Martin Dumollard: The French Maid Massacres Part 2
For centuries the human race has struggled to understand the dark side of humanity. The human mind is like a seemingly unsolvable Rubik's cube in its intricacy. Though we can understand the way our bodies and brains communicate using neurons that send messages with a form of electricity, we cannot grasp the impulse to do evil. It was once thought that violent crimes were only committed by those with something inherently wrong with them. We now know that theory was posited by those simply trying to grapple with the notion of living evil.
When we last left our vicious killer, he had managed to continue his murderous scheme throughout the entirety of 1859 without being witnessed any more than once towards the end of the year. In that time Martin had gotten better at carrying on conversation and had found new ways to put his victims at ease. Some of the money he had brought in from his previous crimes even paid for nicer clothes to sell his role as a master of servants.
When the large man consumed by his wife's greed returned to Lyon in April 1860, he found his newest prospect easily enough. Louise Michel took little convincing to accept a position in Saint-Andre-de-Corcy. She met with the master of servants on the Tilsit bridge, ready to take her place among the staff of a countryside estate and begin turning her life around. The man that offered her the job seemed rather simple in his manner, but was also kind and courteous. Though large and not very good-looking, he was well groomed and dressed quite nicely. He fit the part he was playing perfectly in his previous experience working in Guichard's estate. Louise could hardly be blamed for believing his ruse as it had been carefully crafted by he and his wife.
In his expensive clothes, Martin cut a respectable figure when he met the young maid. He had brought a horse along to further sell the act. Claiming that he hated to allow a woman to trek so far on foot, he hoisted her onto the horse's saddle once all of her things were packed away in his large chest. A seemingly kind gesture, the horse was likely meant to be a trap. Not only would it make him seem more legitimate, but he could quickly and easily grab the women from the horse's back before they even knew they were in danger. An extravagant expense for the enterprise of robbing and murdering women, but for a short time at least, it seemed to work. Louise climbed into the saddle without a thought for her safety. The kind gentleman taking her to the country surely meant her no harm.
Before leaving the bustling city behind, Louise had some concerns about living and working so far from society. She had heard stories of the awful treatment endured by those working in the country, far from the prying, judging eyes of others. Being in the company of this sweet yet somewhat slow man made all of those worries fall away. If this was the man she would be working under, she had no fears of being mistreated, or even abused. She could carry on confidently knowing that she would be alright at her new posting.
The lumbering man seemed to have gotten better at carrying on conversation without stirring suspicions. He recited all the news he'd overheard traveling back and forth between Lyon and Dagneux. Aside from current events, he would go on about all of the things he knew of working in such an estate. Louise never suspected a thing as Martin had improved the mask he wore and his ability to uphold it.
His jovial facade never cracked for even a second. Even as he halted the horse, pulled Louise down, and demanded all of her money, his tone was so friendly that she thought him to be joking. When his demeanor broke and his voice boomed the command a second time, she knew he was quite serious. Whether it was a darting glance or a sudden move that caused Martin to react, he struck her to the ground with a meaty fist. The blow shocked her as she had not been hit since childhood. As she pushed herself from the dirty, dusty country road, Louise shrieked and scrambled away. She leapt from the road and into the field so quickly that her pursuer had no hope of catching her in his grasp.
The terrified woman tore through the fields, leaving Martin with all of her belongings. This was the best escape route she could've taken. Running down the road, he could've easily gotten on his horse and overtaken her. Through the fields and over walls, the animal was no use to him. He also couldn't afford to leave something so expensive in pursuit of a victim. Suddenly his own trap had bogged him down. Instead of risking capture, he jumped on his horse and rode hard out of sight and away from the area.
Louise finally came upon a farmer working his land. She told her story in hysterics and found safe passage home. It would be a full month before she finally reported the crime. When she gave her testimony to the Magistrate Genod in Trevoux, the same farmer that had helped her that day accompanied her to give his own. They discovered that they had not been the only witnesses. Though he had not wished to, Martin had attracted some attention while fleeing the area. These witnesses knew the monster that nearly trampled them in his flight.
The very day that Louise had been accosted, Simon Mallet and his son, Louis, were tending their land. You may remember these two from Part 1 as the Heavenly angels that saved the life of Julie Fargeat, the poor, pregnant young maid that was robbed and left screaming in the woods. As Martin ripped across farmlands to avoid the road, he nearly mowed father and son down in his brazen escape. When they glimpsed his face they recognized it immediately as the man described to them by the pregnant young maid in the woods nearly two years prior.
Louise was brought before the magistrate alongside the Mallets to give testimony. While it would seem that Martin had neared the end of his blood-drenched road, the pride and ignorance of Magistrate Genod would allow him to comb the city of Lyon for desperate young women a little longer. The stubborn magistrate didn't believe the claims of a 'swollen-lipped man' robbing women out in the country. While he conceded that a robbery had taken place, the culprit's description sounded ridiculous to him. Nothing more than a boogeyman story made up by bored farmers to entertain themselves as they toiled away in their fields. The accounts of an enormous man with a hunched back and scarred, swollen lip sounded more like a villain from a fairy tale than something rooted in reality.
Shortly before Louise and the Mallets made their way to Trevoux a man suspected to be the murderer had been arrested. Audrillat had languished in a cell waiting for some evidence of his innocence to surface. Louise was brought down to the dark, dank cells to identify her assailant. She stared blankly at the unknown man behind bars having never seen him before. With such little evidence pointing to his guilt and Louise's inability to identify him as her attacker, he was released.
Martin wasted no time getting back to Lyon to procure another victim in his well laid out plot. Playing it a little too close to home this time, he offered a posting in his own village of Dagneux supposedly paying 250 francs a year. At the end of April in 1860, he displayed himself upon the Guillotiere bridge to advertise the sham job. After his previous victim's escape, he decided to abandon the horse and come up with a new way to portray wealth while putting his next target at ease. This time, he would take his poor, unsuspecting prey by train for the majority of their trip before marching her out into the woods.
Marie Pichon took the bait and left with the hulking, but pleasant man that offered her work. They would be traveling to Montluel by way of train before disembarking and completing their journey on foot. Later, she would remember nothing of the conversation between them. Only that he had been very personable and courteous. He behaved in just the way she would've expected a master-servant to. He was clearly learning from his mistakes and adjusting his plans and behaviors accordingly. Pichon never doubted his guise for a second. It would seem that this beast had learned to wear his camouflage well.
After a restful and enjoyable train ride the young maid had no concerns about walking in the heights of Dagneux. They would surely make it before dark and she had plenty of energy to spare for the trek having not walked all the way from Lyon. The entire trip had been so peaceful, and even delightful that she held no reservations about wandering into the woods with this unknown man.
When her simple companion dropped his chest and knelt to the ground, she thought nothing of it. He was only tying his shoes. Nothing strange there. Pichon turned her back to the stranger and looked out ahead into the forest they were trudging through. Little did she know at that moment, Martin was pulling a hidden lariat from his pants leg. As she looked out into the dense forest, Martin stood with his weapon in hand and quietly stalked up behind her. As he attempted to garrote her a sudden urge to wipe her eye actually saved her life. The cord caught her arm instead of her throat and the struggle ensued.
The impossibly strong man lifted her small frame from the ground easily, but the amount of force he applied didn't matter. The lariat had caught her arm, pinning it to her face. Instead of choking her, he was only cutting into her arm. When he realized his mistake, he loosened his grip to reposition his weapon. Pichon didn't waste a split second when she slipped to ground, running for her life from the wild forest and its cruel beast. As she was young and well-rested from the train ride to the country, Martin was no match for the amount of speed her adrenaline afforded her. Once again, his own trap had foiled him. Without a thought for her savings or belongings the woman sprinted through the woods, valuing her life more.
Her feet pounded the ground, never ceasing for a moment until she reached the region of Balan. She was taken in at the Joly farm, where she received help from its inhabitants. Monsieur Joly went to Dagneux to get the garde champetre so he could report the assault and robbery as well as the assailant's description. It was the very distinctive description that made officials think twice. They couldn't help but to notice the similarities between this report and many others of a man fitting this account terrorizing women the region. It also did not take long to connect the man's description to that of a man who had recently moved back to the area called Raymond. As you may recall from Part 1, when Martin moved back to his home village of Dagneux he was remembered from his childhood, but by his dead brother's name. In his social awkwardness, he never corrected the other residents, choosing to go by Raymond instead.
This was the first time Martin had been so bold as to commit a crime so close to home. He was normally careful to overtake his victims far from the area he lived in with his wife, Marie-Anne. Given his very noticeable and noteworthy appearance, he had all the more reason to stay far away when killing and robbing the city's women. Initially his appearance actually saved him from suspicion. The garde champetre thought this was just the typical kind of scapegoating that people have always been capable of. The ugliest, strangest-looking man in the village must be the culprit simply because he doesn't look like everyone else. After some careful consideration, it was clearly seen that these crimes coincided with Martin's return to the area. Maybe there was more to the accounts taken than scapegoating.
A few rangers were sent to check out the small cottage of the Dumollards. Keeping their distance as well as a watchful eye, they crept up quietly to see what they were dealing with. Smoke billowed from the small hovel's chimney, sending tendrils into the air that signaled someone was home. As the men stood watch, word was sent to the Magistrate Genod. He wasted no time in excusing himself from his duties and dropping everything on a dime to gather a crowd of officers of the court to accompany him to Dagneux. With a warrant in hand, the men made their way to the village to confront their latest suspect. By chance they happened to catch Martin at home in between his brutal ventures. He and Marie-Anne were both taken into custody as the magistrate and his officers were faced with a truly gruesome, horrifying, and chaotic scene within their home.
For the first time in their investigation the motive for these crimes had become apparent. As they made their way through the tiny cottage the men could hardly move through the piles and stacks of clothing that nearly reached the ceiling in some places. In every direction clothes and jewelry were piled almost as high as they would go. Narrow paths were carved into the chaos that actually seemed to have some kind of morbid order. Soiled, dirty, bloody clothing had a pile of their own as these items were far too ruined for resale. Clean, unstained clothes were neatly folded and kept away from the dirtier articles so they could be peddled to merchants later. Jewelry and family heirlooms were lumped into piles all over the house. These items would surely draw attention if resold, so they were kept instead.
So much had been stuffed into the little house that it would prove impossible to identify every victim through the items recovered. Until this point it had been assumed that the maid-killer had only murdered Marie Baday and failed in his other attempts. No one had ever taken into consideration the grim and very real possibility that there were more bodies even further into the dark, dense, and ancient forest he led his victims through. Most men were unable to trek through those overgrown woods, but Martin Dumollard was not most men. He could not only journey through the forest, he could survive it for long periods if need be.
As Magistrate Genod waded through the monster's home, he found the most grim stories of all piled into a massive lump. The dinghy, torn, blood-soaked clothing belonging to the countless women that did not make it back to tell a soul. Genod was shocked at the realization that likely hundreds of women met with foul play simply accepting a job offer. To this day the exact number of Martin's victims is unknown. Aside from Marie Baday only one other body was ever recovered further into the investigation of the Dumollard's guilt. The massive pile of torn, bloody clothing along with the stolen articles and jewelry were all they had to go off of. It was apparent that the families of missing women all over the region would need to be called in to identify the items recovered. Just looking at the vast amount of ruined clothing it seemed like a case that would take decades to build.
Husband and wife were both locked away in Trevoux. To ensure they had no way of collaborating on their stories the two were kept separate. The real work seemed have only just begun. They not only had a literal mountain of evidence to go through, but they needed to illicit a confession, which proved to be impossible. Finding something to charge them with was going to be every bit as big of a job as sorting through the victims' effects.
Martin shut down so completely there was no pulling words from him. Never having been very talkative to start with, it didn't take much to render him totally silent. While he remained ever-stoic and quiet, his wife wasted not a second pointing a finger full of blame in his direction as she threw him under the bus hard enough to kill him.
Marie-Anne claimed to know nothing at first. She said that her husband just started bringing clothes home one day. Initially, she claimed to believe the clothing to have been found along his excursions. That is, until the piles began growing exponentially. At that point she assumed him to have a deal with a rag and bone dealer. Much more ominous sounding than it really is, a rag and bone dealer simply collected and sold unwanted household items. She would labor over the dirty clothing until her hands were pruned and her fingers blistered, attempting to remove the stains. Stating that there are many innocent ways in which one might bleed, she thought nothing of the stains she cleaned.
The poor, innocent wife continued to lament her situation to authorities as though she had waited for an eternity to lift the weight of her husband's misdeeds from her chest. To make her plight seem all the more pitiful, she told the magistrate that while she would bleed and sweat over the clothes he brought home, Martin would laze about the tiny cottage. He would do nothing at all while she was forced to clean the things he dropped in front of her with no explanation as to where it was all coming from.
Though she may have been able to fool some, Marie-Anne couldn't pull the wool over Magistrate Genod's eyes. He could see straight through and into her dark, twisted soul. After speaking with Martin, the magistrate quickly sized up his mental abilities. There was no way he had managed to pull off something so sophisticated on his own for so long. Someone was coaching him. Someone cunning and quick on her feet. Though Genod could plainly see who was pulling the strings, he knew that he would never get a jury to hang a woman for such crimes. During this time women were not seen as capable of being criminal masterminds.
All across the land a call went out to the friends, family, and parents of missing women from all over the region. They were alerted to make the journey to Trevoux to possibly identify their loved one's belongings. Authorities hoped to identify every victim through the mounds of evidence collected. From there, they also hoped to locate every woman's remains, but that would never happen. While many of his victims would finally get their names back, the vast majority remain unknown to this day. These poor women's bodies were claimed by the ancient forest in which they were buried, never to be found or know a proper burial.
All of the previous witnesses were called forth to present their testimony again. Not all of them could be tracked down by this time, though. While many that had already spoken to authorities were returning with stories previously shrugged off, many more were speaking up for the first time in light of Martin's arrest. Through some of these testimonies it was learned that the very noticeable and distinctive man happened to be a creature of habit. When he would return to the city of Lyon to sniff out another woman down on her luck, he would always eat his dinner at Marguerite Chorel's restaurant at 7:00 sharp every evening.
The quiet and seemingly harmless man would lodge at the same inn every time he entered the city as well. The Laborde Inn was owned by Monsieur Laborde, but it was his wife, Louise-Adele, that ran the day-to-day operations. She knew every face that regularly patronized her and her husband's establishment well. When she saw Martin's description in the paper along with the atrocities he was accused of, she came forward with a wild story of her own.
In early February 1860, her strange, but well-meaning regular returned to her inn once again, but with a guest this time. A young woman accompanied him on this visit and he requested a single room for the two to share. Madame Laborde did not want any kind of unsavory, unchristian activities taking place under her roof. She presumed this girl to be a prostitute and Martin to be her customer. The large, awkward man laughed at her presumption, saying that the young woman was his niece and they would require a room with separate beds until their departure from the city the following morning. Though her suspicions had not been minimized, she still relented and allowed the two a room. It wouldn't take her long to regret that decision.
No sooner than the door closed behind them did the nameless woman come sprinting back out. She flew through the inn and out the door with Martin hot on her heels. Huffing, puffing, and red in the face, Martin chased after her. As he burst through the inn's entrance in pursuit of his victim, Louise-Adele felt that her previous suspicions had been confirmed. Later he would return alone, likely expecting an ear-full from the innkeeper. She shot him a withering, judgmental look as he passed with his tail between his legs. Though he remained a loyal patron of the inn, he never made the mistake of bringing a woman back there again.
It would later be found that the unknown woman did not escape that night after leaving the inn. The clothes she was last seen wearing were found among the items destroyed in his savage attacks. The murder of Marie Baday was also connected to him through clothing found in the Dumollard's home. Though many connections were made and many women identified, there was no telling just by the evidence alone how many could've been killed. An array of items had been found, but there was no telling how much had already been fenced for a nice price in one of the villages Martin passed in his nefarious travels.
In May 1861, the family of a lovely young maid named Marie-Eulalie Bussod came forward to report her missing. Their report came three months after she had accepted a job in the country from an odd-looking man with a large frame and a hunched back. She had been visited by the man offering work, which she gladly accepted. When the woman's sister, Marie-Josephte, heard of the unsightly man making fabricated job offers to rob and viciously kill women, she found herself standing before Magistrate Genod praying that her sister had not been among them. The loyal and loving sister had watched her own flesh and blood walk away with the stranger as he carried her entire life on his back for her so dutifully. The guilt she felt tearing at her very heart and soul for allowing her sibling to walk out into the woods with this mysterious, vile man was more than she could bear. She felt personally responsible for the poor woman's disappearance.
Marie-Josephte had traveled all the way to Trevoux to speak with the magistrate about her sister's case. She was already consumed by worry and remorse when she was escorted by officials to look through items taken from the hovel that had belonged to Martin and his wife. She sifted through clothing, jewelry, and family heirlooms passed down over generations. It didn't take her but a few minutes to find several items belonging to Marie-Eulalie. With this horrifying discovery made, she was taken down to the cells to identify the hunchbacked, swollen-lipped man that had taken her. The moment her grief-filled eyes locked with his dull, empty ones she knew him as the very same man that had marched her sister out into an ancient forest near Pizay that was not typically traveled.
A search was launched for the lost maid in the intensely dense, dark, and overgrown forest that Marie-Josephte watched her sister disappear into. This extremely old location would come to be known aptly as the Woods of the Dead. Thought to be older than mankind itself, few were willing, or even able to travel into it. The treacherous conditions would be rough on the gendarmes and magistrates, but Marie-Josephte would face a different brand of difficulty in those woods. Knowing well that it could be her to come upon the decomposing corpse of her sibling, she subjected herself to the searches nonetheless. Originally the idea had been to keep her close by in case an identification would need to be made. Not one to stand back helplessly, she participated fully in the search in hopes of answering that all-consuming question. What had become of Marie-Eulalie?
Days of searching had proved fruitless. No one knew where to find her. Except for one person, that is. Genod found himself at a breaking point. If he was going to find this woman he would need to think outside of the box. While hard work would normally solve a case, it would seem this one would require a certain level of creativity. Genod climbed right out of the comfortable box that he was so used to working from and decided on an unorthodox and controversial method. One typically used today, it was considered unthinkable when implemented by the magistrate.
Tightly clamped in chains, Martin was brought out to the woods to see what he may give away so close to the scene of the crime. The goal was to observe him as they wandered the forest to see if some action, or even a sideways glance could point them in the right direction. After standing underneath the broad, thick canopy of the trees for only a minute or two, their prisoner shocked them all. He declared that he knew where the body was and he was ready to take them to it. As he shuffled forward in his shackles, the gendarmes surrounding him were stunned into silence. The men flanked him on either side awaiting an escape attempt that never came. They waded ever-deeper into the forest as Martin seamlessly moved through thickets and masses of tree branches. A smaller man would've never made it through the wildly untamed forest.
He silently walked through the woods as easily as one might walk a well-paved road. When he came to stop, he simply pointed to a rather unremarkable mound of dirt without uttering a single word. The gendarmes began digging to find that this mound of soil was anything but unremarkable. It was the makeshift grave of a young woman. Marie-Josephte was solemnly brought forward to make the identification. The realization that this small, shallow plot in the middle of an ancient forest contained her sister within solidified her grief as well as her guilt.
Two wooden crosses were quickly placed in memoriam of the sweet young woman taken before her time in gruesome fashion. One was placed in the forest in which she was found, while the other marked her permanent grave site. Both listed her date of death as February 25, 1861.
Before her body could be interred, an examination would need to be performed. The findings were horrifying and incomprehensible to anyone unwilling to commit such monstrosities. Marie-Eulalie had been stripped of her clothing, violently raped, and then tossed into a shallow grave while she still drew breath. The cause of her death was found to be suffocation. It was surmised that this unfortunate maid was buried alive after suffering a blow to the back of her head. The results were disturbingly grisly and truly eye-opening to those attempting to figure out exactly what they were dealing with. The scope of the horrendous things this man was capable of knew no bounds.
Though they had only managed to uncover the remains of two victims, the abhorrent picture of what the rest had suffered was clear enough for all to see. Doctors were brought in to study Martin with the sciences available at that time. No one could dispute the man's guilt, but no one could pin-point the motivation for such crimes, either. The doctors were sent to determine whether Martin's guilt was a product of his dire circumstances, or some inherent defect that he could not have helped.
He appeared to be a very healthy man of around 50. His dark hair, thick beard, and moustache held not a single sign of gray. Despite his years of hard living and the array of injuries he'd suffered in his life, his nose was surprisingly straight and unbroken. His blue eyes seemed even colder and somehow more unfeeling after his crimes were brought to light. The swelling of his lip was still prominent and he still claimed it to be the result of a sting from a poisonous fly. This would later be found to be untrue as the swelling would've gone down at some point if he had in fact been stung. In truth, Martin had a benign cancer on his lip that grew with him as he grew into adulthood.
The defined hunch in his back seemed to disappear altogether in the presence of the doctors. His hunched back had been so prominent that the feature always made its way into every description of him. Its prominence also led to the assumption that he suffered a deformation of the spine after walking slumped over for long. This was the first time anyone realized that he could actually stand and move about in an upright position, just not painlessly. After his fall from the hayloft many years earlier, he had found this as the only way he could get up and move around for long periods without experiencing as much pain. His posture would only hold up for as long as the doctors were in the room with him. Once they left, he would return to the comfortable slumped position he'd grown used to.
Many of the ideas we know today as false and rooted directly in racism were still prevalent in medical science during this time. Probably the most false and racist of these concepts was the study of phrenology. This was the detailed study of the shape and size of a person's cranium as a way of indicating their mental abilities. Among the many doctors that Martin saw after his incarceration was a phrenologist. This so-called doctor ran his hands over the enormous skull of the prisoner to confirm that it sloped upward and backwards into a cone-like point. The front of his skull was found to recede rapidly, resulting in what the phrenologist referred to as a 'villainously low' forehead. It was the doctor's opinion that Martin's skull more closely resembled that of an African's, or what he called 'nations beyond the pale of civilization.' This just goes to show exactly how rooted in racism this so-called form of medical science was.
The various lumps and bumps that covered his head were thought to correspond to his brain's development and were thoroughly noted. The determination of the study was that the 'organs of destructiveness, circumspection, and self-reliance' were overdeveloped, while the 'organs of comparison, causality, and ideality' were severely underdeveloped. Their conclusion was that murderer of French maids had been born to be a monster rather one molded from his situation and experiences. It was also stated that his hideous appearance was due to a lack of 'good' features rather than the possession of any one bad feature. Today anyone reading this can clearly see how ridiculous this field of study was and why it was abandoned for more legitimate ones.
Martin's murder conviction was inevitable once he led investigators to the grave of Marie-Eulalie Bussod. His ability to quickly lead them to her burial site in such a large, ancient and overgrown forest was tantamount to a confession. If they thought that they had broken down a wall with this murderous beast, they were sadly mistaken. He remained as silent as ever, never giving Genod more than a vacant smile. Not one to be deterred, the magistrate changed tactics, applying pressure to his partner in life and crime instead.
Marie-Anne was confronted with her husband's guilt. Genod did not disclose the extent of his guilt or that he was aware of her role in the scheme. He did, however, make it clear that any information she could provide would go a long way towards saving her neck from the guillotine. If she could feed them something tangible then she could prove that she had nothing to do with these atrocious acts. She was reluctant to reveal anything that she knew, but not out of any sense of love or loyalty to her husband. The ever-cunning and manipulative former maid was taking her time. She needed to concoct the perfect story that would keep her well and clear of any wrongdoing.
While Martin hid behind a wall of silence in hopes of protecting he and his wife, Marie-Anne was trying to figure out which version of the truth sounded better for her. How could she provide some sort of evidence against him without incriminating herself? Genod had anticipated the couple to have a plan of some sort that would allow Marie-Anne to escape justice altogether. As cold and cruel as this killer had proved to be, he had also proved himself fiercely loyal to his wife. No one could see him giving up an ounce of information on her.
She didn't call the magistrate back until she felt her story was bullet-proof. Careful consideration went into her account as she tried to push as much blame onto her husband as possible. She needed to convince the magistrate that she had no knowledge of Martin's crimes until after the fact. She took Genod back four years prior to the couple's arrest. Back to the year 1857, when Martin had murdered a woman in the Montmain Wood and returned home with some of her things. A pair of gold earrings he had taken off of the body were sold for a hefty sum. Her luggage, however, had been checked at the train station when they boarded the train out of the city. Convincing the young woman he would return for her things the following morning, he encouraged her to continue on through the woods to her new job without the added weight.
Though Martin had intended on retrieving the woman's luggage, he did not return for it. Marie-Anne had suggested that he would draw too much attention to himself doing such a thing. Four years later it still sat unclaimed and untouched at the train station. Those working at the station were more than happy to get it out of their way when the gendarmes came looking for it. They turned the poor, unnamed woman's luggage over, likely surprised by the situation.
The very day after Marie-Anne gave her statement she was taken on the same train that carried the unknown victim to her fate. She rode silently and nervously with Genod and the gendarme commander on the very route her husband had taken this unfortunate woman on before he killed her. When the trio finally climbed off the train and into the bustling crowd they walked straight out of the station and into the woods. It was now her turn to lead investigators to a body. She seemed to have no trouble at all finding and pointing out the young woman's grave in the forest bed, making the men that much more suspicious of her. If this supposedly innocent woman had no involvement at all, then how did she know precisely where the body had been buried? They seemed willing enough to let it go in return for her testimony against her husband. After all, no jury would convict or execute a woman for such a heinous crime.
Martin vehemently denied any involvement in this woman's death. When informed that his own wife had led them to the grave in Montmain Wood, the witless man feigned ignorance. He stated that he had no idea how she could've been misled into escorting them to a grave site out in the middle of the forest. Of course, no one was willing to believe him. Martin had already proved to know more than he was letting on when he led investigators to the body near Pizay. Having found one victim beaten, raped, and buried alive in another forest, Genod was certain that this body had been his handy-work as well. The evidence that quite literally stacked up against him very clearly stated that he had been responsible for hundreds of deaths. There was no doubting that this woman had been just one.
The body was removed from its shallow grave in the forest floor and taken for examination to determine the extent to which Martin had brutalized her. Decay made it difficult to make any determinations with certainty. It was found that she had been raped twice. Once before her death, and again after. Outlandish rumors of cannibalism spread like an illness through the region, but proof of this was never found.
As terrible as it sounds, in Martin's day many of his crimes, though heinous, could've been understood by the men investigating him. Killing another man for survival wasn't looked down upon. Even rape was considered a duty in this time and was known as correctional rape. This was a terrifying and traumatizing reality that women of this era had no choice but to live through. Necrophilia, on the other hand, was the absolute worst thing a person could do.
If Martin's crimes and appearance hadn't already convinced the region he was a monster in men's clothing, the findings of the latest autopsy sealed the deal. The realization that a necrophile had been freely wandering the countryside abducting women was earth-shattering to all that heard the horrifying news. Such things could hardly be imagined, let alone uttered in hushed tones. In a time when it could hardly be believed that a Frenchman would commit a crime upon one of his own, Martin's crimes baffled and frightened the people.
By the end of the investigation only three bodies were ever found. The rest of the countless untold were never recovered from whatever forest they surely rested in. It wasn't for lack of trying, though. Genod had tried all he could to illicit a confession from either Martin or his wife. He had also called the families of all the missing women in the region to identify items taken from the couple's home. He looked at the cases of 648 missing women as he tried desperately to figure out who had simply moved on, or who had become a victim of Martin Dumollard's. Likely the largest and most odious case of his career, Genod carefully dotted his I's and crossed his T's before taking it to court.
The magistrate noted the strange gap in crimes between 1855 and 1859. He never suspected for a second that Martin had halted his spree. With the amount of evidence found there was no way he could've taken a break for any length of time. No, it would seem that he had only gotten better, or just lucky during that time. This four-year stretch was his most successful during his long, bloody career.
It was found that he had started to disguise himself quite well when different stories started coming in about different-looking men performing the exact same actions. There were speculations that a band of men had been complicit in his crimes, but this was not so. The truth was that Martin began to dress differently and shaved his beard on some occasions. That was all it took to completely morph his appearance. Though still not pleasing, the change served its purpose well enough.
The closest thing they had to a verifiable sighting during those four years was reported somewhere between 1856 and early 1857. Some residents of Venissieux saw him leaving with a woman in his company and an altered appearance. This very same young woman would be found later, stripped naked. She became a dark local legend in the area. The poor murdered woman without a name. Gendarmes tried every bit as hard to identify her as they had when Marie Baday was discovered, but with markedly less success. She was never identified and was only connected to the crimes of Martin Dumollard by happenstance. Many would come forward with stories fitting his M.O., but could never be certain if the man rotting in his cell was the same they had seen so many years before.
Genod's frustration with his prisoners had almost become overwhelming. His certainty that the oafish hulk and his covetous wife were responsible for the vast majority of the disappearances in the area never faltered. His inability to pull a confession from such an inept man's lips filled him with ire. He was beginning to realize that Marie-Anne had carefully coached him for this inevitability. Much like a defense attorney, she had instructed her husband to remain silent and not utter a single incriminating word.
Genod knew that just one successful sit-down with the killer of desperate young maids could've solved many of the 648 missing persons cases in the region. Maybe it could've solved them all given the amount of clothing and jewelry seized from the home. A full confession would have not only confirmed Martin as the biggest monster in French history, it would have cemented Magistrate Genod as one of France's biggest heroes for having caught him. With the dimwitted pet obeying his mater's orders so obediently a full confession was no more than a pipe dream. The magistrate was forced to go to trial with the three murders and twelve assaults he had to present. Even without knowing the full scope of Martin's crimes, he was confident that he would face the guillotine nonetheless. The shocking revelation of necrophilia was enough to ensure that. The mound of evidence, surviving victims, and three bodies were just added nails to his coffin.
As the case moved forward to trial, Martin started to realize the dire state of his situation. With nothing more to do in his lonely cell but think, he began tirelessly turning the rusted wheels in his brain. Martin had never been very good at thinking on his feet. He'd always had his wife and her sharpened ability of manipulation to see him through. She could fabricate a tale that anyone would believe without exerting much effort into its creation. He would have to push his mental abilities to their limit to accomplish the same feat.
When the imprisoned creature of the forests announced his intention to confess all, Genod came running with bells on to hear what he had to say. This was the moment he had hoped and prayed for. While likely disappointed by the story he received, it did prove helpful in learning a bit more about his crimes. Throughout his false confession were small nuggets of truth hidden within. He listened carefully to find each one that matched with the evidence he had and his own strong theory.
Martin's version of events stated that he was approached by two farmers while visiting the city of Lyon in 1853. These friendly and warm fictitious farmers made him feel quite comfortable and welcome in their company. They bought him wine at a tavern and invited him to walk down by the water with them, away from the listening ears of those bustling about the city. As though he were being interviewed for a job he hadn't applied for, he claimed to have been asked many questions. At the end of their inquisition Martin was asked if he would enter their service. When he asked what job he was accepting, he was told quite bluntly, 'The abduction of young women.' For each woman he could bring to these ruthless criminals he would make 40 francs. If he remained in their employ for 20 years, he would receive 100,000 francs for his loyal and continued service.
He was in no position to turn down such an offer. Finding the pay sufficient and the instructions simple enough, he acquiesced. He and his wife had lived underneath the weight of crushing poverty for almost the entirety of their marriage. He was desperate to better their circumstances. Just a week after speaking with these imaginary men, he set out in search of a youthful woman looking for housing or work. He traveled to the Place de la Charite to make his first attempt at taking a woman from her life and loved ones. Offering a dream job paying first rate wages, he found no one willing to nibble at the bait on his line.
On his second attempt he managed to lead a young lady off without a problem as she blindly accepted his offer. He claimed his friends were waiting for them just outside of town when they arrived. Martin pretended to have forgotten something, but ensured his friends would safely see her the rest of the way to Neyron. He watched their figures grow smaller and smaller as they faded into the distance. For three hours after, he said he waited for these men to return. When they finally did, they had a package for him intended to be a gift for his wife. It was a bloodstained gown and chemise taken right off of the woman he had supposedly brought to them. When he asked what had become of the woman previously wearing these items, he was told that he wouldn't be seeing her again.
He told the Magistrate Genod that he washed the blooms of red from the clothing in the fountains at Neyron. He carried them home to his wife, presenting them as a gift he had bought for her on his travels. He clumsily claimed to have no knowledge of where she had been killed, but stated that it must have been near the bridge Du Barre. The supposed assumption came the following summer while walking along that bridge with his employers. They told Martin that they had already sent two bodies underneath it. He understood this to mean that there had been other killings before his involvement. Possibly two had been put into the Rhone before her, or maybe including her.
Until February 1855, nothing more happened according to Martin's fabricated tale. Around that time he met with these improvised farmers at a wine shop. With them was a gentle, young woman with a beautifully dark complexion. He walked with them from Hiribel to Eomaneche, passing right through the canopied forest on their way. When they entered the peaceful calm of the woods, he knew what was coming next and wanted no part. Though he had no problem taking their money, he stated to the magistrate that he was no killer. They tried to pressure him into going with them to finish the job they had started, but he refused. He watched them walk her out into the woods never to be seen again.
For two hours he claimed not to have seen or heard a thing. A terrible feeling hung so thick in the air it could've suffocated him. He knew something was wrong. When they returned without the young woman, Martin was told that she was left at a farm. As they had not returned with a package this time, he was inclined to believe them.
For two years after things were quiet and innocent, but he still met up with his friends on occasion. One day in December 1858, he converged with them on the Quai de Perrache. They told him that they had something 'on hand' and asked if he would care to join them. Leaving him alone for just a moment, they returned with a young woman. In the calming light of day, the group boarded a train headed for Montluel. By the time they arrived darkness had settled over the region like a thick shroud.
Martin was asked to guide them to a secluded spot, indicating the woods of Choisey. He warned that they would be too close to the high road and would run the risk of being seen or heard. They would need to travel farther for their purpose. When they reached the edge of Montmain Wood, he knew they had found the right spot. I find it ridiculous that though this man claims not to be a killer, he apparently seems to have no issues with selecting the right place to kill and bury women. This is just one of many holes in his story as we will come to see. The further he carries on the more oddly specific the details become. Details he surely wouldn't have been given by his so-called employers.
Wanting no further part in this woman's death, Martin opted to wait by the roadside for his friends. Soon after he was left to quietly contemplate the gravity of his decisions, he heard the shrill, nerve-wracking sound of a woman's scream slicing through the silence. From about 300 yards away the ear-piercing screech could be heard as though the forest itself was howling into the night. Then suddenly, silence returned somehow louder than before.
Within just a few minutes he was brought his pay for the part he played. Some clothes and a silver watch in return for helping to march a woman to her death. When he asked if the poor victim had 'suffered much,' he was told no. A single blow to the head and another to her side sufficed. From this point on, Martin began to give very detailed descriptions of the injuries suffered by the victims. He claimed that this information had been fed to him by his employers, but Genod knew better. Regardless, the facts added missing pieces of the puzzle.
He told the magistrate that they had heard about the discovery of Marie Baday. Because of this, they found it necessary to bury the body. Martin ran home with all haste to grab his tools, leaving the watch and blood-soaked clothes with his wife. Knowing that she would never believe whatever weak, improbable excuse he would give, he decided to tell her a version of the truth. He didn't think Marie-Anne would believe him if he mentioned his friends. Because of this, he told her he had killed the woman in Montmain Wood. This seems to be the best story he could come up with to explain away his wife's knowledge of the Montmain grave site.
Martin's false confession even included some of his failed attempts, accounting for the lucky few that managed to escape and make their way back to the gendarmes. In these stories he not only framed himself as an innocent man, he tried to make himself out as a knight in shining armor. Supposedly hoping to scare these women away before his friends could entrap them, he claimed that he never meant them any harm. Knowing no better way to ensure these women would run without looking back, he would throw rocks at them or chase them down with sticks. According to his outlandish fable, he was the hero of this tale. The rapes he had committed were also blamed on the fictional farmers that employed him.
He admitted to speaking with Marie-Eulalie Bussod as they stood on the bridge La Guillotiere. He offered her a job at a very nice place out in the country at a pay rate of 200 francs. The young maid required a rate of 250 francs, so the two went back to her sister's home to talk the matter over. He agreed to her terms and returned at the end of the week to take her to the train station at Brotteaux. There, he said the farmers already stood, waiting. Martin introduced the men as his friends and neighbors, stating that they would be accompanying them on their trail.
When the group reached Montluel it had grown dark. As he hefted the woman's belongings in his large chest one of the farmers commented on the maid in whispers, calling her a 'lovely creature.' He led them to a wild, secluded spot on the path towards Croix-Martel, where he hid the trunk in the bushes, assuring her he would return for it in the morning light.
This is where Martin claims to have lost his courage, wanting to travel no further. Two hours later his friends returned with the woman's clothes and a pair of gold earrings for his wife. He asked what had happened to her once they disappeared into the woods. They replied that two blows to the head and another to the stomach had killed her, commenting that she 'made no great outcry.' Once again, Martin ran home as fast as he could to retrieve the tools needed to bury the body, leaving the stolen goods with his wife.
He stated that in the case of the lucky survivor, Marie Pichon, he had only meant to scare her away from impending doom. When they arrived at the appointed spot to meet his friends, he was quite relieved to find that they were nowhere in sight. In an attempt to save her life, he claims to have thrown his arm around her neck with no real intention of harming her. Her decision to flee lifted an enormous weight from his chest. He could rest easily knowing that this one had escaped the clutches of death itself.
Some days after his heroic act, Martin thought it a good idea to destroy the possessions of both Marie-Eulalie Bussod and Marie Pichon. He took them out to the quiet solitude of the Wood des Rouillonnes and buried them within the forest's bed. Feeling as though his tapestry had been thoroughly woven, he informed the magistrate that he had nothing further to add. Though aware that even Charles Dickens couldn't have pulled such fabrications from out of thin air, Genod knew that this was the closest he would get to a full confession.
These farmers were never witnessed by anyone other than Martin. The fortunate survivors of his reign of terror could not corroborate his foolishly wild story. To top it all off, the marks on Marie Pichon's skin didn't support his version of events. Much like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he decided to blame imaginary friends. His confession had the exact opposite of the desired effect. Rather than absolve him from suspicion, his story instead confirmed the deaths of two more women as well as the fact that they had been dumped in the Rhone River. His childish attempt at saving his own skin served him even less than his silence had.
Gendarmes were sent to sweep the river, but the odds of finding anything weren't looking good. Years had already passed since the bodies were supposed to have been thrown in. A number of streams branching off of that river could've carried those poor women anywhere. No one was surprised when nothing turned up. It was a shot in the dark that never found a heart.
The massacring beast of the French countryside never mentioned the two women of the Rhone ever again. He held no interest in helping the families of the deceased find closure. His only goal at that point was to try to shield his wife from as much of the shrapnel from the fallout as possible.
His clearly false confession had managed to confirm the locations of some of the events that took place. These kernels of truth cleared other possible culprits of crimes that had most certainly been committed by Martin. It also guaranteed his defense a difficult time appealing his sentence.
At this point it was looking very likely that Marie-Anne would walk away without so much as a slap on the wrist. Genod knew that she had masterminded the entire insidious plot. Given Martin's obvious inability to concoct a convincing story there was no conceivable way he could've orchestrated such a scheme on his own. His wife, on the other hand, had been much more compelling in her tales, though she did let more details slip than she intended. The likelihood that a judge would be swayed by her charming, manipulative manner was quite high. After all, women weren't seen as capable of such acts. Even if she were to be convicted of a crime, she would never see the guillotine.
Genod hated the idea of this cold, calculating, covetous woman getting away with everything she had so clearly planned. Through the course of their investigation, Martin had proved himself to be the kind of monster you only read about in bone-chilling stories. His guilt couldn't be denied by anyone. It could also be agreed by all that he needed to be harshly punished for his crimes. It would seem that in order to protect civilization from this untamed animal, Marie-Anne might have to walk away from the punishment that she so well deserved.
The once loyal and faithful wife continued to hold Martin liable for atrocities that she would supposedly have no part in. As deceptive as she could be, her long, rambling testimonies had a tendency to give up critical details. In her attempt to save herself from execution, she actually ended up confirming eighteen more murders committed by her husband.
As Marie-Anne twisted the truth to save herself from an early grave, Martin also began tweaking his story. He was probably even more invested in saving his wife than even she had been. As she proved to care nothing for anyone beyond herself, Martin's final acts were solely to preserve her life. He began walking back the parts of his confession that implicated her as an accessory after the fact. According to this new testimony, his doting wife had no knowledge of his exploits, or the men that he claimed to have employed him. The bumbling behemoth said that he simply explained the clothes and jewelry away each time he returned with a haul. At this point, it was clear to all that he was lying, but his lore was heard regardless. Hidden somewhere in every lie was a small admission of guilt.
In the hours of testimony given by husband and wife, one dark and disturbing matter was never brought up. Not by the Dumollards, or even the investigators. Among the hoards of clothing taken from their cottage two small sets, cut to fit two young boys, were also found. One outfit would've fit a boy of around 8-years-old, while the other would've fit a boy of around 10. The implication that this ruthless, cruel killer had taken the lives of two children was more than anyone could even attempt to process. The devilish partners weren't about to reveal such a terrible detail, and no one else dared to ask. Sadly the names and fates of the poor little boys were never learned.
It was apparent to Genod that they were not going to turn up anymore solid evidence. A full and honest confession had also proved out of reach. The magistrate was forced to gather what he had been able to obtain so far and take it to court. The trial of the century began on January 29, 1862, in the Bourg-en-Bresse court. Even the OJ Simpson trial didn't see as large of a turnout, or as much chaos more than 100 years later.
Reporters flocked from far and wide to cover the events. In an era long before CNN and the internet this story was finding its way into every home in the country at an impressive speed. More than 5000 people gathered to see the trial, most of them simply trying to glimpse true, living evil in its gnarled, scarred face. Many that arrived were friends and family members of the missing women throughout the region. It is thanks to the many reporters and a bookseller from Lyon named Darmet Guerin that we know so much of the trial today. Darmet's records of the proceedings are probably the most thorough that can be found. It was from his account that the writer of Crimson Petticoats, Ryan Green, painted such a detailed picture of the events.
At 10:00 AM sharp, Magistrate Marilhat of the Imperial Court of Lyon settled into his position at the head of the court. The procurator general was seated to his right, and the procurator imperial on his left. On the bench behind them sat the three magistrates of Bourg, Trevoux, and Montluel. The court paused for these righteous seekers of justice to seat themselves. They struck noble yet imposing figures before the packed room of spectators.
Once these men had found their seats the gendarmes brought Martin forward through the throngs of curious onlookers as murmurs and whispers filled the crowded room. The sounds spilled into Martin's ears, who took off his hat and waved to the crowd as though he were a celebrity or politician. To the clamorous murmurs of 'There he is!' he replied, 'Yes, here I am!' Laughter began to erupt throughout the previously tense room as his dimwitted nature put everyone at ease. As the magistrates and 36 jurors drawn from all over the Ain region sat ready to decide his fate, the bumbling fool just smiled and waved like an idiot.
Marie-Anne was brought in right after her husband. She was not nearly so jovial or comedic. As she took her seat on the opposite end of the bench from Martin, the grim expression on her face told of her displeasure. Their very lives hung in the balance and she was forced to watch as her husband played the fool in front of the world. Her expression wasn't her only grim feature when she entered the courtroom. The time she had served in jail awaiting trial had not been easy on her. Gaunt and pale, Marie-Anne looked terrible.
Since their crimes had been seen as shared, the couple was tried together. When Magistrate Marilhat rose to read the charges, everyone expected him to admonish the court for their previous outburst of laughter in the midst of such a serious matter. He did no such thing, instead swiftly moving right along into the proceedings. Right after the charges were read aloud for all to hear, Martin waved his counsel over.
Though the case was cut and dry, and Martin was clearly guilty, all of the defense attorneys the region over knew the kind of fame to be gained from taking on such a client. Sure, they were taking on an unwinnable case, but the press coverage would ensure an ever-growing list of clientele. Marius Lardiere had won out over the rest after receiving a letter from Martin, himself. After a good deal of lobbying between attorneys, the matter of who would represent him was finally settled.
When he called Marius Lardiere over, everyone in the room strained their ears to hear what he might say. Surely it must have been important. When the large man spoke it was loud enough to be heard by all in attendance. He could clearly be heard telling his lawyer that there was a terrible draft coming from somewhere in the room and it was bothering him immensely. He asked if there was anything that could be done about it to the eruption of more laughter from the court. Marie-Anne's cheeks flushed hot red as she sank in her seat in humiliation. She likely wondered how much more of her husband's idiocy she was forced to endure.
Once the court was finally able to contain their mirth the trial could finally begin. All-in-all 70 witnesses had been called upon to speak against Martin, while the defense had no one to speak in his or his wife's favor. He was betting it all on his weak and ridiculous story, concocted in haste and desperation. Of the 70 witnesses, only 69 were present and ready to give their testimonies. The final witness's whereabouts needed to be ascertained before they could move forward. It would be found that this witness had passed away suddenly just days before the trial could get underway. Living in the French countryside in the mid-1800s, tomorrow was promised to no one. If there are a million ways to die today, there was triple that in the Victorian era.
With that issue out of the way, they could move on into the interrogation of Martin Dumollard. This portion of the trial was meant to make the accused slip right into an admission of guilt. In Martin's case, they could learn more about this abominable creature and the rock he crawled out from under than they had previously been able to. Trying to fill in the gaps of his unusual childhood, he was asked if his father was Hungarian. All of his former jolliness drained away at the first mention of his father. Now tense and nervous, he replied yes. When asked what had become of his father, Martin could only sit there, transfixed in silence. It would appear that this impenetrable beast had a soft underbelly after all.
After a long moment, he told Magistrate Marilhat that if he insisted upon an explanation, then he should have it. Marilhat japed that the reason Martin was there was to explain, though his joke didn't receive the kind of laughter that his defendant's antics had. He told the court that according to his mother, his father had been well off in Hungary. In 1814, he continued, they had traveled to Padua, Italy, where he was then taken prisoner by the Austrians. Instead of bringing himself to fully relive the awful truth of his father's execution, he simply said that he never saw him again. As stated in Part 1, Martin watched his father's execution as his mother held him above her head, dying to know what was happening beyond the crazed crowd. He had nothing to gain or lose in his deliberate vagueness. The memory was genuinely far too painful and traumatizing to speak of, especially in his current position.
Marilhat asked if he was in the habit of abusing his wife, to which Martin became visibly angry as his face reddened and he shouted, 'Never!' He looked at his wife, still occupying her end of the bench. The glare that met his dumbfounded stare quickly made him adjust his story. As though he were asking a question he replied, 'Sometimes?' When she plagued him, he said, sometimes he might forget himself.
Switching up tactics in hopes of proving him a degenerate, the magistrate began asking about two prior arrests and short jail stints for petty crimes. He hoped that the jury would hear this and decide that he was a natural-born criminal that had spent his life up to no good. The convictions were quite small, though and the sentences were light. No more than a couple of occasions that he had been caught stealing food to feed himself when he was down on his luck. These offences were committed when he was much younger, sometime between his days as a sheepherder and his employment with Guichard. As most magistrates weren't typically begrudging of a hungry young boy, both of his sentences had been for only a week. Driving home his point, Marilhat stated that though he had the means to work, he did not have a job. 'You bear the character of a man at war with civilization,' the magistrate proclaimed.
Martin continued to push blame off onto his imaginary friends, the farmers. He stated that since he became entangled with them, this had been true. His willingness to continue hiding behind this clearly false story amazed many, likely even his own wife.
Next, Marilhat worked at framing the large oaf's behavior as suspicious. This was no difficult feat as Martin had always been a strange, and kind of suspicious character. Even before he had started deceiving women to walk off to their deaths with him, he had been a very odd fellow. The magistrate pointed to the fact that they lived in complete solitude, with Marie-Anne forbidden from knowing her neighbors. This was a rule he claimed that Martin observed quite closely. Even the mayor of their village had no idea who they were.
Martin could offer no rebuttal. He enjoyed his privacy and had never seen anything strange about that. What he thought was weird was the way everyone always seemed to have their noses in each other's business. The strange hours he kept had been noted by many of his neighbors. The magistrate informed him that these neighbors would be taking the stand to testify to his comings and goings. Martin simply replied that they may have, but not in the sense he meant. One can assume he means that his neighbors may have witnessed some odd behavior, but it wasn't what it looked like.
It comes as no surprise that a man with Martin's enormous size and notable features drew the attention of the village's curious children. They became fascinated by the hunchback of Dagneux as they playfully attempted to catch glimpses of him coming and going from his cottage on the edge of town. On one or two occasions some of these children quietly followed him as they caught him returning home. As he approached the small home he shared with his wife, they could clearly hear him calling out a password to be admitted into the house. Those living in the French countryside in the mid-1800s would not have found this strange at all. It was a necessary precaution due to the numerous bandits wandering the countryside. Those accustomed to life within a city or village, where such threats were not present, saw this as very odd behavior. As far as they were concerned it only served as further proof that the couple had something terrible to hide.
Marlihat decided to serve up some of the meat and potatoes of this case. He went right on into the attack on Marie Pichon. Marie was present and able to testify about the harrowing events that she narrowly escaped. Up until the final moments, their stories were identical. Of course both stories began to look vastly different when they reached the end. Marie's statement described in horrifying detail how her assailant had attempted to strangle her before sheer luck managed to free her from his grasp. Martin, however, claimed that he had only meant to scare her away before his employers came upon them with much darker intentions. If he had truly meant her harm then why would he take her some place close enough to civilization to be heard and rescued?
Marilhat wasn't buying it and neither was anyone else. He came back at his defendant with determination, asking why he had led the woman off at all if had meant her no harm. Martin's excuse was a quote from his imaginary friends stating, 'Eyes are upon you of which you know nothing. If you betray us, you are lost.' He claimed to be so shaken by the ominous words that he opted for attempting to save them both. He couldn't just feed her to the wolves. So instead, he scared her away.
This heroic fable ran the risk of making Martin seem like a sympathetic victim. The magistrates just hoped beyond all hope that the jury wasn't feeding into his lies. They wouldn't have to worry for long, though.
Martin was asked about the clothing that he had kept. It was mentioned that he had burned some and then 'parted with' much of the rest. Why hang on to the remainder of the clothing? Surely even Martin could see how that would look.
For a moment, Martin was silent as a mouse while he contemplated what to say next. He likely surprised the magistrates and Marie-Anne by his ability to craft such a story at a moment's notice. As he tried to uphold the faltering mask of an innocent man, Martin chose to paint himself in a compassionate light. He declared that he had preserved these items out of respect for the deceased so they might be returned to their loved ones in the future. He spun his lie as quickly as the Grinch on Christmas Eve. The court was not as receptive as little Cindy-Lou Who, though. The crowd devolved into a vicious rabble of raised voices ready to call the beast of Dagneux out as the ghoul he was really was. For a moment the circus-like atmosphere almost turned into a munera.
The magistrates could hardly be heard over the angry, screaming mob threatening to take over the courtroom. Martin likely realized very quickly how he was perceived by the public at that point. The foul, brutish criminal was led from the courtroom before a riot had the chance to ensue. The crowd had to be allowed enough time to cool down and collect themselves before he could be brought back out.
Once the room quieted the magistrates used this time to interrogate Marie-Anne while her husband was out of the room. Much more adept at manipulation than her evil counterpart, she worked towards buying the sympathies of the courtroom. She painted herself as a battered wife. A woman living in the icy cold grip of hopelessness and fear. Surely many women in the packed room knew well of the kind of life she described. Cowering in fear of a larger, stronger, angry man. Treading carefully to not enrage him, incurring violent wrath. These women would have felt pity for her and identified with her struggles.
The seemingly sympathetic wife said that she had believed in her husband's guilt after twice receiving bloodstained clothing from him to wash. He had told her both times that the clothes had been taken from women he'd killed in the woods. Stating that she and Martin lived on 'indifferent' terms, she said she never brought up the stains. She confirmed his odd comings and goings throughout the day and night to a crowd that was quickly becoming less amused by her behemoth husband. She also confirmed the password used by both of them to enter their small cottage. Her job was easy enough. She didn't even have to pull a story out of thin air. All she had to do was exaggerate the truth and deflect the blame.
Marie-Anne's testimony quieted the previously ravenous crowd. The pitiful woman's sob story managed to cool the tempers of everyone enough to bring Martin back into the room without fear of an all-out riot. With a calm courtroom, the undivided attention of the jury, and the return of the star defendant, it was time to bring forth the evidence. This portion of the trial would prove to be more jarring than all of the witness testimony combined.
Two large brass chests were brought to the front of the room. The gasps and awed cries of the spectators overwhelmed the space. The curious onlookers fully expected to catch a glimpse of the hulking man's wardrobe. As they wondered what a monster wore to bed at night, they never could've imagined what gruesome horrors those chests really contained. They were emptied into piles that were 'chronologically' placed by the dates of the victim's attacks. All together, 70 handkerchiefs, 57 pairs of stockings, 28 scarves, 38 caps, 10 corsets, and 9 gowns were laid out among the underwear, jackets, lace, cloth, and trinkets taken from the Dumollard residence. It was made intensely clear what they were looking at and what it represented. Women taken before their time, and survivors that eternally carried the physical and mental scars inflicted by the French maid killer.
Only briefly mentioned were the countless untold. A massive heap of clothing was brought into the courtroom for only a few moments. These were the innumerable items taken from the doubtless hundreds that couldn't be named. The purpose for this brief and ghastly exhibit was to display to the jury the extent of Martin's grisly crimes. The room was aghast at the heaping mound of torn, bloody, dirty clothing formerly belonging to the nameless, faceless hundreds lost to the French forests.
The witnesses were brought forth to give their statements next. With their nerves shaken and their stomachs knotted, their testimony was given surprisingly quickly. All 69 witnesses took the stand in turn for the prosecution. Only once when previously heard testimony was being given again by another witness was there an interruption in proceedings. This likely only helped to move this portion of the trial along even faster, though. With so much time, hard work, and dedication already sunk into this case, no one wanted to put anymore of their soul into it than they already had. After seeing the heaps and piles of clothing belonging to the immeasurable number of victims, Martin's fate was already sealed.
The sixth witness was a man named Louis Cochet. A neighbor of his in Dagneux, he testified to the secret password he heard uttered at their door by his nefarious neighbors. He also spoke of the large chest that Martin slung across his hunched back and carried home at all hours of the day and night.
Louis's wife took the stand after him to give her own statement about the couple she'd tried to get to know. The innocent housewife's attempts at making friends with Marie-Anne always ended in abrupt silence. The kind of cold, shunning silence that told her any further prying was not welcome and may not be tolerated. While giving her testimony, the poor woman broke down into tears. The mere thought of such atrocities occurring so close to her own home was more than she could bear. The grief, the guilt, and the relief washed over her in waves as the tears flowed freely from her eyes. Unable to go on any further with her statement, she was led from the courtroom to make way for the next witness.
Not a single objection was heard from the defense until the seventeenth witness took the stand. Doctor Montvenoux was interrupted while attempting to explain the autopsy he performed on Marie-Eulalie Bussod. The outraged defense demanded to know the reason for his presumptions, stating that the court had endured enough horrors without 'this crowning atrocity.' Despite this outburst, the good doctor continued with his findings. He was not only interested in protecting his professional pride, he was determined to see that Martin paid for his crimes against women.
In graphic detail, he described to the court how the blow he dealt to his victim was not mortal, or even severe. Her teeth were locked as tightly as a fortress as though she had experienced a great deal of pain before death overtook her. The large clod of rich soil clasped in tightly in her hand told the doctor that she had tried to dig her way out of the hole she had been buried in. His final conclusion was that Marie-Eulalie Bussod had been buried alive. This had been the most sobering testimony heard so far.
Once Doctor Montvenoux stepped down a recess was called for the court to gather themselves. As everyone tried to figure out how to process what they had just heard, Martin surprised them all by taking his lunch right there. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some bread and cheese that was no doubt spotted with lint. Like a ravenous animal, he tore into his previously pocketed lunch. Onlookers were nauseated at the site of him ripping into a cheese sandwich like a wild beast. After hearing the graphic details of his victim's autopsy no one else could even stomach the idea of food. The wolfish appetite witnessed by all in the courtroom was not only disgusting, but disturbing.
As though his voracious display wasn't already in bad taste, he added to the spectacle. He spotted Marie Pichon moving through the enormous crowd that had come to see him twist in the wind. With his mouth stuffed full, he called out to her, spraying crumbs and spittle from his mouth through his cries. He declared that if not for him then she would not be there among them that day. He actually had the temerity to ask that she come and thank him for saving her life. Though no one can know for sure if he was trying to appear innocent or just further tormenting the girl that escaped him, it's likely that he was leaning as far into his ridiculous tale as he could. Marie didn't dignify him with an answer, but her sister, on the other hand, replied with such vulgarities that she was nearly ejected.
Marie returned to a waiting room, looking for some peace after the jarring experience leaving the courtroom. As she attempted to still her rattling nerves and shaking hands, members of the press descended on her. A photographer from Paris wanted her to sit for a picture, which she was willing to do for only a moment. When someone in the crowd shouted about the kind of misfortune that befell women associated with these kinds of crimes in the press, she thought otherwise and declined the offer. Surely no good could come from splashing her face all over the country as a victim.
Once the recess concluded the proceedings continued to swiftly and smoothly move along as witness after witness damned Martin with every word spoken. The fifty-third witness heard was Marie-Eulalie's sister, Josephte Bussod. She was asked to identify articles of clothing belonging to her sister for the court. Some of them were still stained with the dried, brown stains of old blood. Though Josephte sobbed for her sibling, she never cracked in the face of this crucible. Even when she was offered a moment's reprieve, she declined and carried on. She felt that she had already failed her sister once. She wasn't about to fail her again.
After Josephte had so bravely identified her sister's dress, Marilhat turned to Martin and Marie-Anne. He asked the couple if they recalled this dress. They admitted that they did remember it. Marie-Anne even stated for a shocked crowd that she had worn it. Holding up a bloodstained cap, the magistrate asked if she had also worn it. Clearly offended by the question, she replied, 'Of course not,' stating that if she had, she would've washed it first. The entire room could be heard audibly grumbling in pure disgust at her appalling answer.
Josephte was asked if she remembered the prisoner, meaning Martin. Her anguish spilled forth in tears as she confirmed that she did remember the man quite well. He was the very monster that killed her sister. As guilty as he was, she declared, she was every bit as guilty. She had allowed Marie-Eulalie to leave home with a stranger. She had watched as her sister walked away from the city and their life, never to see her alive again. Overcome by her grief and guilt, Josephte fainted. She was carried from the courtroom, unconscious after her harrowing experience.
The poor, despondent woman's father stated that after the death of her sister, Josephte never could stop blaming herself. Each and every single day of her life was consumed by the gut-wrenching guilt she could never shake. Though she was not the one to put her sister in that hole, she still saw the young woman's blood on her hands every day.
All that was left at this point was to hear the testimony from those that had witnessed further crimes. These were the instances when a girl had been taken that no one could now identify by anything more than the clothing they were last seen wearing. Articles of clothing that had been found inside the Dumollard residence.
When the last of the damning testimony had been heard, the attorneys were called upon to summarize their cases. The prosecution went first, but he needed to put forth no effort in convincing the jury of Martin's guilt. Standing tall, the prosecuting attorney confidently and sternly spoke directly to the jury. He demanded the death penalty for both Martin and his wife. Both had been complicit in the robberies, so therefore both were responsible for the murders. Both should be swiftly put to death. His message was clear. The only way to end their campaign of terror was to end their lives in the same cold blood they'd come to know so well.
He didn't stop at the crimes that Martin was currently standing trial for. His previous misdemeanors were brought up to paint the portrait of a life of crime. The prosecution argued that throughout the entirety of this degenerate's life there had been no pause in his exploits.
Martin's attorney, Marius Lardiere, knew that he couldn't refute a single word spoken by the prosecution. Yes, his client had been jailed before on other charges. It also could not be denied that if released he would most certainly continue on this well-worn, blood-stained path. There was no saving Martin from a guilty verdict, but maybe there was hope to quite literally save his neck from the guillotine. In a last ditch attempt to make his client seem more sympathetic to the jury, he tried to forge a connection between the beast and the panel of men responsible for his fate. He knew well the importance of drawing the crowd in. It almost mattered more than what he actually said to them. He needed to engage them while also plucking a sad song on their heart-strings.
The over-confident young lawyer started out by regaling the room with a story of his own childhood in Dagneux. He tried to warm their hearts with mentions of his parents, buried in the village, that he rarely got the chance to visit. Martin only knew of him because of his ties to the modest, humble village that they both called home as children. The defense pointed to the wide array of legal representations his client had to choose from when he hired him. Clearly only a man looking for atonement would hire a younger, lesser experienced lawyer when he had the opportunity to choose more renown representation. This was a man that knew what he had done was wrong and was seeking redemption. Surely that was the kind of man a jury could pardon from death.
Marius was bold enough in his statement to refer to his own aid as weak in comparison to others more experienced in his field. This was truly a Hail Mary intended to make Martin appear remorseful and ashamed to a crowd that couldn't help but to see the disfigured murderer right in front of them. In truth, Martin would've been much too dimwitted to know what to look for in an attorney. He likely just selected the closest one to his home. Nonetheless, Lardiere spun Martin's poor selection as his need for penance.
This wasn't the young man's only strategy for his end game. He ended his final statement posing a question to the jury. Attempting to give them something to think long and hard about. Calling his client a 'damaged man,' he stated that Martin was 'Unheeded, unloved, unbound from the compact of the social contract.' Maybe a defect of birth could be blamed for creating the man they saw before them that day. Maybe witnessing his father's execution had forever changed him for the worse. He wasn't arguing that his client was innocent as the evidence had clearly proved otherwise. The question he posed to the court was whether it was right for them to take the life of this man in payment for the many that he had taken.
Comparing Martin to a feral dog, he stated that society had cast him aside, but yet was surprised when he bit. Pointing the finger at each and every one of them, Marius told the court that the blame laid squarely at their feet. When society shunned him for his awkward appearance and mannerisms, they created a monster. Though his defense was delivered with passion and gusto, it was weak at best. Nothing more than an amalgamation of different philosophies that most in the jury wouldn't have believed in or even thought much of. Marius knew that he didn't have to convince the entire jury. If he could just shift one opinion then he may just save his client's head.
Last, but not least, was Marie-Anne's attorney. His final statement was much more rooted in fact than philosophy and flowery words about home and family. He knew that the well-established prejudices of those present as well as the facts of the case made for a much more compelling argument. He painted Marie-Anne as a battered wife completely at the mercy of her husband's dominance. He also took care to remind the jury that she was only a woman. Women couldn't possibly be capable of committing, or even organizing the kind of misdeeds they were accused of. During this period the just-a-woman defense could still be successfully lodged. Most men really and truly thought women to be incapable of being criminal masterminds.
He quite successfully argued that Marie-Anne's intimidation of her husband's gargantuan size would be enough to make anyone, man or woman, stay quiet. Even if she had known more than she admitted, fear of what this mountainous man might do to her kept her silent. How could anyone blame this unfortunate woman for not speaking against the ogre that clearly had no problem with killing women? His statement hit so hard that even the prosecutors found themselves questioning the wife's guilt. Looking at her now after having spent some time in jail, she looked too dull, exhausted, and old to have aided in such an enterprise.
It was four o'clock in the evening when the jury was ready to read their verdicts. The Attorney General was responsible for summarizing the case and presenting the jury with the individual charges. After that it would be up to the jury to decide the fate of Dagneux's most prolific couple. As the jury had already made up their minds the departure for deliberation was more of a formality than anything else.
The moment the door latched behind the jury as they left to decide the couple's fate the room erupted into tense yet excited chatters. Everyone had left their seats to gather into tightly pressed crowds as they discussed the shocking details of the case and trial. A stand-by jury member could be heard declaring that he typically had 'scruples' about the death penalty, but would've 'signed with both hands for the guillotine' in this case. It seemed that he was not the only person present in the courtroom that felt that way. Before the Dumollards there had been no precedent for a case of this magnitude. No one had ever been asked to weigh the consequences of crimes such as these. It seemed appropriate to all that the most serious punishment be applied to the most serious of crimes brought before them.
The room was abuzz with voices as everyone waited with bated breath for the verdict. Even Martin could be heard among the anxious babble of the crowd. He happily prattled on with those around him as he took refreshments. His actions were totally at odds with that of a man whose life hung in the balance. He behaved more like he was holding court than being put on trial for a multitude of murders.
Meanwhile, Marie-Anne occupied her spot on the far end of the bench from Martin. She put as much space between them as the court would allow, hoping to be seen as removed from her husband and his exploits rather than connected to them. As her husband played the belle of the ball for the curious crowd, she wept uncontrollably for her uncertain future. In all of his lively conversations the one person he never spoke to was his wife. As the weight of their actions fell heavily upon her, she seemed in no state to hear him.
During the two and a half hours that the jury deliberated the energy and suspense in the room steadily built. The crowd practically vibrated with anticipation. When the jury re-entered a hush quickly blanketed the rabble.
Martin hardly seemed too concerned. Even as the jury filed back in holding his fate inside of a rolled up scroll, he didn't seem to trouble himself too much with the outcome. His date with the guillotine was inevitable. Martin had already spent years dreading his capture and doing all he could to avoid it. Now that he had been caught and all was out in the open, he almost felt freer than he had before he was imprisoned.
As Martin calmly sat awaiting the obvious, Marie-Anne was hardly so composed. She couldn't seem to find the same stoicism as her husband at the crossroads they stood before. The brains of the operation crumbled beside the strong, unfaltering rock that had blindsided so many unsuspecting women. With tears streaming down her sunken cheeks, she stood to hear her verdict.
All eyes were focused on the head juror as he carried the scroll to the magistrates. Silently, he made his way back to the jury box. When the head juror rose from his seat to announce the verdict, he was quickly cut off by Magistrate Marilhat. According to French law, the jurors were not only expected to render a verdict on all charges, but also provide answers for each aggravating circumstance. While they had rendered their verdicts, they had not answered the following questions, the results of which could modify the due punishment. They were asked to retire until they were fully prepared. This must have felt like some cruel joke to the Dumollards as they stood there waiting to find out if they would live or die. It would take another half hour for the informality to be rectified and the jury to re-enter.
The magistrate carefully looked over the scroll before anyone spoke a word. They had to be sure that everything was in order before they could proceed. Once it was seen that all of the questions had been answered, the scroll was passed back to the head juror so he could refer back to it during questioning.
With every charge about a dozen questions would need to be answered. The pop quiz began with Martin's first charge of a single robbery. Was it with violence? Was it premeditated? Did it occur at night? Was the robbery committed on a public highway? This stretched on for quite some time as the list of charges went on and on.
Martin's attorney thoroughly explained what each 'yes' and 'no' meant for them. By the end of the exhausting and drawn-out examination, 67 affirmatives had been uttered against 17 negatives. The trial concluded with Martin taking the bulk of the charges. This had likely been the couples fail-safe all along. If caught, they would never hope to convince anyone of their innocence. They could, however, save Marie-Anne from execution. She took her reduced sentence, likely wishing soon after she'd received death instead. In the mid-1800s, hard labor was not only a give-in with every prison term, but a death sentence in itself for many.
It was at the moment of being found guilty that the gravity of the situation finally crashed down upon Martin's head. Previously care-free and jovial, now he was rendered speechless and fear-stricken. His face fell as the color drained, leaving him white as a ghost. His expression was befitting of a man that just learned he was about to die. He and his wife were asked if they had any final words to add, but both remained silent. There was no use at this point. Both had already put forth their full effort to no avail. Neither would be getting away with murder.
Magistrate Marilhat requested that the court grant certain applications of the penal code before handing the sentences down. It surprised no one, least of all Martin, when he was handed the death penalty. The meek and mild mannered man was quiet as ever upon receiving his sentence. His partner in life as well as crime bawled as she received 20 years with hard labor. Though this was a markedly lesser sentence than her husband's, at her age such a hard term would surely kill her before she ever saw parole. Marie-Anne and Martin both were already somewhere in their 50s at the time of their capture. Living in a much harder world at a much more difficult time, one could age a lot faster in 50 years.
Marie-Anne was escorted from the room with tears still filling her eyes. She would be transported to Auberive prison in Haute-Marne to immediately begin serving her sentence. Martin was housed in a large cell in Bourg-en-Bresse along with others that were awaiting transfer. As none of the criminals he was housed with were young, defenseless maids they felt they had no reason to worry about their safety.
The typically shy and reserved mammoth managed to break out of his shell and make some friends among his new cellmates. He quickly found that he had become something of a celebrity throughout the country of France. His devilishly deceptive scheme as well as the possible hundreds of murders that it facilitated had become quite well known to any who picked up a newspaper. Now with his trial in the past and his verdict rendered, Martin finally felt free to speak openly about his crimes with his new friends. He could free his shoulders of the burden without having to overthink every word he spoke, or worry about how it made him look. He found friendship came quite easily to those willing to reach out. He also found that sleep came easily to those who free themselves from the weight of their lies. Without the fear and anxiety of being caught, he could sleep as peacefully as a newborn.
The morning after his trial Marius Lardiere paid him a visit. The young lawyer tried to remain upbeat and optimistic while explaining that due to the severity of his sentence, he could seek the opinion of a higher court. The possibility of having his conviction overturned filled Martin with renewed hope. The dark, stormy cloud hanging over his head lifted as he let his excitement get the better of him. Though his attorney tried his very best to explain the appeals process to his slow-witted client, very little seemed to have gotten through. After their visit, Martin was heard telling his cellmates that in 20 days he would either be a free man, or a dead man. He didn't understand that an appeal meant another trial by jury, not an immediate release. He also seemed to miss the point that during those 20 days the court was considering his appeal, he could still be executed.
Martin let hope take hold, and he was not the only one. As he waited to hear something about his appeal, he was visited quite frequently by the prison chaplain, Abbe Beroud. The man of the cloth was determined to save Martin's everlasting soul from damnation before he met the executioner. Day after day, the Abbe arrived at his cell. It is because of these daily visits that we know so much about Martin's final days languishing behind bars.
The infamous inmate would receive mail that he was able to read on his own thanks to the teaching of his wife. Though Martin had learned how to read while employed with Guichard, he had never gotten out of the very child-like habit of moving his lips as he read. His cellmates as well as the Abbe watched as this brutal killer would visibly sound out the words in his letters.
Martin was likely shocked to receive a letter from one of his escaped victims, Marie Pichon. He was probably even more surprised by her bold demand. In the violent struggle that ensued as he attempted to strangle her in the woods, he had torn her dress. Now, she was seeking repayment for her damaged dress directly from the wild animal that had ripped it. Seeing this, the Abbe thought it a wonderful opportunity to tap into Martin's conscience. Maybe he would be willing to show some penance to a victim reaching out for retribution. Martin quickly proved him wrong when he denied the Abbe's offer to write a response for him. A man of few words, he didn't stretch his answer out any longer than a simple 'no.'
His reason for not repaying the poor maid he victimized was nothing more than pure greed and selfishness. Rather than show some sort of compassion for the woman he claimed to have saved from certain doom, he decided that his wife would need that money more. Should she find herself free some day, she would need the money to relocate. He knew that she would never be able to live in peace in France after their conviction. Martin also had his own possible release in mind when considering Marie's demand. He had become a pirriah after his capture and would not be welcomed back into French civilization with open arms. If his appeal was granted he wanted to ensure he had enough money to get as far out of dodge as possible.
Abbe Beroud was becoming desperate to save his soul before his looming execution date. No one aside from Martin held high hopes for his appeal. It's very likely that the Abbe's determination was due to the fact that Martin would need to fully confess his crimes to absolve himself in the eyes of God. Surely the man that could get such a confession would go down in history as a hero. Seeking any help he could find, he turned to the elderly and more experienced Bishop of Bourg. If this man couldn't gain a confession and save the murderer's soul, then no one could. He accepted the challenge of salvation and visited the prison.
The Bishop took Martin into a back room where the two could speak quietly and in private. When he emerged the old man was described as looking as though he had tried to wrestle Martin's soul from the hands of the Devil himself. Abbe Beroud stood outside waiting hopefully to hear good news. When he saw the exhausted and exasperated man exit the room, he knew that their hope had died right along with Martin's faith. With a saddened expression he shook his head declaring, 'I can do nothing with him. The mind is too brutified. It is not with him as with others, where darkness and light are mingled in the soul. Here it is one profound obscurity.'
Though the Bishop of Bourg was unsuccessful in his attempt to help Martin obtain Heavenly bliss, he didn't leave him empty-handed. A portrait of Saint John Vianney was left with him in the hopes that looking upon this man's forgiving face might move him in some way. As Vianney was known for preserving the sacrament of confession this was an apt gift to leave behind.
As expected, Martin's appeal to the court of cassation was rejected. Seeing the lost cause that lay before them, the two lawyers assigned to the case didn't even bother themselves with filing a brief. Though the appeal had been denied protocol still dictated that a report of the court's decision be sent along with a letter recommending mercy. The report and letter were first sent to the Minister of Justice, who signed off without hesitation. Then it went on to the highest power in the land, Emperor Bonaparte.
During the time of Martin's capture and conviction, Napoleon Bonaparte was the Emperor of France. The French Revolution launched the small but bold man into prominence. Now Martin Dumollard's fate rested firmly in his hands. The Emperor had been closely following the case and formed his own opinions about the man convicted of terrorizing his country. In his response to the letter recommending mercy he bluntly stated, 'There is no room for pardon. The magistrates and officials of Montluel are ordered to carry out this sentence within twenty-four hours. Furthermore, the executioner of Grenoble is instructed to assist his colleagues in Lyon as required.'
With that his execution date was set for March 7, 1862. The guillotine was retrieved from its place underneath the Palais de Justice, loaded onto a cart, and driven to Montluel the day before in preparation for the event. A unit of lancers from the Imperial army was sent along to accompany the device on its trip. They carved a pathway through the throngs of people gathering prematurely on the highway and in the town. The angry villagers were feeling more bloodthirsty than Martin as they waited to see him put to death. When asked how he felt after learning his method of execution, he said that he 'liked it just fine. Better than being ripped up by horses.'
The prison chaplain made one final visit before he was taken to the guillotine, hoping to finally wrestle a confession from this immovable wall. He had hoped that in the face of death Martin would be ready to absolve himself and find Heavenly peace. All he managed to do was convince this lost soul to reconcile with his wife before he departed from this world. Many assumed that this once blissful couple was at odds after their conviction. Likely they had planned for this reality all along, making sure Marie-Anne would receive the far lesser sentence.
The two had not set eyes on each other since the day of their trial. The kind, compassionate Abbe took it upon himself to pay for a final meal for the couple to enjoy together. His last day on Earth should've been a day of fasting, but the poor, old Abbe took pity on the man whose soul he tried so hard to save. He provided a bountiful feast fit for a king of sausages, beef, pork cutlets, and a variety of puddings. At the kind chaplain's request, Martin's shackles were removed so he may devour his meal uninhibited. He barely spoke to, or even looked at his wife as he wolfed down every last bite completely on his own. Like a starved beast, he quickly tore the meal apart by hand as the grease dripped from his fingers and glistened in his scraggly beard.
During this somber and brief final encounter, Marie-Anne didn't eat a single thing. Put off her appetite by the thought of her husband's head in a basket mere hours from that moment, she just sobbed as she sat across from her ravenous counterpart. Finally, Martin rose from his feast for a breath of air. He took the opportunity to calm his wife, saying that worrying for him was a waste. If he didn't care, why should she? As she continued to wail more for what they had lost than out of any sense of guilt, he dove head-first back into his large meal. If Marie-Anne was looking for any kind of sympathy or warmth from her emotionally stunted husband, she was mistaken. All she received were weak reassurances through his half-masticated food.
He rose from his veritable buffet of meats and puddings once more to encourage her to look to the future. She only had 20 years to serve before she was a free woman again. She would need to be careful with the money he was leaving her in order to survive, though he did recommend that she 'take some wine now and then.' His feeble attempts at comfort were to no avail. Within hours she would be a widow left to rot in a cell all alone. Martin thought nothing of that as he rambled on about how she would need to stay in Dijon after her release as she would not be welcome back in Dagneux. Even in the cold, glaring face of death, Martin was still solely focused on money and survival. In between bites he reminded her to speak to 'Berthet in Dagneux' to collect around 17 francs she owed Marie-Anne for some work she'd done.
Martin's final declarations stunned her into complete silence. As the shock of the day's events settled in, Marie-Anne's tears finally began to dry up. She just stared across the table at this unbelievably single-minded man as he finished wiping out enough food to feed five men. It had taken him no time at all to demolish what had been set before him. When the plates were clean, he looked at the chaplain with a shrug as if to ask what was next.
Martin was returned to his cell to decide upon what he would wear to his execution. His final words to his wife were a reminder to collect on her debts as he slopped up the last of his final meal. With the very unceremonious meeting concluded, Marie-Anne was returned to Auberive prison as her husband prepared to meet the executioner. A few different outfits were laid out for him to choose from. Still concerned only with his wife's survival, he chose the rattiest, most worn set of clothing among them. He knew that Marie-Anne could get a good price for the remaining outfits after her release. Changing into the clothes that he would be buried in, Martin seemed to be going through the motions as though the weight of his impending doom had not yet pressed down upon him. He wouldn't be allowed much more time to remain in his state of shock.
Once he was dressed for the occasion, Martin was marched out to the cart that would carry him to his death. As he stepped out into the crisp air, he declared, 'This is very annoying. I am chilled to death!' One of the two gendarmes assigned to accompany him to the guillotine was already aware of his previous courtroom antics. The man had come prepared with a blanket for the killer to wrap himself in on the way into town. Happily and warmly snuggled under his blanket, he made conversation with the gendarmes and priests as the cart rocked them back and forth along the dusty road. As though he were trying to pass along all his life's wisdom in his final moments, he shared the secrets of the land that he had learned after years of living off of it.
As they slowly plodded along, he pointed out different places of interest in his own case. He also showed them the best places to snare hares as well as the best rivers for fishing in the springtime. With no one else to pass his worldly knowledge onto, he opted to let the gendarmes and priests in on everything he'd ever learned in his life.
It was half past 1:00 in the morning when their cart rolled into the village of Chalamont. Crowds of onlookers eagerly waiting to see his cart pass through were out in the streets. The curious and morbidly fascinated hoard set upon the cart in hopes of seeing the monster with their own eyes. They were only an hour's ride from Monluel when a group of women rushed the cart with torches in hand to catch a glimpse of a living demon. The Abbe shamed them, telling the women that seeing justice served should be enough. Though the hour was late and the road was dark, tightly pressed bodies still lined the path from Chalamont all the way to Montluel. Residents from all over the area had stayed awake in order to watch the procession as they made their way to the chopping block. The merciless crowd pressed in ever-tighter, making it increasingly difficult for them to continue past.
The gendarmes finally began threatening the mass of people blocking their way to clear the path. As the sea of people parted beneath the shouted threats of the gendarmes, Martin finally began to feel oppressed by his own notoriety for the first time. Even the warnings couldn't clear the road completely. Peering eyes and lit torches followed him everywhere, around every bend, all the way to his certain death. Before this moment he almost reveled in his newfound fame, but now he only wanted to hide from it.
When he arrived in Montluel he was taken directly to the town hall, where he would be held until the appointed time. It was inside this old, run down building that he finally found some sense of peace and quiet. The rickety structure was hardly used by the village at that point, but it served the purpose of housing Martin just fine for no longer than he needed a place. Sitting before this broken backdrop, Abbe Carrel made another press for Martin's salvation. After greeting the unsightly terror of the area, he quickly found that he had administered Martin's first communion. Though hopes likely ran high that a priest from his childhood might finally pry the much-needed confession, even this man could not pull the words from his mouth. He simply told him that 'If other men have buried bodies in my vineyard, I am not responsible.'
The justice of the peace that had arrested Martin and his wife received the same cold, stony wall of silence when he attempted to gain a confession. He informed the man that the only thing he was guilty of was taking bad advice and acting on it. In his final hours, he sat with the priest and the magistrate, drinking good coffee as well as a glass of sweet Madeira wine. No doubt the wine was intended to calm the nerves of the priest and the magistrate just as much as Martin's. While he did converse with the men, he gave up no admission of guilt during his final hours with them.
When the time came, the executioner helped Martin cut the hair around his neck and shave his beard. The cold, biting sensation of the blade caused him to shudder. The sharp edge never bothered him a bit, only the blade's cold temperature. For a man that spent much of his life living outdoors under all manner of conditions, he just couldn't seem to stand the cold. Once the collar was cut from his shirt his hands and feet were bound with rope. His hands were tied tightly enough to prevent him from attempting anything stupid, while his feet were left loose enough to allow him to walk to the guillotine. He was given the opportunity to ride a horse up to the scaffold, but declined. He chose instead to walk to his death of his own free will.
Making one final plea for Martin's soul, Abbe Carrel found himself hopelessly disappointed. In response to his pleas, he said, 'If I had any declaration that I wished to make, I would not have waited until the enheance.' The term 'enheance' is one that Martin had picked up during his mercantile days. It defines the moment in commerce when the bill is due to be paid.
As Martin walked through the icy morning air his hardened nerves seemed to falter for just a brief moment. In this moment he collapsed in on himself as he began to sob. He was quite literally a dead man walking, and he knew it. As quickly as he had crumbled, he managed to compose himself and continue forward. All it really took to pull his floundering confidence back to the surface was a simple show of kindness from one of the gendarmes escorting him to the scaffold. Seeing the prisoner shivering against the cold, the kind man draped a jacket over his shoulders for the remainder of their walk. After this considerate show of care, Martin found himself able to dry up his tears and hold his head high as he continued on his doomed path through the ravenous onlookers.
Townspeople hung out of windows and through door openings to watch the spectacle. The center of the village was packed beyond capacity with people screaming in anger and excitement at the murderer brought before them to face justice. It was nearly 7:00 in the morning when Martin entered the town square to find how hated he had become among the French people. The first rays of morning light shone down on him as he stumbled up the steps of the scaffold with the assistance of the priest and the executioner. Every inch of the over-crowded square was defended by soldiers to ensure that no one attempted to reap their own justice before his execution could be carried out.
Once on the platform, he turned back to the good-hearted gendarme that had offered his jacket so that he could return it. Then, he leaned in so the priest could wrap his arms around him and hear his last prayer. Taking his place by the guillotine, the priest repeated Martin's words as 'Jesus. Pray for me. Marie.' He was strapped to the board before the priest pressed a cross to his lips to kiss. It was only a brief moment after he was slid into place that the guillotine's blade fell, severing Martin's head and rendering the once uproarious crowd dead silent. The last word he ever uttered before the guillotine took his head was his wife's name.
Still bound to the board he had been strapped to, his body was placed inside of a simple coffin for burial. His head was boxed up and sent to the medical university of Lyon for study. Their hope was to find some malformation of the brain or skull that could've contributed to his behavior. To prevent the desecration of his grave the location of his remains were never put into any official records. This ensured that his grave site would be lost to time. There was a fear that some macabre tourist attraction may spring up around his burial site if anyone were to discover its whereabouts. We know that he is interred somewhere outside of St. Bartholomew's Chapel in Montluel, but no one knows exactly where.
Martin's head and brain were studied extensively from the time of his death in 1862 onward. Once the skin was pulled from his skull multiple casts were made. When this process was finished his brain was removed for study. In this post-Enlightenment period the argument of nature versus nurture was becoming more prevalent. Before it had been believed by many that an inherent wrongness created a violent offender. Martin's case proved this theory to be quite wrong. Throughout the extensive testing of his brain no malformations of any kind could be found.
Victor Hugo touched upon this point of nature versus nurture in his book, Les Miserables. He even used Martin as a reference for his point. Surprisingly, Martin actually became the poster child for a campaign to improve living conditions for the poor. The argument was made that this ruthless killer had only committed his crimes out of the primal sense of survival. Had a better life been available to him, he would not have needed to resort to such measures. Not surprisingly, the movement gained no traction whatsoever. Members of the Imperial Court didn't see themselves as responsible for the rapes and murders committed by a desperate man lurking in the woods. There were many others throughout the country living in similarly dire situations that never resorted to that kind of monstrous behavior to get by.
Though other serial killers were active at this point in time, Martin Dumollard had the distinction of being the first one ever identified in all of Western Europe. As more and more killers have been uncovered over time, Martin and his wife have fallen into obscurity. Their case faded away as the Dumollards were forgotten by many. His tale did live on through the re-tellings of those attempting to warn young girls of the dangers of wandering off into the woods with strange men. Eventually he had become a faceless cautionary story.
Marie-Anne's story didn't play out long after the death of her husband. Her long and just sentence was just a little more than half-way served when her health started to wane. The excruciatingly hard labor expected of her would've been hard on a young, healthy woman. Marie-Anne was neither of those things by the time of her capture. During the thirteen years she spent in prison she was either struggling through bouts of illness or suffering from extreme exhaustion. Her once broad figure diminished as her eyes sank and darkened and her spirit gave out. She became a hollow shell of her former self. Where once she had directed the atrocities of her massively large husband, now she could hardly command herself from her bed.
Finally one morning in 1875, a guard came to rouse Marie-Anne for work. He discovered that she had passed away at some point in the middle of the night as she slept. Before her death she never produced a full confession of her crimes. No one will ever know exactly how many are still buried in the very old forests of the Ain. The families of the countless victims went to their own graves never knowing exactly what became of their loved ones.
Martin's skull resurfaced in the 1960s when the Hopital d'Instruction des Armees Desgenettes made their conclusion about the severe swelling of his lower lip. His grossly protruding lip was the result of an angioma, a type of benign tumor derived from the vascular or lymphatic system. In Martin's case it had likely been the lymphatic system. The tumor would've grown right along with him, reaching its full size when he reached adulthood. At this point there would've been sufficient blood supply to support it.
In the 1980s, Martin's face made a comeback when researchers from Lyon developed the first technique to reconstruct a full three-dimensional face using only data from the bone structure. They used his skull for the first test before comparing their results with photographs taken of him at trial. This new methodology was validated and resulted in the DMP method utilized by anthropologists and archaeologists today.
The Dumollard's reign of terror changed perspectives everywhere. Women became more weary. Men looked a little more closely at one another as they passed by on the highway. France had never known a beast as vicious as a serial killer before, and they likely felt that they would never recover from the trauma. But they did, and now the gruesomely greedy couple has just become a footnote in the country's long and fascinating history.
For more information on this interesting case I encourage you to read Crimson Pettitcoats by Ryan Green. In a very well-researched and written book he transports the reader to a time long past and lays out the case in its entirety. It's historic true crime at its very best.