After weeks of terrorizing Omaha, in 1928 an African American man named Jake Bird (1901–1949) was arrested for murdering two women and a man, and attacking two other people. Bird was a prolific serial murderer whose crimes criss-crossed the United States, and dispelled the myth that only white men were serial killers.
During his spree in Omaha, Bird was accused of murdering two women in South Omaha, and of taking an axe and attempting to murder Harold Stribling and kidnapping and attacking his wife in Carter Lake. He also murdered J.W. Blackman in North Omaha. Blackman was asleep in the front room of the house with his son at 4121 North 28th Street when Jake Bird entered the house and chopped him with an axe.
Bird was eventually arrested at 2111 Clark Street in the Near North Side neighborhood.
Authorities were so concerned about a mob lynching him that they took him to the state penitentiary in Lincoln almost immediately after his arrest. Provided support by the Omaha NAACP, the organization’s attorney Harrison Pinkett met with him in prison several times along with C.C. Galloway, editor of the Omaha Guide newspaper.
The rest of Bird’s life was complicated and his trials went on and on. He was shipped from Nebraska to Iowa, where he was tried for the Carter Lake attacks. Police never connected him to the axe murders in Omaha, and he was never tried in Nebraska. However, he was tried in several other states and sent to multiple prisons.
After denying his guilt for several years, Bird eventually confessed he was a serial killer. He claimed that he killed as many as 46 people in ten other states in addition to Nebraska. He said he preyed especially on white women, and only used an axe or hatchet to murder his victims.
In 1948, Bird confessed to murdering an 8-year-old child in East Omaha named Harvey Boyd. Another man, Clarence Lukehart, served 19 years of a life sentence for that crime. According to the newspaper, Lukehart, who protested his guilt for the entire time, was beaten into a confession by police. He lived at 220 East 5th Street in East Omaha, just a few blocks away from Boyd’s house, and had a criminal record.
Bird was found guilty again and hanged in Washington State in 1949, and today there is a lot of information available about him across the internet. His Omaha victims are buried in cemeteries throughout the city.
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