Today I Learned: there was an ax murderer from St. Martinville who confessed to at least 35 murders.

The first was in Rayne, Louisiana, when a woman and her 3 children were killed. Western Avenue in Crowley is where the second set of murders occurred, in which a husband, wife, and child were killed. Then, 4 weeks later, came the murders of the Andrus family in Lafayette. Then a family of 5 in San Antonio, Texas. Then another family in Lafayette.

Almost every time, the murders would be of an entire family: 4, 5, and even 6 members of the same family.

The murderer's father was arrested due to evidence found in the home, and the murderer even testified against him in court. While the father was in jail, more murders occurred, leading investigators to his children as suspects.

The murderer, at 17 years old, was finally arrested.

The murderer, while in custody, confessed to at least 35 murders, in which victims were hacked to death with an ax, almost always victims of severe head trauma.

Clementine Barnabet was born in St. Martinville in 1894, or so (it wasn't until 1946 that the government took over birth certificates, and record-keeping for black births in the late 1800s wasn't high on the list of priorities), and by 1904 moved to Lafayette with her parents and brother. That's when the murders started.

Rayne, Crowley, Lafayette, even into South Texas, a reign of terror came across the region, with newspapers flying off the stands with headlines that included the word "VooDoo" because it was believed that the murders were the doings of a cult of some sort.

It wasn't until 1912, three years after the first murders, that Clementine was arrested. She was convicted of one of the murders, but ended up confessing to more than 30. When asked why she killed the children, she said that she didn't want to leave them orphaned.

According to the story from Mental Floss, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser printed her full confession in 1912, but with a disclaimer:

Clementine’s confession has been received with varying shades of belief owing to the positive way she swore in the trial of her father, and the misleading information she has given as to her accomplices. - The Daily Advertiser (via MentalFloss)

Today's FBI would have had a field day with this case, as the profile doesn't fit their "generic" profile of a serial killer: white, adult, male.

Clementine was convicted of that one murder and sentenced to life in prison at Angola. She escaped from Angola once, but was immediately captured.

After serving 10 years and receiving what Mental Floss describes as a "procedure" that fixed her, she was released on good behavior and never heard from again.

Never. Heard. From. Again.

Now you know about the 17-year-old girl from St. Martinville who confessed to killing at least 35 people with an ax.

For more details on the story, visit Mental Floss (if you want to hear about more of the evidence, what kind of biological evidence was found on her clothing, and other gory details).

If you think St. Martinville is small, check out the 10 smallest towns in Louisiana



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