Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jail Birds: The Story of Robert Stroud


In November 1908, 18- year-old Robert Stroud and his 36-year old girlfriend Kitty OBrien packed up their belongings, boarded a boat and left their home in Cordova, Alaska for the state capital of Juneau. The couple had struggled to afford their boat passage and they were anxious to seek better opportunities in the city.

Juneau Alaska, circa 1909
Juneau Alaska, circa 1909

Shortly after their arrival in Juneau, the couple rented a room and Kitty fond a job dancing in a cabaret. Robert had less luck finding work in the city but hoped to soon land a job. They both felt sure that eventually their luck would change. However, they didnt realize that it would be for the worse.

Less than two months after their arrival, their dreams of a brighter future turned into a nightmare. According to Thomas E. Gaddis book Birdman of Alcatraz, in the early evening hours of January 18, 1909, Robert set off for the Juneau docks to get fish for his and Kittys dinner. A mutual acquaintance of the couple, F.K. Von Dahmer, also known by his nickname Charlie, stayed behind with Kitty.  In Roberts absence, Charlie took advantage of Kitty and viciously beat her.

Young Robert Stroud mugshot
Young Robert Stroud mugshot

Eventually, Robert returned from the docks long after Charlie had departed. When he learned what had happened to Kitty, he was enraged. Robert went to Charlies home on Gastineau Avenue with a gun and confronted Charlie. A struggle ensued that resulted in Charlie being shot dead. Following the shooting, Robert walked into the office of the Juneau City Marshal where he turned himself in. He was immediately put in jail to await trial for murder.

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