Victim of a Serial Killer

By Linda Cunningham Fluharty.

     Newlywed, CAROLINE HUFF, died less than two months after her second marriage. She was interred at the Redmen Cemetery in Wheeling, the probable location of her first husband's grave.

     The Redmen Cemetery burials were posted on this site in 1999. "Caroline Huff, nee MILLER, wife of Jac., died June 15, 1895."

     But, unbeknownst to this writer, the death of Caroline Huff quickly became part of a sensational, national media story about a serial killer - Caroline's second husband.

     Since discovering this story in old newspaper articles, hundreds of accounts of the saga have been reviewed, including some that are posted on websites. Perhaps because of the broad scope of the crimes, the innumerable details, and the extensive list of the victims, misinformation was published in the old articles. The errors then found their way into other newspapers and then into books, including some that were written in recent years.

     The purpose of this presentation is to set the record quasi-straight about Caroline Miller Hoch Huff. Having no articles from the Wheeling newspapers beyond 1897, articles in other newspapers, as well as the research of A. I. Schutzer, were relied on for some events that occurred after that year.

     KAROLINE MILLER married ADOLPH HOCH in 1885 in Ohio County, West Virginia, according to the record at the courthouse in Wheeling.

     Adolph Hoch, spelled Hock in the Wheeling Register, died July 7, 1892. The ARTICLE states that Adolph Hoch, an employee of Riverside Steel, "died of cramps from drinking too much ice water."

     No death record was found for Adolph Hoch/Hock. However, a review of the Redmen Cemetery list revealed that Adolph HAY died July 7, 1892. His death record was found in the death records of Ohio County. He was a 31 year old Steel Worker, and he lived in Ritchietown (South Wheeling). He was buried at Redmen Cemetery, the location of the interment of Caroline Miller Hoch Huff three years later.

     The name on the death record has been deciphered as Adolph Hay, but it is probable that this is Adolph Hoch/Hock. - The name might have been written as Hog/Hag, or some variation, based on the German pronunciation.

     Karoline Hoch married JACOB HUFF in Ohio County, West Virginia in 1895. This marriage is also recorded at the courthouse in Wheeling. Although the month and date are not stated in the record, the Lutheran minister who performed the ceremony, Pastor Haass, indicated it took place April 18, 1895.

     Until Caroline's death less than two months later, on June 15, 1895, the history of "Jacob Huff" was not commonly known in the Wheeling community. But after she died, stunning revelations came to light. Published in the Wheeling Register on July 4, 1895, was this ARTICLE.

     The article, as well as the aforementioned courthouse records, clearly shows that Caroline/Karoline Miller was first married to Adolph Hoch and then to the man calling himself JACOB HUFF.

     Following his exit from Wheeling, JACOB HUFF became JOHANN HOCH. This is a very important fact that is lost in many accounts of this tragic story. Some publications call him JOHANN ADOLPH HOCH, others JOHANN OTTO HOCH. He used innumerable aliases but he did adopt HOCH after Caroline's death, and his name in the annals of history is JOHANN HOCH.

     In regards to Caroline, the most prevalent error in accounts of this story is the misstatement of her name. She is called Mrs. Hoch in many accounts, the reasoning being that she was a wife of this Johann Hoch. Of course, she was Caroline/Karoline Hoch before she married him, at which time her surname became HUFF. HE adopted her surname when he left Wheeling. Her given name is rarely stated in articles, but when it is, she is identified at Mary Huss (probably an error pertaining to HUFF) Hoch, Mary Hoch, etc. Since her name is stated as HOCH, some writers call her Johann Hoch's "namesake," and they write as though it is a coincidence that her name was Mary Hoch and she married Johann Hoch. - With all of the aliases and the complexity of the story, it was lost on many writers that Johann Hoch was "Jacob Huff" when he married Caroline Hoch.

     Here is a smaller ARTICLE, indicating that Huff's real name was Jacob Schmidt. The validity of that assertion is not known.

     What is known is that this man ended up in the Chicago area and married many women, most of whom "died of natural causes" shortly after he married them. He was eventually charged with the murder of one wife, who died of ARSENIC poisoning.

     In the end, although suspected of many murders, JOHANN HOCH was tried for only the one murder, for which he was convicted and sentenced to hang. The execution took place February 23, 1906 in Chicago.

     For reasons unknown, the Wheeling authorities were not interested in investigating the murder of Caroline Hoch Huff. "CHICAGO, Feb. 6 (1905) - A letter received by Chief O'Neil today from Supt. Clemens of Wheeling, W. Va. says that Johann Hoch is not wanted in Wheeling for any crime."

     Soon after Caroline died, and the misdeeds of her husband were revealed, a Lutheran minister in Wheeling came forth to tell the story of his own investigation into the Caroline's death, which he believed was murder. He went to extraordinary lengths to seek justice for her, but there was never an indictment of her husband. At one point, her body was exhumed so it could be tested for Arsenic poisoning. However, as the casket was opened, it was evident that it has been previously opened and all of her internal organs had been removed. For this reason, no crimal case could be made against "Jacob Huff," now the notorious serial killer, JOHANN HOCH.

     Wheeling newspapers probably published the news of the murder trial and execution of JOHANN HOCH, and they probably did not forget that he was Jacob Huff when he married Caroline/Karoline Hoch. No doubt, they were aware that he frequently used her former husband's surname, HOCH, after leaving the Wheeling area. Published reports in other papers say that he did not acknowledge his marriage to Caroline but he did admit to taking her name. The courthouse record proves that he did, indeed, marry her, and the Lutheran minister is the one who performed the ceremony.

     It is a shame that this alias, Johann HOCH, taken from his Wheeling victim, is the most common name stated for this killer. Some stories say that was his real name, but even the early stories in Wheeling say it was Jacob Schmidt.

     In October 1964, an account of this story was published in American Heritage Magazine. It was then published nationally in numerous newspapers. It is THE BEST account and it is obvious that the author did excellent research, which includes the valuable information imparted by the Lutheran Minister, Hermann Haass. Read the ARTICLE. One possible error: Should Janesville, Ohio read Zanesville, Ohio?

     Here is an ARTICLE from 1954.

     There is lots online about this serial killer, but because of the many conflicts, Caroline Miller Hoch Huff would not be easily identified as part of the story.

     May she rest in peace.


     If you can provide information about the family of Caroline Miller, please WRITE!

     Looking at the census records, at first glance, it seemed like Caroline fit into the family of German Immigrants, Fred and Caroline (Weil) Miller, of Wheeling. They had a number of children and daughter Caroline's age fit. However, in 1900 they had a daughter, Callie, born about 1860, still in the home. Is Callie the same person as daughter Caroline? If so, this is not the right family.

     The death record of Caroline Huff states that her place of birth was Germany. However, the person imparting the information for the death record was, no doubt, her husband.