before his execution:

  1. Judge Hodge, presiding judge over Bird’s case, died January 1, 1948
  2. Officer Joe Karpach, died April 5, 1948
  3. Ray Scott, chief court clerk, died June 11, 1948
  4. Lieutenant Sherman Lyons, the officer who obtained Bird’s confession, died October 28, 1948
  5. J. W. Selden, Bird’s attorney, died November 26, 1948
  6. Arthur Stoward (alt. spellings: Steward, Stewart, Seward, Stowdard, etc.), prison guard, died April 27, 1949

After Stoward’s death, Bird was quoted in The State Journal as saying “Oh, I put a hex on him all right, but it was just in fun.” Bird managed to prolong his sentence briefly, but was ultimately hanged on July 15, 1949.

Sources:

  • Nash, Jay Robert. World Encyclopedia of 20th Century Murder. M. Evans, 1992
  • Davis, Jefferson Dale. Weird Washington: Your Travel Guide to Washington’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Sterling, 2008
  • McClary, Daryl C. Police capture serial killer Jake Bird after he murders two Tacoma women on October 30, 1947. October 5, 2006. Accessed: October 30, 2018. History Link. http://www.historylink.org/File/7971
  • Wolcott, Martin Gilman. The Evil 100. Citadel, 2004
  • “Retired Prison Guard Is Sixth ‘Hex’ Victim.” The State Journal [Lansing, Michigan]. May 27, 1949
  • “Jake Bird Claims Sixth ‘Hex’ Victim.” The Herald-Post [Saint Joseph, Michigan]. May 28, 1949
  • “Officers Seek Confession In Ax Slaying.” The Ogden Standard-Examiner [Ogden, Utah]. November 28, 1947
  • “Former Iowan Held in Deaths Of Two Women.” The Daily Times [Davenport, Iowa]. October 31, 1947

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