Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Rulloff: The Genius Killer

On the Trail

Billy Dexter
Billy Dexter

The detectives also figured that Brooklyn-based attorney, William Thornton, was an obvious choice for a first meeting, and they were right.  He looked at the photograph the investigators had of the dead burglars and identified one as Billy Dexter.  He did not know the other man but offered Dexter's address.  There, a woman affirmed Dexter's identification and offered an associate's name, Edward Howard.  She identified this man from a photo the detectives had of Rulloff.  That was their first link between the two men.

They found where Rulloff had lived and used a key from his effects to open the door.  This proved to yield a wealth of circumstantial information, from burglary tools to items tied to the two burglars.  The detectives even picked up a manuscript that Rulloff had been working on, according to people who knew him (which itself would become part of the case), and they identified the other burglar, Albert Jarvis.

Albert Jarvis
Albert Jarvis

It turned out that Jarvis had been a boy, the son of a jailer, when he'd first met Rulloff, who was then in prison.  Apparently, they'd struck up a friendship, which led to an association in later years that had eventually led to the boy's sad demise. He'd accepted the schemes that Rulloff had laid out for bettering oneself in life, and since Rulloff was an intelligent and impressive man, he'd easily led the young man into a life of crime.

Once these associations were made, Rulloff's status changed dramatically.  By now, his past was coming to light. It wasn't a stretch to believe that not only was he the mastermind of the botched burglary, but he'd probably killed the young clerk himself.  Many people believed it was not the first time he'd killed, but in the earlier incidents, he'd gotten away with it.  They intended to make sure that this time would be different: he was going to pay with his life.  DA Peter Hopkins prepared his case.  He started with Rulloff's sinister background.

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