Author Discusses Unusual Crime Story on May 24

May 23, 2018

One of Germany’s most unusual crimes will come to the forefront when author Ann Marie Ackermann appears at the Beach Haven Public Library on Thursday, May 24, 11 a.m. She will give a presentation and sign copies of her book, Death of an Assassin.

The true crime story reveals that the first volunteer killed defending Robert E. Lee’s position in battle was really a German assassin. After fleeing to the U.S. to escape prosecution for murder, the assassin enlisted in a German company of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Mexican-American War and died defending Lee’s battery at the Siege of Veracruz in 1847. Lee wrote a letter home, praising this unnamed fallen volunteer defender. Military records identify him, but none of the Americans knew about his past life of crime.

Before fighting with the Americans, Lee’s defender had assassinated Johann Heinrich Rieber, mayor of Bönnigheim, Germany, in 1835. Rieber’s assassination became 19th-century Germany’s coldest case ever solved by a non-law enforcement professional and the only 19th-century German murder ever solved in the U.S. Thirty-seven years later, another suspect in the assassination who had also fled to America found evidence in Washington, D.C., that would clear his own name, and he forwarded it to Germany. German prosecutor Ernst von Hochstetter corroborated the story and closed the case file in 1872, naming Lee’s defender as Rieber’s murderer.

For more information, call the library at 609-492-7081. —E.E.


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