A fried egg for breakfast – then mayhem ensued.
On the morning of 6 September 1949, Howard Unruh ate the fried egg and cereal breakfast his mother had prepared.
The 28-year-old was smartly dressed in a brown suit, white shirt, and bow tie.
Moments later, he threatened his mum, Freda, with a wrench.
As Freda fled their home in Camden, New Jersey, Howard armed himself with a pistol and 33 rounds of ammunition.
Just 20 minutes later, 13 of his neighbours, including three children, were dead…
Born in January 1921, Unruh’s mother raised the boy by herself. He grew to be a quiet, religious man.
After graduating, he joined the Army and fought in the Second World War. A tank gunner and expert marksman, it’s thought that it was there that Unruh developed his love of guns.
Returning to his mother’s, he had a target range in the basement.
Something else had changed within Unruh during this time too…
‘He was nervous,’ his brother later said. ‘He didn’t seem to be the same.’ Unruh was angry too.
He’d secretly begun keeping meticulous notes about petty run-ins with neighbours.
On the eve of his atrocity, he came home to find that the gate from his fence had been stolen.
To Howard Unruh, it deserved revenge…
On that September morning, Unruh walked to the local shoemaker’s and pointed the gun at owner, John Pilarchik, 27.
Next, he went to the tailor’s, looking for the owner, Thomas Zegrino.
Instead, he found the man’s wife, Helga, 28. He shot and killed her.
Unruh’s methodical ‘walk of death’ continued…
He entered the barber’s and gunned down Orris Smith, 6. The barber himself was next.
Next he shot 2-year-old Thomas Hamilton in the head through an apartment window, then fired through the window of a passing car.
The shot killed television repairman, Alvin Day, 24.
A nearby tavern owner managed to shoot Unruh in the leg. But he barely noticed…
Next, he visited his neighbours, the Cohens, killing the husband and wife and Mr Cohen’s mother, Minnie.
On the way he killed insurance man, James Hutton, 45.
Then, Unruh shot three generations of the same family, and wounded an 18-year-old boy, as well as a woman and her son.
Finally, after a 20-minute spree, Unruh barricaded himself inside his home.
He was eventually arrested.
Psychiatric reports described him as a ‘master of supressed rage’ with a ‘smouldering anger’.
Unruh opened up to doctors, saying how two years before, he’d decided to ‘become’ gay , but grew paranoid that locals knew his secret. And, the night before the murders he’d been due to meet a man.
He also told doctors about an incident with his mother, where he’d fondled her breasts and their ‘privates touched’.
Unruh was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He was declared unfit to stand trial on 13 counts of ‘wilful and malicious slayings with malice afterthought’ and three counts of atrocious assault and battery.
He was sent to Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. In 1993 he was transferred to a less restrictive geriatric ward.
Unruh died in hospital in October 2009, aged 88.