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Fred Eugene McMANUS





Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Juvenile (17) - Thrill-killer of holdup victims in four states
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: March 27-31, 1953
Date of birth: 1935
Victims profile: William Braverman, 19 / George Bloomberg, 56, and his wife Florence / Harriet Horseman, 48, and Agnes Beaston, 43
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: New York/Illinois/Iowa/Minnesota, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in New York in 1953

In retrospect, McManus had no explanation for the rampage that would claim five lives in March of 1953. It was a simple lark, a way to kill some time while killing strangers, and the 18-year-old Marine from Long Island displayed no remorse for his crimes. If he was sorry, it would be for getting caught.

The weekend murder spree began March 27, when McManus drove into Rochester, New York, with his girlfriend, 16-year-old Diane Weggland, of Summerville, New York. To McManus, she was the girl "I consider my wife," innocent of complicity in the bloodshed to come, and authorities would accept his assessment, leaving Fred to take the rap alone.

In Rochester, McManus kidnapped 19-year-old William Braverman, a college student, and shot him to death on a road south of town, leaving his corpse in a ditch, loosely covered with dirt. Rolling into Keeneyville, Illinois, on March 28, he bungled the robbery of a local market, gunning down owners George and Florence Bloomberg in the process.

A day later, in Dubuque, Iowa, McManus robbed another couple of eight dollars, sparing their lives as he fled from the scene in their car. Stopping at Spring Valley, Minnesota, on March 30, he held up a restaurant, killing waitress Harriet Horseman and 43-year-old Agnes Beaston, the owner's wife.

Doubling back toward Dubuque, the young lovers were stopped by police outside town, on March 31. McManus waived extradition to New York, where he confessed to the Braverman murder on April 6.

By August, his original guilty plea had been altered to one of not guilty by reason of insanity, but jurors saw through the ruse, and McManus was convicted on September 24, sentenced to life imprisonment two days later.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans


A Nice Boy

Monday, Apr. 13, 1953

Everyone who knew Fred Eugene McManus thought he was just about the nicest boy in the suburban village of Valley Stream, N.Y. He was a handsome lad, tall, well built, with a quick, pleasant smile. He came from a good home—the McManus family lives in a big, white, well-kept house, and the boy's father, Mose McManus, a well-paid brewery executive, saw to it that his son had a pleasant life. But unlike many a good-looking boy with doting parents, Fred seemed completely unspoiled. He was quiet, notably polite, and rather shy with girls.

The boy loved animals and raised hamsters with tender care. He was a good swimmer, and he played on the high-school junior varsity football team. He liked children and was in constant demand as a baby sitter. His father was a little disappointed after his son finished high school last summer because Fred insisted on enlisting in the Marines instead of going to college. But 18-year-old Fred was a sight to warm any father's heart when he came home on a ten-day leave from Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was tanned, soldierly, and as polite and thoughtful as ever.

Road to Murder

Fred left after only two days, however, hurried to Rochester and picked up with a thin, bespectacled, 16-year-old girl named Diane Marie Weggeland. whom he had met on a vacation trip. The girl's foster mother remonstrated with her for staying out late, and Fred and Diane went defiantly off to the public library. After some research there, they decided (incorrectly) that minors could be married in Minnesota without parental consent.

They hit the highway. Fred thumbed a ride with a 19-year-old college boy named William Braverman, killed him in broad daylight with a service .45, buried him in a quarry, jauntily decorated the grave with a rusty antifreeze tin, and headed west with Diane in his victim's shiny, red and black 1953 Plymouth hardtop. He told the girl he felt no remorse. "It don't bother me if I don't know the people," he said gravely. "There is no such thing as conscience. It's just a feeling of fear that people have." Before an Iowa policeman arrested them three days later, Fred had shot four more people in cold blood, and held up an old couple (whom he liked and hence did not kill) to get money—$58 in all.

When the news got back to Valley Stream, the elder McManus cried desperately that it was untrue. He could not remember ever hearing of a Diane Weggeland. "I can't believe it," he said. "This boy is not my son. My boy wouldn't do such a thing." He flew to Dubuque, where Fred was in jail, listened in astounded horror to the chilling tale the boy —speaking as politely as ever—had told the police.

"I walked into the store," Fred said, in telling how he killed George Bloomberg, a 56-year-old Keeneyville, ILL. general store operator and his wife Florence. "I told the man, 'I want some money.' The fellow got up from his TV set, walked toward me and said, 'Now here. Here now, wait a minute.' He touched my left shoulder, and I let him have it." Bloomberg's wife screamed. "I shot her," Fred went on. "I can't stand screaming."

Way to Death

Unnerved by the noise, he left without taking any money, but at an all-night restaurant in Spring Valley, Minn., he was more efficient. He shot a waitress, Mrs. Harriet Horsman, 48, and scooped $49 from the till. The cafe owner's wife made the mistake of screaming too. Fred killed her. Then the young couple drove on to Minneapolis to get married. They naively gave the license clerk their correct ages, and were turned down. "But," said Diane primly, "as far as we are concerned, we are legally married."

In jail, Fred referred to Diane as "my wife." When he was asked why he committed the murders, he replied, "I was in love and I needed money." But he stubbornly denied that Diane knew anything about the killings. "I'm as guilty as he is," sobbed Diane. "I want the same punishment he gets." When the two youngsters were brought together to be flown back to New York, they put their heads together, kissed, and beamed for the photographers; on the five-hour flight to Rochester, they played canasta and laughed like honeymooners.

As they flew east, Mose McManus followed by train, looking like a man trying to awaken from some incomprehensible and terrifying nightmare. Fred had coldly turned his back on the weeping father. "I know what is going to happen," he said. "The electric chair. I want to die."



MO: Thrill-killer of holdup victims in four states.

DISPOSITION: Life sentence in N.Y on one count, 1953.