Horror author (and friend of mine!) Shannon Lawrence has a new collection of holiday-themed horror short stories available, Happy Ghoulidays II. The first book in the series, Happy Ghoulidays, covered the winter holidays. Ghoulidays II covers the rest of the year, from St. Patrick’s Day to Halloween.
Shannon and her partner in crime, M.B. Partlow, host the Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem podcast as well, so when Shannon asked what I’d like her to write about for this post, I requested her favorite holiday murder.
I thought she’d say no. She didn’t.Enjoy!–d.
Happy Ghoulidays II - Release March 17, 2023
The Easter Sunday Massacre
As a horror author and true crime podcaster, it was only natural for the two to meet when DeAnna asked me to put together a post on my favorite holiday murder to promote my new holiday horror collection Happy Ghoulidays II.
Of course, “favorite” is probably the wrong word. True crimes are often real-life horror stories, and the holiday murder that came to mind is a sad one filled with horror in the last minutes of eleven people’s lives, eight of them children.
Known as the Easter Sunday Massacre, this crime occurred on Sunday, March 30, 1975, on Easter. (Clearly.)
James Ruppert was the youngest of two boys, with a mother who’d wanted her second child to be a girl and a father who just plain didn’t appear to like either boy and had a violent temper. James’s father died when the boys were relatively young. Even so, Leonard, Jr. grew up to be a successful electrical engineer, married one of James’ past girlfriends, and had eight children with her. James, on the other hand, dropped out of college, lost his job, and lived in his mother’s house, drinking excessively and borrowing money from his mom and brother.
While it would be claimed that James just snapped, the reality is that he purchased a silencer not long before the massacre and was spotted down by the river practicing with several guns in the weeks leading up to that fateful Easter. The tension had been building for quite some time, as he said his big brother had picked on him mercilessly as a child. He felt it was his brother’s fault that his life sucked, but more likely he was a textbook sociopath who couldn’t quite function in real life. The pressure was also on because his mother had told him he needed to leave. Not only was he not paying rent, but he went to a bar every single night, somehow coming up with the money for that. He felt she was a nag and had no right to be making demands of him while he sponged off her.
On Easter morning, his brother showed up with the whole family, celebrating by conducting an Easter egg hunt while James slept off a drunk until late afternoon. The first they saw of James was when he came downstairs carrying an arsenal before systematically shooting and killing every single person in the home, including his nieces and nephews. The kids ranged in age from 4 to 17 years old. It occurred so quickly that the only sign of trouble, aside from the bodies, was a single garbage can that had toppled to the ground.
After they were dead, James lay on the blood-soaked floor among the bodies and considered whether he should commit suicide. He’d attempted it once as a teen when he’d run away from home, but this time, for whatever reason, he chose not to, instead calling police to report a shooting.
James pled not guilty by reason of insanity and was uncooperative, ultimately getting two life sentences: one for his mother and one for his brother. He was tried separately for the children and his sister-in-law, and found not guilty by reason of insanity. Newspaper articles stated that he was a paranoid psychotic.
In reality, he was an evil, pathetic man, who blamed his issues on other people. Any claims that his mother and brother pushed him to it completely left out the innocence of the children and his sister-in-law, who he murdered in cold blood, most with two shots to ensure they were dead. He showed zero remorse and never gave a real explanation.
The fact that this could happen in any family at any time is terrifying.