Israel Lipski: Murderer or Victim?

His last name went on to be used during the time as a slur towards those of the Jewish faith. But was Israel Lipski deserving of this legacy?

The truth may never be known.

It all started in London on June 28th (some sources state 29th), 1887. The body of Miriam Angel, who was pregnant at the time of her death, was found in her room at the lodging house where she lived. She was killed after being forced to drink nitric acid.

If detectives had not arrived when they did, there may have been two corpses in the room. Israel Lipski, a twenty-something umbrella salesman, was found unconscious underneath Angel’s bed, also with burns from nitric acid in his throat. Though badly injured, he was able to recover.

It seemed like an open and shut case. Lipski and Angel lived in the same lodging house, so it was likely they were acquainted. For whatever reason he entered Angel’s room with the intent to kill, forcing her to drink the acid before crawling under her bed and attempting suicide by consuming the same poison.

Yet Lipski maintained his innocence. He claimed that he had heard a ruckus in Angel’s room to find two of his co-workers, Harry Schmuss and Henry Rosenbloom, in the room with her already dead body. They, too, forced him to drink the poison before throwing him under the bed. Investigators never believed him, and he eventually cracked, confessing to the murder. He claimed he planned to rob Miriam Angel as she was asleep when something went awry. To add on to the doubt of innocence, a shop manager reported seeing Lipski buying a bottle of nitric acid the morning of the murder. Prosecutors alleged his motive was both robbery and sexual assault. He was sentenced to death and was hanged on August 22nd, not even two months after the murder.

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1887 newspaper illustration on the Lipski case.

The problem with the Lipski case is that we know so little. An almost empty bottle of nitric acid was found in the mattress, although it was closer to Angel to Lipski, and no evidence was reported that he did or did not consume the acid willingly, although burns were also found on his hands. And if his motive was robbery, why did he attempt suicide? He would had not had a chance to benefit from what he planned to take. Again, there is no information on whether or not the room had been rummaged through or if any valuables were missing (or found with Lipski). It is not known whether or not Angel had been sexually assaulted either.

An alleged motive for the eagerness to pin the crime on Lipski was Antisemitism. Born in Poland, he was one of many working-class Jewish immigrants living in London. Locals of of the mostly Christian city were unhappy with the wave of immigration, claiming they did nothing to benefit London. City officials, even those who were against capital punishment, seemed more than happy to execute Lipski without question. He was only portrayed in a negative light in the press, with his alleged guilt never being questioned.

Again, there is not enough evidence in either direction to show if Lipski was truly guilty or innocent. Eyewitness accounts are not always reliable, and his fate was already sealed at the time of his confession– he may have have been hopeful he could have been spared from the noose if he confessed. And why did Lipski claim to see Schmuss and Rosenbloom, two men he knew well, in the victim’s room? These two men were never interviewed further or considered, and it was not known whether or not they knew Angel.

So What Really Happened?

There are three possibilities as to what what happened on the night of June 28th:

  1. Israel Lipski killed Miriam Angel after a botched robbery (and/or botched sexual assault) and later attempted suicide.
  2. Lipski interrupted Schmuss and Rosenbloom and became a victim of circumstances.
  3. Lipski was targeted and framed by Schmuss and Rosenbloom in a possible Antisemitic hate crime.

The third theory is highly circumstantial, as it suggested all four of the people involved were connected. Lipski and Angel were neighbors, and Lipski, Schmuss, and Rosenbloom were coworkers, so Angel and the men could have theoretically met through Lipski. In this case, Israel Lipski could have actually meant to been the target of the attack. They could have known Lipski would come to Angel’s aid if he heard something out of the ordinary, and they may have intentionally framed him as the murderer. It could have been rooted in Antisemitism or pure convenience, or there may be no merit to this theory at all. Although if Schmuss and Rosenbloom wanted to pin the blame on someone other than themselves, they certainly succeeded.

However, too much time has passed, and the true killer of Miriam Angel- and the real circumstances around the crime- may never be known. The case of Israel Lipski has largely been overshadowed by other mysteries in Victorian London, it is still a truly interesting story.

Links of Interest

Israel Lipski on Murderpedia

Article by Richard JonesArticle by Richard Jones

True Crime Library article

Randy Kraft: The Scorecard Killer

Although his name isn’t particularly synonymous with serial killers in the United States, there’s something gripping about the case of Randy Steven Kraft. Although officially convicted of the murders of sixteen men, his total body count may be over sixty. It’s likely some of these victims would have never been tied to him if he had not kept track of most of them through a cryptic list, a ‘scorecard’ of words and phrases found in the trunk of his car following his arrest in 1983.

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Kraft’s scorecard.

Now in his seventies and residing on California’s death row, Kraft maintains his innocence, stating that the list consisted of nicknames and information about his friends. However, the evidence begs to differ. Over seventy photographs of unconscious or dead men were also found in his car, and personal belongings from some of his presumed victims were located at his residence. The most damning of all was the body of Terry Lee Grambel, found in Kraft’s car when he was arrested.

The Scorecard

Some of Kraft’s victims were easy to confirm, as they were either identified through the photographs or by personal belongings found during the investigation. Others were connected through the scorecard.

All but two of his confirmed victims were tied to the scorecard in various ways. Edward Daniel Moore was listed by his initials EDM, while MC HB Tattoo likely referred to Robert Loggins, a Marine with a large tattoo on his arm who was last seen at the Huntington Beach Pier.

While he was only convicted of sixteen murders, several more connections were made through the scorecard and Kraft’s known modus operandi. Although most of his victims were suffocated or strangled, Kraft was known to drug his victims with excessive amounts of alcohol and antidepressants, sometimes causing fatal overdoses. He would also torture his victims while they were still alive, emasculating them or otherwise multilating their genitals, burning them, and shoving objects up their rectums- socks, sticks, pens, and in one case a man’s own severed genitals. Several of his victims were dismembered post-mortem. At least thirty other murdered or missing men were officially listed as being possible victims through the scorecard.

However, there are some entries never connected to any unsolved cases. Some are speculated to be but not conclusively tied to missing or unidentified person cases, and Kraft’s two victims not thought to be on the list technically could be on it with no known link. Aside from the first few murders, there seems to be no order to the names on the list.

Unanswered Questions

There are 19 entries on the scorecard, possibly referring to 21 victims, that could not be linked to a known case. They are, in the order they appear on the list: Angel, Hari Kari, Marine Down, Van Driveway, 2 in 1 MV to PL, LB Marina, Diabetic, Portland, Navy White, User, Iowa, 2 in 1 Hitch, Front of Ripples, Carpenter, MC Dump HB Short, Oxnard, MC Plants, England, Oil, and What You Got.

The 2 in 1 entries seem to refer to double murders, as referenced by confirmed victims Geoffrey Nelson and Rodger DeVaul, who were listed under 2 in 1 Beach. Even if the two confirmed victims with no known spot on the list are actually on it with some unknown connection, this still leaves nineteen potential victims unaccounted for. These could refer to missing people who have yet to be discovered, remains so decomposed that no trace of Kraft’s modus operandi could be detected, or even attempted or intended victims or ‘dummy’ entries meant to throw off authorities. Some of his victims were homosexuals or male prostitutes, and the stigma surrounding this when the murders occurred might have prevented surviving victims from coming forward. However, as Kraft still maintains his innocence, the truth behind these entries may never be known.

The Unidentified

The unconnected entries on the scorecard aren’t the only mysteries surrounding the Randy Kraft case. Four of his alleged victims are still unidentified, with a fifth confirmed victim being identified after the 1988 article detailing the scorecard.

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Forensic reconstruction of the ‘Wilmington’ John Doe.

The first of the unidentified victims on the scorecard, known as Wilmington, was a young man found by the side of a road in Wilmington, California in 1973. He was strangled to death and a sock was found in his rectum. He was likely between 17 and 24, standing at 5’8″ and weighing about 140 pounds. His hair and eyes were brown and he had multiple scars on his lower right leg.

Another California victim, called 76, was found dismembered behind a Union 76 gas station in Long Beach in 1979. He was decapitated with his limbs severed; only his head, torso, and left leg were recovered. He was described as a white male between eighteen and thirty, six feet tall and 140 to 160 pounds, with brown hair and eyes. He had a chipped front tooth and a scar on his left knee. His cause of death is either unknown or has not been released.

The last of Kraft’s unidentified victims was either known as Portland Eck or Portland Elk, was found in 1980 in Marion County, Oregon. Investigators are unsure what the latter part of the nickname could be. He was on the older end of his victims, at 35 to 45, and was 5’6″ and 160 pounds. He had balding brown hair and a moustache, with blue eyes. He did not appear to be tortured or mutilated, but he was strangled with a ligature and had high levels of alcohol and antidepressants in his system.

The fourth unidentified person is actually second of the unidentified victims on the list, taking place shortly after the ‘Wilmington’ murder in 1973. It is also possibly the strangest of all of Kraft’s victims in its circumstances. With the exception of the scorecard, the 1988 article, and a graphic newspaper article from the time of the body’s discovery, there is no record of this man, known as Hawth Off Head, ever existing. There is nothing to suggest he had been identified but there is no NamUs or Doe Network page for him either, nor has a coroner’s report been made public. All that is known is that he had been emasculated and strangled, and his dismembered remains were found across the Wilmington and Long Beach areas. No physical description of this man is known to exist.

Links of Interest

Pertaining to case in general:

Los Angeles Times article from 1988

Article by Charles Montaldo elaborating on the names on the scorecard

‘Wilmington’ John Doe:

NamUs

Doe Network

’76’ John Doe:

NamUs

Doe Network

‘Portland Eck/Elk’ John Doe

NamUs

Doe Network