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Joseph LaPAGE






A.K.A.: "The French Monster"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Mutilations
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: 1874 / 1875
Date of arrest: October 14, 1875 
Date of birth: 1838
Victims profile: A school teacher named Miss Ball / Josie Langmaid, 17
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife and straight-razors
Location: Vermont/New Hampshire, USA
Status: Executed by hanging in New Hampshire on March 15, 1878

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The New York Times - March 16, 1878


Punishment of Joseph Lapage


Victim of Opportunity

Josie Langmaid, a seventeen-year old schoolgirl in Pembroke, New Hampshire was well liked, pretty and intelligent, loved by her friends, family and neighbors. She was not supposed to die on October 5, 1875, but fate dictated otherwise.

When her body was found in the woods near town, and it was discovered she had been brutally raped and horribly mutilated, it stirred the outraged community to demand justice. After the police failed, it was up to a private citizen to make the vital connection that would lead the authorities to solve not one, but two murders.

Miss Fowler (I have been unable to ascertain her Christian name) was the same age as Josie; the two girls were friends, and both attended the Pembroke Academy. It was also their habit to walk to school together, taking a country road that wound a mile and a half through a heavy growth of white birches and alders.

On the morning of the murder, Josie's sixteen-year old brother Waldo left their house on Duck Street a half-hour before, taking the same path to the school. When his sister did not arrive, he assumed she had decided not to attend classes that morning, and thought no more about her absence. It was not until he came home that afternoon and learned Josie was not there that Waldo raised the alarm.

Inquiries at the houses of people who lived near the road revealed that Josie had last been seen passing the Hartford house, about a half-mile from the school. The townpeople helped family and neighbors in the increasingly frantic search.

At about 8:30 in the evening, Josie's remains were found in an isolated place in the woods, 150 feet from the road. The trampled ground was a sign that a terrific struggle had taken place; it was clear that Josie had fought for her life. Torn pieces of her clothing were scattered over her naked body, which was shockingly mutilated. Her head had been severed, and was found early the next morning nearly 400 yards away from her body. An inquest was held without delay.

The post mortem revealed Josie had been severely beaten about the head with a blunt instrument; there were contusions and cuts, and the imprint of a boot heel on her right cheek. Bones in her right hand were broken; this was determined to be defensive wounds. Parts of her anatomy -- not detailed in the press -- were missing, as well as one of her earrings, and a black-enameled gold ring. It was thought by the doctor conducting the autopsy that her head had been cut off while she was still alive.

A detective came from Boston to take charge of the case, aided by the local police. Within a few days, under intense community pressure, the investigative team arrested William Drew on suspicion of Josie's murder. Drew lived in Pembroke; he was known as a hard character, dissipated in his habits; and he had a reputation for violence. However, there was no evidence that pointed directly at Drew. A black man, Charles Moody, was also arrested but later released, as was an anonymous tramp who was believed to have what was termed a 'mental abberation.'

During the investigation, Charles Fowler, the father of Josie's friend, and his son came forward with a curious tale. Fowler had recently hired a tender for his threshing machine, a Frenchman named Joseph LaPage. Almost at once, LaPage began paying particular notice to Fowler's daughter. He asked the son many questions about his sister, wanting to know who the girl was, where she went to school, and what road she took to get there. The unsuspecting son took LaPage into the woods and along the road, showing the man exactly where his sister passed on her way to Pembroke Academy.

On the morning of the murder, Miss Fowler went to the wood as usual and waited for Josie Langmaid to arrive. She did not know that Josie had been delayed at home, and supposed her friend had gone ahead. When a neighbor stopped and offered Miss Fowler a ride to school in his carriage, she accepted gratefully, unaware that in doing so, she was saving her own life and condemning Josie to a horrible death.

A little while later, Josie arrived at the meeting place, realized Miss Fowler was already gone, and made haste to catch up, supposing her friend was on foot. At some point during her walk, on an isolated stretch of road far away frm anyone who might hear her screams, LaPage attacked and raped Josie, then cut off her head and mutilated her body. She was not meant to die -- it is clear that Miss Fowler was his intended victim -- but consumed by his need to kill, LaPage apparently decided that Josie Langmaid would do.

Following the murder, LaPage disappeared. Try as they might, the Boston detective and his team could find no trace of the missing man, so they discounted Fowler's story.

As it happened, in 1874 a school teacher named Miss Ball had been raped, murdered and mutilated in St. Albans, Vermont, in a similar fashion. The man from whom Miss Ball had rented a room in his lodging house, Mr. Abell, read about Josie Langmaid's murder in the newspaper, including Fowler's details about the mysteriously absent Frenchman. Abell recognized the psudonym LaPage; he knew the man also went by the name Joseph Parish, and had lived in the neighborhood when Miss Ball was killed.

Furthermore, Abell was aware that LaPage was now living in Suncook with his wife and children. He undertook to communicate this information to the New Hampshire authorities. Fowler was taken to Suncook to LaPage's house, where he immediately identified the man who had taken such a dangerous interest in his daughter.

A search of the house turned up a knife and a pair of bloody straight-razors hidden on a shelf, and bloodstains on LaPage's vest and jacket. When questioned, he had no alibi for the time of the murder; it transpired that he had been seen going in the direction of the woods around the time of Josie's attack. A solid "dingle" wagon stick, about 1 inches in diameter and more than three feet long, that had been found near the girl's body was identified as belonging to LaPage, and had been seen in his possession on the Saturday prior to the murder. Witnesses came forward to testify that LaPage had a habit of inquiring after teenage girls in his neighborhood, as well as loitering where he could watch them, and occasionally following one that caught his interest. Several girls said they had been chased and frightened by LaPage. A mother and daughter said he had once waylaid them in a local wood; he had been carrying a large stick in his hands, and only the timely intervention of a gentleman who was passing by saved them from what they believed would have been an assault.

Equally damning, LaPage's wife testified that her husband had beaten and raped her sister in Canada some years earlier. LaPage acknowledged he had been arrested for the crime, but released when another man was proven guilty. In fact, LaPage had escaped by assaulting the arresting officers, then fled to Vermond to avoid prosecution.

In the case of the murder of Miss Ball, LaPage had been a strong suspect but had to be released for lack of evidence even though he lied about not knowing the school teacher; it was proved at the time he was acquainted with her. Now LaPage's sons, who had previously given their father an alibi for Miss Ball's murder, recanted their testimony. It seemed certain that LaPage had also brutalized and killed Miss Ball in 1874.

LaPage eventually confessed to both murders. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to hang. He was executed on March 16, 1878 at the State prison in Concorde, New Hampshire. It was reported that he went to his death relieved and easy in his mind, having made a detailed confession of his crimes to a priest, and even drawing a map that would lead the police to the hiding place where LaPage had buried the missing earring and black-enameled ring that had belonged to Josie Langmaid.

While the familes of Miss Ball and Josie Langmaid continued to mourn their loss, they at least gained a measure of peace when the monster who had tortured and murdered two young women went to his death on the public gallows.

-----The New York Herald, Boston Globe, St. Louis Globe Democrat, 1875



MO: French-Canadian trapper; donned bearskin and mask to rape and mutilate young women around Halloween season.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers



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