|The following is an article
from Uncle John's Supremely
Satisfying Bathroom Reader
Alferd G. Packer holds a unique spot in
American jurisprudence. He is the only U.S. citizen ever charged, tried,
and convicted for the crime of murder and cannibalism.
Born in rural Colorado in 1847, Packer drifted into the Utah Territory,
supporting himself as a small-time con artist, claiming to be an experienced
"mountain man." In the fall of 1873, he persuaded 20 greenhorns
in Salt Lake City to grubstake an expedition to the headwaters of hate
Gunnison River in Colorado Territory. He swore that the stream was full
of gold and promised to lead them to it if they would finance the operation.
With Packer leading, they plunged into San Juan Mountains and promptly
got lost. The party was near starvation when they stumbled into the winter
quarters of the friendly Ute tribe. The Indians nursed them back to health,
but the leader, Chief Ouray, advised them to turn back. Winter snows had
blocked all trails. Ten of the party listened and returned to Utah. The
other 10, still believing Packer's tales of gold-filled creeks, stayed
Ouray gave them supplies and advised them to follow the river upstream
for safety, but Packer ignored this counsel and plunged back into the
mountains. The party split up again. Five turned back and made their way
to the Los Pinos Indian Agency. Fired up with gold fever, the others continued
on with their con man guide. Days later, exhausted, half frozen, and out
of food, they found refuge in a deserted cabin. Most of them were now
ready to give up and go back to Salt Lake City.
The exception was Alferd Packer. He was broke, and returning to Salt
Lake City would cost him his grubstake. When the others fell asleep, Packer
shot four of them in the head. The fifth woke and tried to defend himself,
but Packer cracked his skull with his rifle. Then, he robbed them ...
He also used them for food.
When his strength returned, he packed enough "human jerky"
to get back to the Los Pinos Agency. Several miles from the agency, he
emptied his pack to conceal his crime. He was welcomed by General Adams,
commander of the agency, but shocked everyone by asking for whiskey instead
of food. When he flashed a huge bankroll, they started asking questions.
WELL, YOU SEE, OFFICER ...
Packer's explanations were vague and contradictory. First, he claimed
he was attacked by the natives, then he claimed that some of his party
had gone mad and attacked him. On April 4, 1874, two of Chief Ouray's
braves found the human remains Packer had discarded. General Adams locked
him up and dispatched a lawman named Lauter to the cabin to investigate.
But while Lauter was away, Packer managed to escape.
He made his way back to Utah and lived quietly for 10 years as "John
Schwartze," until a member of the original party recognized him.
Packer was arrested on March 12, 1884 and returned to Lake City, Colorado,
Packer claimed innocence but as the evidence against him mounted, he
finally confessed. Apparently, he reveled in the attention his trial gave
him and even lectured on the merits of human flesh. The best "human
jerky," he said, was the meat on the chest ribs. The judge was not
"Alferd G. Packer, you no good sonofabitch, there wasn't but
seven Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you done et five of 'em,"
he thundered. "You're gonna hang by the neck until dead!"
SAVED BY A TECHNICALITY
His lawyer appealed the decision, citing a legal loophole. The crime
was committed in 1873, in the territory of Colorado. The trial
began in 1884, in the new state of Colorado. The state constitution,
adopted in 1876, did not address such a heinous crime, so the charge was
reduced to manslaughter and Packer was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
He was a model prisoner and was paroled after 16 years. Freed in 1901,
he found work as a wrangler on a ranch near Denver.
On April 21, 1907, Alferd G. Packer, horse wrangler and cannibal, died
quietly in his sleep.