Queen City Gothic
Queen City Gothic
Cincinnati's Most Infamous Murder Mysteries
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Losing a loved one to murder is life’s ultimate tragedy. But when the killer is never captured, a family’s paralyzing grief only compounds. Years pass. Pain grows. Time heals nothing. 


Parents, spouses, and children of the victims never find peace. Investigators continue to lie awake night after night, year after year, thinking, “If only...”


Cold cases fascinate us because of the endless possibilities. What if Alice Hochhausler hadn’t driven her daughter home from work while a strangler was running loose? What if Oda Apple’s wife hadn’t sent him to the corner drugstore?  What if Linda Bricca hadn’t been so beautiful – and her husband not a workaholic? 


J. T. Townsend takes us on a sinister journey through thirteen cases, which took place in Cincinnati, Ohio, between 1904 and 1971. You’ll meet Frances Brady, a pretty bride-to-be gunned down at her own front door.  Tommy Coby, age eight, who arrived home to an empty house, and learned later his parents were lying dead in their car. Patty Rebholz, a popular cheerleader, who was bludgeoned in a neighbor’s backyard while walking to break up with her teenage boyfriend.


What do these cases have in common? A fleeting, irrational act of violence with no resolution. Somebody literally got away with murder. Each episode took place in sheer moments––but hundreds of innocent people still remember, still mourn, and are still haunted by horrible, unbearable images.


Townsend’s riveting accounts include never-before-published details from police files and insights from both investigators and witnesses. Finally someone has managed to put all of the pieces together. Whodunit? We’ll never know for sure––but we can certainly make some informed, calculated guesses.


Meanwhile, on these pages, each victim returns to vibrant life, becomes as real to us as to those loved ones they left behind––and still cries out for justice.

CHAPTER PROLOGUES: Long before the term serial killer was coined, an unknown assassin held the Queen City in his thrall from 1904 to 1910. Five women were savagely slain in Cumminsville, earning the district the grisly sobriquet of “the murder zone.” Like Jack the Ripper, this killer was an elusive phantom. He prowled dim alleys and dank railroad yards in the dead of night, searching for women walking alone who were down on their luck From 1915 to 1921, three little girls disappeared from the old Mohawk neighborhood. The first was found ravaged and mutilated several days after her kidnapping - the other two just vanished into thin air, as if carried from earth by giant eagles. Were they all victims of the same fiendish slayer? Or was this just a cruel twist of fate, ensnaring the three angels who never grew up? Impenetrable mystery still shrouds this classic unsolved murder - standing like the locked door which separated killer and prey. Was the shooting of Frances Marie Brady a botched burglary or cold-blooded murder? That the pretty victim was to be married within the week only intensified the heartbreak. She was gunned down arriving home from her bridal shower, shot through the heart in front of her devoted sisters, just days away from embarking on a new life. It was a crime - or was it? Investigators were divided from the start: Was the young executive they found trussed up inside a bag murdered, or did he take his own life? Armchair detectives have whetted their appetites for years on the Willard Armstrong case, and their conclusions are still locked in conflict. This strange death was too close to call. Sliced up in a cheap hotel and left to die thrashing in her own blood, Sophia Baird's murder exposed the vile underbelly and racist overtones of street life in Cincinnati. Her tragic odyssey is the Queen City's answer to Hollywood's Black Dahlia case, where a pretty yet naïve girl wanders into an urban jungle and falls victim to the sordid night. Questionable eyewitness accounts fingered “a Negro” for the crime, but as the years unraveled, the riddle of Sophia's death hinted at a more ominous truth.

J. T. Townsend is a freelance writer and lifelong resident of Cincinnati.  He is the former true crime historian for Snitch Magazine, and his work has appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati Magazine, Word Magazine, and Clews.  In addition, he appeared in the 2008 British Documentary Conversations With a Serial Killer.  This is his first book.


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