How a Brewery, a Bank Robbery, and California’s First Mass Murder Are Tied

Adolph Weber was executed in Folsom State Prison on September 27, 1906, for the murders of his parents and siblings. Numerous red flags and unexpected detours in his path led him there; his tragic end would alter the course of California law.

The son of prosperous businessman Julius Weber, who ran the Auburn Brewery in the late 1800s, Weber became a prominent figure in his own right.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in 1895, Julius sold the firm because he wanted to devote more time to his family, specifically to his wife Mary and their son Adolph, who was born in 1884.

In his teens, Adolph reportedly began torturing and killing small animals, which caused concern among his family, according to state reports. A negative shift occurred in Adolph’s demeanor around turning twenty.

A masked robber who used a gun stole five thousand dollars from the Placer County Bank in Auburn on May 26, 1904.

After the robbery, Julius realized that his handcrafted money bag was gone.

Given Adolph’s reputation for outbursts and mischief, his relatives accused him of being behind the theft.

Family members present at the time of the robbery included Julius Weber, Mary Weber, Bertha Weber (aged 18), Earl Weber (aged 18), and Adolph Weber (aged 20).

According to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Weber house caught fire on November 10th, 1904, at about 7 o’clock in the evening. Eyewitnesses report seeing Adolph buy a new pair of pants and stuff the old ones into a bag before running out of the building during the fire.

It was then alleged that Adolph used his bare hand to smash a window of the burning house and threw the old pants into the flames.

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Bertha and Mary Weber were found unharmed in an unaffected part of the house by the fire, which was entered by a concerned neighbor of the Webers. Bullet holes could be seen in them.

Earl was also discovered with fatal head trauma. The next day, Julius’s shot dead body was discovered inside the house.

On November 12, 1904, Adolph was arrested and charged with murder, as reported by Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In the days that followed, detectives peeled away the barn’s floor and unearthed a 32-caliber pistol. Its ammunition was completely depleted. They also unearthed a five-gallon container of gold coins worth $20 each (Double Eagles) from the yard of the abandoned house.

Adolph reportedly informed police, upon hearing the news of the gold coins’ finding, “Oh, I thought you had discovered the cause for the murder. The robbery of the bank is a minor issue. That doesn’t concern me at all. My mind has been wandering to a different scenario. In April Moore’s book “Folsom’s 93,” Folsom said, “If I took it, it wasn’t because I needed the money; it was just to see what I could do.”

Adolph’s theft of $5,000 from the bank, when adjusted for inflation, is now worth $116,447. Given the recent price increase of the Double Eagle coin, the total value of the haul might be as high as $368,750.

Tracing the 32-caliber pistol led investigators to a pawn shop in San Francisco, where the vendor recalled selling the weapon to Adolph in July of 1904.

Because of the notoriety of the murder, then-Governor of California George Pardee delegated prosecutorial authority to Attorney General Ulysses S. Webb.

According to Webb’s report to Pardee, the trial for Weber’s murder began on January 27, 1905, and ended on February 22, 1905. The jury found Weber guilty of murder and sentenced him to death. On June 21, 1906, the case reached the California Supreme Court, where Weber was again convicted of murder. After Weber’s death, the state will still feel the effects of his policies.

Weber paid his lawyer with inheritance funds of $11,000 two days before he passed away. Annie Scott, the only surviving relative of Weber, sued the lawyer and, after waiting a few years, won payment from him.

This would cause a shift in inheritance rules across the country, resulting in new laws that prevent felons from financially benefiting from their crimes.