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Austin's Serial Axe Murderer

Between December 1884 and December 1885, Austin, Texas, had eight axe murders. Six women, an 11-year-old girl, and a man who was with another victim were all killed in horrific ways, and several were also raped. Only the first three were domestic workers, but the unknown perpetrator was dubbed the "Servant Girl Annihilator." The murders did not stop because the killer was caught; they just stopped.

Though around 400 men were arrested in 1885 under suspicion of being the Annihilator, none were ever successfully tried. The list included Walter Spencer (the boyfriend of the first victim—acquitted after a two-day trial), “two suspicious-looking white brothers found with blood on their clothes,” Eula’s husband Jimmy Phillips, and Susan’s husband Moses Hancock. Phillips, the prosecutors claimed, was a copycat killer before the term existed, using the murders of Austin’s black working class as an excuse to kill his unfaithful and beautiful wife. Initially sentenced to seven years, Phillips’s conviction was overturned within six months; Hancock’s trial resulted in a hung jury. The Annihilator was still out there, but what was he—or they—doing?

As time passed, suspicion fell on men who left Austin at the time the murders stopped. More than one of those went to England, and coincidentally or not, that's when the Jack the Ripper murders began. Read what we know -and don't know- about the Servant Girl Annihilator and his victims at mental_floss.


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