On a brand new 2019 edition of After Hours AM/The Criminal Code — True Crime Wednesdays 9-11pE with hosts Joel Sturgis, Eric Olsen, and secret weapon, forensic psychologist Dr. Clarissa Cole — Clarissa profiles voluble, notorious, and possibly misunderstood killer Carl Panzram. We profile Panzram at 10pE; at 9pE, we dig into the latest True Crime headlines, which did not end with 2018.
Dr. Clarissa Cole provides her take on the life and mind of Carl Panzram on her The Criminal Code site:
Carl Panzram was born on June 28th, 1892 to his Prussian immigrant parents, Johann “John” and Matilda. They lived on a farm in Grand Forks, Minnesota.
From there, the narrative of Carl Panzram’s early life typically jumps straight to his own acting out, which included being drunk and incorrigible. But what is seldom mentioned is that, as a boy, Panzram suffered several difficulties that most certainly pushed him in that direction. First, his father left the family when Carl was only 7 or 8-years-old. This left Matilda to care for a family of six on her own. Second, Carl’s eldest brothers left the home “as soon as they were able” leaving Matilda to work the farm with Carl, his sister, and one slightly older brother within a few short years. Thus, Carl was in school during the day and forced to work the farm all afternoon and evening. His mother – by all accounts, coping poorly – screamed at the young children and beat them for any infraction. This served to harden Carl toward most adults, and he had few childhood memories of happiness or fun.
By age eleven, Panzram had stolen some apples, cakes, and a revolver from a neighbor, which resulted in a court date, and a placement at Minnesota Training School. It was billed as a reformatory for incorrigible youngsters, but what happened there was far from ‘therapy.’ Panzram later described the horrors of the place in personal letters. He called it “The Painting House” because the children were always painted with bruises and blood. He also described being sodomized for the first time there, and realizing that the “Christian” school – where the boys were forced to attend Bible class – was nothing more than a front for depraved behavior and physical punishment.
Panzram reportedly burned the reformatory to the ground in 1905 – his first act of arson.
Panzram was shuttled back and forth through various places: the reformatory, jail, home – until he finally ran away for good at the age of 14. He hopped a train car and set off to see the world. Unfortunately, the world was not very kind to him.
Panzram later described being gang-raped by a group of transients that he had hopped the train cars with. So, at 15, he decided to lie about his age and join the US Army. They took him, but Panzram couldn’t live by their rules. Soon he was in trouble for larceny and was dishonorably discharged. He spent 1908-1910 in the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth. It is during this time that he said he lost any shred of humanity that he may have still possessed.
From his release in 1910-1918, Panzram went on a burglary spree in the northwest. He burglarized homes in Astoria, Oregon, but was caught when he attempted to sell some of his ill-gotten items. He was sentenced to seven years in Oregon State Penitentiary, Salem. But – determined to stay out of custody – Panzram escaped with fellow inmate Otto Hooker. While attempting to evade capture, Hooker killed Harry Minto, the prison warden. Panzram was now an accessory to murder and he fled the northwest, never to return again.
The horrors continued – click over for the rest of the story and listen to the show for final conclusions!