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Alferd Packer

Alferd Packer (November 21, 1842 - April 23, 1907) is often known as the only American ever convicted of cannibalism, though in reality his conviction was for murder, not cannibalism. Not even the members of the infamous Donner Party were convicted of cannibalism in California.

Note: Packer sometimes signed his name as "Alferd", sometimes as "Alfred", and is referred to by both names. In many documents, he is referred to simply as A. Packer or Al Packer.

Packer's life

Packer was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He served in the American Civil War, on the Union side presumably in an Iowa regiment, but was mustered out due to epilepsy. He enters fame in 1873.

In November, 1873, Packer with a party of 21 left Provo, Utah, bound for the Colorado gold country in Breckenridge. Leaving that late in the season was dangerous, as winter can come fierce and fast to the high country. On January 21 of 1874, he met with Chief Ouray (the White Man's Friend) near Montrose, Colorado. Chief Ouray recommended he wait until spring. On February 9, a party of six left for Gunnison, Colorado.

At an unknown date, the party got hopelessly lost, ran out of provisions, and became snowbound in the Rocky Mountains. Packer allegedly went scouting and came back to discover one of his party roasting human meat. According to Packer, the man rushed him with a hatchet; Packer shot and killed him.

On March 6, 1874, Packer arrived alone at Los Pinos Indian Agency near Gunnison. He spent some time in a Saguache, Colorado Bar, meeting several of his previous party. He initially claimed self-defense, but his story did not wash.

Packer signed a confession on May 8, 1874. He was jailed in Saguache.

On August 8, the victims were found, with evidence of struggle and murder, and Packer escaped from Saguache. He vanished for several years.

On March 11, 1883, Packer was discovered in Cheyenne, Wyoming living under the alias of "John Schwartze." On March 16, he signed another confession.

On April 6, 1883, a trial began in Lake City, Colorado, Hindsdale County. On the 13th, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

But Packer hornswoggled the hangman; in October, 1885, the sentence was reversed by the Colorado Supreme Court on a grandfather clause. However, on August 6, 1886, Packer was sentenced to 40 years at a trial in Gunnison.

On June 19, 1899, Packer's sentence was upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court. However, he was paroled on February 8, 1901 and two days later moved to the city of Deer Creek, in Jefferson County, Colorado.

He is widely rumored to have become a vegetarian before his death of reputed "Senility - trouble & worry" at the age of 64. His grave is still in Littleton, Colorado. His pardon waited until March 5, 1981.

Years later

Evidence dug up since suggests that Packer was a cannibal, but not a murderer. On September 17, 1989 an exhumation project was begun by Scientific Sleuthing Inc. See the Denver Post reference below for more evidence that Packer's story of self-defense may have been true. However, it may never be known for sure.

In 1968, the University of Colorado at Boulder named their new cafeteria grill the Alferd E. Packer Memorial Grill. In 1982 a statue to Packer was placed on the Boulder campus.

External links and references