December 4, 1896
McLeansboro, Illinois
Fred Behme is hanged for the murder of his wife and child after his wife had their son baptized

Behme and his wife Mary had been Roman Catholics before Behme converted to become a Methodist. The two separated briefly with Mary moving out of state to live with her mother. While separated, Mary had her youngest son, Thomas (reported to be either 1, 3, or 6 years old) baptized by a Catholic priest despite Behme previously forbidding any of his seven children to be baptized as a Catholic.

Upon hearing of the baptism, Behme bludgeoned Mary with an axe before hanging their son on April 5, 1896. He covered Mary’s body with a piece of carpet and corn fodder to conceal the murder and fled the scene, though he was apprehended the following day. Behme did not deny committing the murders, and pointed to his head saying “something there told him to do it” as an explanation. Behme made no final statement on the scaffold before he was hanged just under eight months after the killings.

Update: Mary’s great-grandniece reaches out to inform me some of the older papers had incorrectly called Fred Behme Benjamin and/or Boehmer. His name has been corrected.

Arizona Weekly Citizen. December 12, 1896


  • Arizona Weekly Citizen [Tucson, Arizona]. December 12, 1896
  • “Fred Behme Hanged.” Buffalo Weekly Express [Buffalo, New York]. December 10, 1896
  • “Fred Behme Executed.” The Record-Union [Sacramento, California]. December 5, 1896
  • “An Atrocious Act.” The Chanute Daily Tribune [Chanute, Kansas]. April 7, 1896
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle [Brooklyn, New York]. April 7, 1896

3 thoughts on “Man executed for bludgeoning wife, hanging son after discovering son had been baptized

  1. The photo of the article about Fred Behme (not Benjamin) spells his name Behme, but when it was copied they changed it to Boehmer. That is not correct My great, great aunt was Mary (Koressel) Behme who was killed.


    1. Ah! Sometimes (especially with older newspapers) the reporters spelled names incorrectly. Just so I’m understanding correctly, his name was Fred Behme and the Benjamin and Boehmer were typos in some of the other articles I read? I went with the names that appeared most often hoping they were the correct ones as I couldn’t verify the spelling with birth/death certificates and I want to make sure to amend the article to reflect his real name, not the incorrect ones. Also, that’s a sad but fascinating part of your family history!


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