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The Hatchet Man

In 1817, a young man named Andrew Hellman migrated to The United States from Germany. Moving to Baltimore, Maryland, he would become an apprentice to a local tailor for about 3 years before heading back to Europe to spend some time traveling.

Andrew would return to the United States in 1820, moving to Loudoun County, Virginia, where he would stay at the home of George Abel as a farm hand. Though he was seen as a reliable worker, helping out on several local farms, he was also known to have an extreme dislike of women. He would tell people that he thought a woman's place was in the home as a servant to men.

Despite his aversion to women, Andrew would marry George Abel's daughter, Mary, in 1821.

This marriage would be rocky, to say the least, but in 1822 Andrew and Mary would welcome their first child, a daughter named Louisa, into the world. This would be followed in 1823 with their second child, a son named Henry. Following the birth of Henry, Andrew would claim that Mary was a harlot who had been cheating on him and he would say that Henry was not his son.
With all the hate that Andrew showed his family, you would think that things would end between he and Mary, but that would not be the case. In 1824 they would move out of Mary's father's house and into a small farm of their own. A third child would be born in 1827, and it would be another son, John.
Mary's father wanted to leave a legacy for his children as he was getting older and so he decided to sell part of his farm and buy each of his children some land to call their own. In 1831 he would do just that, buying land in Ohio. Mary would be given some land in a small town just south of Columbus, Ohio called Carroll. Andrew, Mary and their 3 children would move to this plot and start a farm later that year. This farm would become very successful, allowing Andrew to purchase a second plot of land nearby to expand the farm. 

But there was a problem.

The original plot of land belonged to Mary as it had been gifted to her by her father. This did not sit well with Andrew, and he needed to do something to remedy the situation. With the farm in Carroll being so successful, the solution was clear - Sell the land and buy land of his own elsewhere. In 1836 that is just what he would do.

The profit from selling the land in Carrol was enough to buy a nice plot of land in Logan County, Ohio near the small town of Bellefontaine. This made Mary happy because her brother lived in the same county, and it made Andrew happy because he now owned the land. Overall, the move to Logan County seemed like the best thing for everyone, but the good feelings wouldn't last.

Over time, Andrew's mood would sour more and more, to the point where the family just expected him to be angry all the time. His fits of rage would become so common place they would even justify it as "Well, that's just Andrew being Andrew." The anger wasn't the only issue though, Mary became convinced that Andrew was trying to kill her off. At one point she would find a strange, powdery substance in some milk that Andrew had given her, and she believed it to be poison. Catching it before she drank the milk may in fact have spared her life for the short term.

Then, in 1839, all 3 children would inexplicably become ill at the same time. No one could pinpoint the cause of the illness, but Mary knew what had happened. Andrew had failed in poisoning her, but he had found a way to get the children! Within 48 hours, 17-year-old Louisa and 12-year-old John were both dead. 16-year-old Henry would survive, though barely. Mary was devastated at the loss, but things would only get worse later that year.
On September 26, 1839, Mary's brother, George, would fall ill with a flu and Mary would send Henry over to assist him on his farm while he recovered. On September 28, George's wife, Rachel, would make the trip to Mary and Andrew's farm to visit and thank Mary for sending Henry. Upon arriving at the farm, she would find a horrible sight.

Walking through the front door of the house, Rachel would find Andrew sprawled on the bed, covered in blood. He was barely conscious and would tell her that they had been robbed and that he thought Mary was in the back room. Upon entering the back room, Rachel would find the gruesome scene of her sister-in-law laying on the floor, beaten beyond recognition, with blood covering the room. Screaming, Rachel would flee the residence and go for help.

Rachel would return with the police, a doctor and the coroner. Andrew would tell the authorities that 2 nights prior, a pair of men had broken into the house, beaten him with a club and robbed him. He would say he had blacked out and so did not know what had happened to Mary and he had been unable to move until Rachel had entered the house. The doctor would examine Andrew on the spot and find that he had no wounds anywhere on his body, leading to the conclusion that the blood he was covered in was not his own. By all appearance, the blood on Andrew most likely came from Mary, and she had plenty of wounds to explain it.

There were several gashes on Mary's head, consistent with someone hitting her with a sharp object. She also had 2 broken fingers, presumably from trying to stop her attacker, as well as a huge gash on her thigh and 3 more on her neck. All the wounds appeared to be consistent with someone taking an ax and hitting her with it multiple times. To the investigators it was clear that Andrew had most likely killed Mary and then covered himself in her blood to make it look like he had been the victim of an attack as well. With the evidence against him mounting, Andrew Hellman was arrested for the murder of his wife and taken to the Bellefontaine jail to await trial.

For the next 14 months, Andrew would be held in the small jail cell in Bellefontaine, but there was a problem with the cell. In the winter months, the cell would get incredibly cold, and the sheriff didn't want Andrew to freeze to death before his trial. To keep him alive, Andrew would spend the cold daytime hours in a room in the upstairs area of the jailhouse. He would remain guarded, and in the evening, he would be escorted back to his cell to sleep. One evening in November of 1840, however, Andrew would find that no one had come to take him back downstairs when it was time. Peeking out the door, he would find there was no guard either. Could it really be that they had forgotten about him? Wearily, he crept out the door, down the hall and out of the building. He would make his way through the quiet town in the dark, and after stealing a horse he would slip away into the night.

*Note - Some question was raised about how Andrew got the horse as it belonged to his attorney. The rumor is that his attorney gave him the horse but there is not historical proof of this.

This seems like that should be where the story ends, but there is much more to it than that, so grab some popcorn and buckle up.

About 3 years later and 370 miles away in Reisterstown, Maryland, a young woman by the name of Catherine Hinkle was out in the cold March air searching for her missing sister, Matilda Horn. It was 1843 and Catherine had been told by Matilda's husband, Adam, that Matilda had left in the middle of the night, wearing only her nightgown, and he had not seen her in weeks. Search parties had been organized, but no one had been able to find a single trace of Matilda Horn.
Catherine knew her sister. She knew that Matilda wouldn't just leave without warning. Something terrible must have happened to her, but Catherine couldn't bring herself to accept that. 

The search would finally come to an end when members of the search party found a coffee sack, buried in a shallow hole in an orchard not far from the Horn residence. The sack would contain the torso of a woman, the arms, legs and head were still missing. Upon making this discovery, police would re-search the house that had been briefly checked prior and make an even more gruesome discovery. Inside another coffee sack in the house, they would find the arms and legs and a severed head was discovered in the fireplace, partially burned and buried in ash. An autopsy would reveal that Matilda had been 4-5 months pregnant at the time of her death.

Police immediately issued an arrest warrant for Adam Horn, but he was nowhere to be found. It seemed he had vanished without a trace. To help locate Adam, police issued a detailed description of the man they were looking for and circulated it far and wide. This description would catch the attention of Sheriff Slicer in Logan County, Ohio as it matched the description of Andrew Hellman right down to the fact that the third finger on his right hand was crooked.


The description would be good enough as well for authorities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to identify and arrest Adam Horn in September of 1843. He would be sent back to Maryland to stand trial for the murder of Matilda Horn.


Upon hearing of the arrest, Sheriff Slicer would go to Maryland to meet with Adam Horn and find out if he was in fact Andrew Hellman living under a different name. He knew right away that Adam was his man when he walked into the room and saw him. Adam greeted the sheriff as if they were old friends and Sheriff Slicer would head back to Ohio to get an extradition order from the governor. The Ohio governor, Wilson Shannon, would issue the order to have Andrew brought back to Ohio, but the governor of Maryland, Francis Thomas, declined the order saying that if Andrew/Adam managed to escape justice in Maryland then he would be sent to Ohio to stand trial there for his crimes that state.


Adam Horn/Andrew Hellman would be found guilty of the murder of Matilda Horn and her unborn baby in November of 1843, and he would be sentenced to death by hanging. Henry Hellman, the last surviving child of Andrew and Mary, would attend the execution of his father in Maryland, reportedly to get closure and forgive him for what he had done. Reports said that somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people were in attendance for the hanging, with a special scaffold being constructed to ensure everyone had a view of the platform. There were even 500 tickets handed out to allow people to get inside the jail walls to see the hanging up close, and many of these were sold for top dollar.

Following the execution, Andrew's body was taken to an undisclosed location to be buried. This was done to prevent vandals and people who would dig him up from being able to find him. The original legend incorrectly says that Andrew is buried in the Harrod Cemetery in Logan County, Ohio with his family.

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