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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."


From love to murder

BY David J. Krajicek -

May 10, 2008

Fred McManus didn't seem like a bad seed.

Around his hometown of Valley Stream, L.I., he was known as a polite, bright, rather shy kid. He raised hamsters and kept a jingle in his jeans with baby-sitting jobs.

Young McManus wasn't the best-looking boy at Central High, nor was he the most talented athlete. He dabbled in football but was more accomplished in the classroom.

He grew up in a comfortable family, the oldest of three children. His father, Mose, was a brewery executive.

McManus was expected to follow in his father's footsteps and attend Cornell University. But when he finished high school in 1952, he stunned his pop by joining the Marine Corps.

McManus said he was eager to fight on behalf of his country in Korea. He said he was ready to be a man. The decision led to weeks of bickering in the family.

Before he shipped out to Parris Island, S.C., McManus spent time in upstate Marion, near Rochester, at the vacation home of a relative. There his path crossed that of a girl named Diana Weggeland, a mousy, near-sighted teen who had spent a sad life in foster homes after her parents split up.

McManus promised to stay in touch.

On the road to murder

He made it through boot camp, earning a reputation as a decent marksman. He expected the Marines to send him abroad to fight Commies.

"But they made me an office clerk instead," he later said.

He was deflated by the time he got home from Camp Lejeune, N.C., on a 10-day leave in March 1953.

"I was sick and tired of sitting behind a typewriter," McManus said.

He and his father had several I-told-you-so arguments, and after two days in Valley Stream, the young Marine split for a bus ride to Rochester and a reunion with Weggeland, who had just turned 16.

He checked into the local YMCA and spent the next five evenings pitching woo with his girl. On their final night together, the couple missed Weggeland's midnight curfew, and the teen's latest foster mother threatened to boot her out.

McManus was scheduled to return to Camp Lejeune the next morning. During an embrace at the bus station, the lovers decided they could not part.

They went to a dime store and bought 50-cent wedding bands, then stopped in the public library to research marital laws. Minnesota was the closest state that allowed a 16-year-old to wed without parental consent, so they planned to stop there then go on to California, where they would begin a life together.

They had $20 between them for the journey, but McManus reached into his duffle and pulled out a Colt .45 revolver.

He told Weggeland, "You can get anywhere with this."

He left the girl at the YMCA and - wearing his Marines uniform - hitched several rides before choosing a victim, William Braverman, 19, a college student.

He robbed him of $8 and a wrist watch. When Braverman balked at handing over his car, McManus shot him through the heart. He dumped the body in a gravel pit, picked up Weggeland and headed west on Route 20.

The teens were nearly broke by the time they got to Chicago. They stopped at a mom-and-pop store near suburban Wheaton, Ill., and McManus went inside to rob the joint.

The owner, George Bloomberg, reached for McManus and said, "Now look here, son." The Marine replied with a fatal pistol volley. And when Mrs. Bloomberg hollered, he killed her, too.

"I don't like screaming," he later explained.

They got away with nothing.

In Dubuque, Iowa, McManus abandoned Braverman's car and stole another. They went on to Spring Valley, Minn., where he botched another simple robbery, killing a diner owner's wife and a waitress in a $40 holdup.

Next stop was Minneapolis, where the young lovers learned there was a three-day cooling-off period before marriage licenses were granted.

They doubled back toward Dubuque, where an alert highway patrolman stopped the car and ended the carnage. McManus was charged with murder in three different states, but Weggeland was judged innocent in the bloodshed.

Cheating the electric chair

Cops and scribes were slack-jawed as the chatty Long Islander sat in jail and jauntily described each bloody step in his senseless rampage.

Why had he done it?

"I was in love and needed money," he said.

Was he remorseful about the five murders?

"It don't bother me if I don't know the people," he said. "It's just like reading of the death of a man 500 miles away. You don't know him and can't associate any feelings with him."

What was he thinking when arrested?

"I thought, the penalty for murder is death in the electric chair," he replied.

McManus' father rushed to Iowa, saying he was dumbfounded by his son's violent turn. But the accused killer brushed him off, saying his seemingly bucolic family life had been nothing but a running argument "ever since I can remember."

When the father made a derogatory comment about Weggeland, the son lunged at him and had to be held back.

McManus used an insanity defense at trial in Rochester that fall. Prosecutors won a murder conviction, but testimony about McManus' fragile disposition seemed to weigh on jurors. They recommended mercy, and the killer cheated the electric chair.

He was sentenced to life in prison - which turned out to be 20 years. He was released in 1973, still just 39 years old. He slipped unnoticed back into society, was never arrested again and cleared parole in 1981. Illinois and Minnesota chose not to prosecute.

Fred McManus escaped the longlasting notoriety of another 1950s-era cross-country killer inspired by puppy love. Charles Starkweather, who went on his deadly spree with girlfriend Caril Fugate five years later and was executed, remains a seminal image of teen angst.

Although largely forgotten, the polite kid from Valley Stream earned a place beside Starkweather in the pantheon of young pathological murderers.



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

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



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