Christian Jacoby

Christian Jacoby, his wife, Lena, their four children, and a servant, Anna Maria Suttler, arrived in Pittsburgh from Offenbach, Germany, on July 7, 1858. Upon arrival, they checked into the hotel of Daniel Herwig at 395 Penn Avenue, downtown.

Jacoby had lived in Pittsburgh and worked in a rolling mill for two years prior to his marriage and was returning with his wife and family en route to Chicago to start a life in the United States.

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That evening, Christian and Lena Jacoby went on a long walk across the Monongahela River and to the west along the Ohio River to a remote area. There Jacoby shot and killed his wife. The next morning, with Anna Maria Suttler, who was pregnant, posing as his wife, the Jacobys continued to Chicago.

Riverboats approaching Pittsburgh, 1850s
Pittsburgh from the Ohio River, 1850s, very near the site where Lena Jacoby was killed

After Lena Jacoby’s body was found near Cork’s Run on the Ohio River on July 10, an investigation began that ultimately led to her identification and to Christian Jacoby’s arrest in Indiana on August 27. Investigators found that ammunition in his possession matched the gun and ammunition found with Lena Jacoby’s body.

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Pittsburgh Daily Post, August 30, 1858

Reports from Germany supported the understanding that was coming into focus; that Lena Jacoby was poorly treated by her husband, that Christian Jacoby was the father of the child Suttler was carrying, and that their illicit relationship was the cause of Lena’s death.

At trial, the state used the gun and ammunition evidence, including a bullet taken from the victim’s disinterred body, as well as his relationship with Suttler, to implicate Jacoby. In his defense, Jacoby claimed his wife committed suicide. Ironically, Suttler testified in support of that argument, stating that Lena Jacoby had told her that she felt unvalued next to Suttler. After six days of testimony and twenty minutes of deliberations, Jacoby was convicted of first-degree murder on November 20, 1858.

After his motion for a new trial was rejected, Jacoby was sentenced to death on December 11. After his appeal (Commonwealth v. Jacoby, Volume VI, p. 177, 1858) was rejected on January 14, 1859, no recourse remained.

Christian Jacoby was hanged on May 20, 1859, side-by-side with David Evans, who had also murdered his wife.

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In another tragic turn, Anna Marie Suttler’s baby died shortly after birth.

 

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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