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Louis Kenneth NEU





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: September 2/17, 1933
Date of birth: 1910
Victims profile: Lawrence Shead, 25 / Sheffield Clark Sr., 63 (gay men)
Method of murder: Beating with an electric iron / Strangulation
Location: New York/Louisiana, USA
Status: Executed by hanging in New York on February 1, 1935

A homosexual drifter, Kenneth Neu claimed his first victim on September 2, 1933, in the person of wealthy New Yorker Lawrence Shead. The men met in Times Square, and Shead followed Neu to the latter's hotel room. 

Once there, Shead was beaten to death with an electric iron, stripped of money and his suit, which Neu appropriated for his long flight southward, to New Orleans. In the Crescent City, Neu attached himself to Sheffield Clark, a hardware store proprietor, threatening Clark with "exposure" as a homosexual if cash was not forthcoming. The merchant responded by reaching for his telephone, to call police, and Neu strangled him to death before looting the victim's home, departing in Clark's stolen car. Apprehended in New Jersey, the killer was still wearing Lawrence Shead's suit at the time of his arrest. 

Tried and convicted of murder in December 1933, Kenneth Neu was sentenced to death. Appeals delayed the execution of his sentence, but the verdict was affirmed, and Neu mounted the scaffold on February 1, 1935. Before the trap was sprung, he treated witnesses to a spirited rendition of an original song composed especially for the occasion. Its title: "I'm Fit as a Fiddle and Ready to Hang."

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


Kenneth Neu – USA

For the kind of small-time thief that he was, handsome, 25-year-old Kenneth Neu figured out that gay men must be easy pickings. Pretending to be gay himself, he was invited to their homes, and once inside he killed and robbed them. He killed Lawrence Shead in his New York flat with an electric iron, and murdered Sheffield Clark in New Orleans by strangling him.

Neu was caught by police in New Jersey in the act of changing the number plates on his car. At his trial in Louisiana in December, 1934, his lawyer told the court: “ My client has had sex with hundreds of women, and is now insane as a result of suffering from syphilis.” Even so, he was found guilty.

About to be sentenced, he tossed a coin in the air and wished the judge “Good luck.” While awaiting execution, he sang in his cell and composed a verse, “I’m fit as a fiddle and ready to hang.” He was duly hanged in New Orleans on Friday, February 1st, 1935.


Kenneth Neu

Fit As A Fiddle & Ready To Hang

"I'm Fit As A Fiddle & Ready To Hang" Kenneth Neu chortled, seconds before the executioner's noose was slipped around his neck. The aspiring nightclub singer performed his last virtuoso performance for assembled reporters and photographers and then went to his death seemingly happier than he had been in many years. Like many other unemployed young men during the Great Economic Depression of the 1930’s, Neu dreamed of striking it big as an entertainer. However, his aspirations were coloured by a history of mental illness; Neu had been confined to the Georgia State Mental Home for a time.

Advertising himself (perhaps with more enthusiasm than accuracy) as an accomplished singer and dancer, 25-year-old Neu pestered Manhattan's top nightclub owners for a job. He claimed to be a multi-talented performer, but the few bookings he was given did not lead to fame or fortune and he barely made enough to pay for food and accomodation.

On September 2nd, 1933, Neu's fortunes were at a low ebb. He was broke and wandering Times Square when he met a middle-aged man named Lawrence Shead. The stranger listened sympathetically to the story of his thwarted career ambitions; then said that he was the owner of a string of theatres in Paterson, New Jersey and invited Neu up to his room for drinks. He implied that they were going to discuss show business - but Neu soon realised that Shead really desired to entice him into a homosexual tryst.

He knocked Shead to the floor, hit him over the head with an iron and strangled him to death. Afterwards, he cleaned himself up, took a shower, put on one of Shead's best suits and took the dead man’s wallet. It contained enough cash to get him to New Orleans.

A week later Neu was again looking for work as a singer. Always popular with women, he had used his charms to seduce a waitress named Eunice Hotte, promising to take her to New York. "We'll have a big time in the big town" he promised. Only one thing was missing - a fresh bankroll to finance the journey.

Neu pawned his watch and bought a blackjack with the proceeds. He used it on Sheffield Clark, Sr., a Nashville businessman. Earlier, Neu had attempted to blackmail Clark (presumably threatening to expose potentially embarrassing sexual activities) at the Yung Hotel. When Clark refused to give in to his demands, Neu used more direct (and lethal) methods.

After disposing of Clark’s body, Neu took his victim's car and $300. He and Eunice Hotte then set off to New York - but they never arrived because Neu made a fatal mistake. Not content to rely upon speed of relocation and the probability that nobody was looking out for Clark’s vehicle, Neu removed the license plates and pasted a handwritten sign on the back that read: "New Car In Transit." This illegal measure caught the eyes of the New Jersey Police; they pulled him over. The officers became immediately suspicious because Neu offered confusing and contradictory explanations for using the sign. They took the couple to a police station.

Detectives connected Neu with the death of Lawrence Shead and questioned him at length. To their surprise, he not only confessed to the murder, but seemed to find the entire thing amusing. "Sure I killed him" Neu said (with a grin) "This is his suit I'm wearing now." He also admitted, with equal good humour, to killing Clark. Neu was extradited to Louisiana to stand trial. Doubts were expressed about his sanity, but he was judged fit to stand trial. Deliberations began on December 12th, 1933; he was eventually convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die on the gallows. As he was led out of the courtroom Neu sang “Sweet Rosie O'Grady”.

He was hanged on February 1st, 1935 - after singing to the journalists who were there to report on his death, Neu serenaded his executioners with a selection of personal favorites from his own musical repertoire.


He sang and swung: Finally, Louis Kenneth Neu was a star

By Mara Bovsun -

April 11, 2010

Louis Kenneth Neu had a handsome face and a pleasant voice, and yearned for fame in the Broadway spotlights.

Trouble was, it was the depths of the Depression; a lot of those lights were dim and jobs were scarce. Neu landed one-night stands in dives, but nothing he could eat on.

On Sept. 2, 1933, the Fred Astaire wanna-be entered a seedy Times Square nightclub, expecting to emerge with a gig as master of ceremonies. Instead, he ended up outside on his uppers, again.

While panhandling along the Great White Way, Neu, 25, caught the eye of Lawrence Shead, a Paterson, N.J., theater manager. Shead, 35, said he might have a job for the younger man, and the two headed west together.

On Sept. 10, police found Shead's naked corpse in his bed. He had been bludgeoned with an electric iron. The dead man's car, watch, and a suit were gone.

The car turned up a few days later, abandoned in Charlotte, N.C. Twelve days after that, detectives would learn the whereabouts of the suit, and exactly how Shead had died, when they stopped a car on the Pulaski Skyway.

A small detail had piqued police interest. In place of license plates, there was a hand-lettered cardboard sign that read: "New Car in Transit." Inside the vehicle were Neu and a girlfriend, Eunice Hotte, 25, a waitress from New Orleans.

During questioning, a detective became curious about another detail - red stains on Neu's trousers. When asked about the stains, the prisoner cheerfully confessed to the Shead murder.

"I killed him," Neu said. "This is his suit I'm wearing now."

Neu told how Shead had picked him up in Times Square and lured him out to New Jersey. Liquor flowed freely at Shead's apartment, and after days of partying, the older man made an unwelcome advance.

Neu responded with his fists, then grabbed the iron and dealt the fatal blow. He then took a shower, put on his victim's best suit and watch, and drove to Charlotte in Shead's car. There he grabbed a train to New Orleans.

In less than a week, he had romanced Hotte, a married woman with a 5-year-old daughter, and sweet-talked her into running away with him to New York.

"Be packed and ready," he told her early Sunday morning, Sept. 17. "We'll have a big time in the big town."

Making good on his promise required money, which Neu didn't have. So he hocked Shead's watch and bought a blackjack. His intention, he told the New Jersey police, was to scare people into turning over their cash.

Later that day, Neu struck up a conversation with Sheffield Clark Sr., 63, a Nashville businessman, in the lobby of the Jung Hotel. He followed Clark to his room, and tried to rob him. When Clark resisted, Neu whacked him with the blackjack, hard.

In Clark's car, with Hotte by his side, Neu fled the Big Easy and sped back to the Great White Way. During the trip, he replaced the license plates with the cardboard sign that ultimately gave him away as he approached the Holland Tunnel.

Charged with two murders, the killer crooner was sent back to New Orleans to face trial for Clark's slaying, the case most likely to lead to the gallows.

Serious business, but it didn't seem to scare the accused. With a captive audience - lawyers, reporters, guards, cops, wardens, and fellow inmates - Neu blossomed. He clowned, tap-danced, and, of course, sang.

"Sweet Rosie O'Grady" was his favorite jailhouse ditty.

Love-struck women crammed the courthouse during his trial, which started on Dec. 12, 1933. Neu wore Shead's suit throughout the proceedings.

His attorneys dredged up incidents from his past, which included a discharge from the Army for "lunacy" and a stay in a mental hospital in Georgia, his home state. Doctors testified that he had syphilis, and was showing signs of dementia.

The jury took five hours to find Neu sane and sentenced him to swing.

Even that didn't seem to faze the doomed man. He just kept smiling and singing, composing some original songs for the occasion, like "Fit as a Fiddle and Ready to Hang."

From Death Row, the man the press called the "handsome singing murderer" began a love affair with a "mystery girl," a beautiful young woman whose identity he fiercely protected. "Well, it has happened to me. I am hopelessly in love," he wrote in his prison diary. "For the very first time in my life, I have met a girl who has made me feel just exactly like I have always wanted to feel about someone."

She returned his affection, and persuaded him to convert to Catholicism for the good of his soul. He, of course, sang to her, their special melody being "Love in Bloom." A day before his date with the hangman, she sent him a bouquet of roses and one white gardenia.

Still wearing Shead's suit, and with his beloved's white gardenia in his lapel, Neu tap-danced to the scaffold on Feb. 1, 1935, warbling "Love in Bloom." His last words were "Don't muss my hair."

The mystery woman was one of three mourners - the others were nuns - at Neu's funeral, and for years, she tended his grave. In 1947, she talked to the Times-Picayune. The story, "Gallows, Grave, and a Girl," revealed that her name was Aline Hull, that she met Neu through church charity work and intended to forever look after his final resting place.

This went on until June 23, 1950, when Hull swallowed an overdose of sleeping pills. Among her belongings, noted Robert Tallant in his book, "Ready to Hang," her family found a prayer book. Pressed between the pages was a flower - the crumbling remains of a white gardenia.




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