Two Lithuanian immigrants to the US decided to target Roman Catholic priests when they set out on their very brief and very lethal criminal careers in 1915. On February 8th Bernard Montvid and Peter Krakus attacked a Lithuanian priest, Father Joseph Zebris, in his rectory in New Britain, Connecticut. They beat him up, garrotted him with a nylon cord and then shot him four times in the chest.

When the priest’s screaming housekeeper, Iva Gilmanaitis, 36, arrived on the scene they chased her all over the rectory, caught her, and strangled her with a clothesline.

Discovery of the double-murder brought thousands of angry people on to the streets. Unrecognised, Montvid, 23, and Krakus, 25, mingled with the crowd, then decided to go their separate ways for the time being.

A few days later Montvid sent a threatening letter demanding $10,000 to another New Britain priest, who took it to the police. The fact that it was written in excellent Polish and was followed up by a telephone call in which the caller spoke fluent Lithuanian considerably narrowed down the choice of suspects.

Montvid was soon identified as the culprit on the evidence of a typewriter he had borrowed to write the letter, but he had already moved out of town to join up with his old partner Krakus in Wilmington, Delaware. The trail of pawn tickets they left behind them enabled the police to track them down, and a running gun battle ensued as detectives chased them through the streets of Wilmington.

During the shoot-out Krakus shot and killed a policeman and was himself wounded by police fire. When he saw his partner slump in the road Montvid threw his gun away. They were handcuffed and taken to the local police headquarters, where police found the keys to Father Zebris’s rectory in Montvid’s pocket.

Prosecutors in Connecticut and Delaware did a deal – Montvid would be returned to Connecticut to face trial for the killing of the priest and Krakus would remain in Delaware to be tried for the killing of the cop. On Friday, May 14th, 1915, Peter Krakus went to his doom on a Delaware gallows. On August 13th Bernard Montvid met a similar fate in Connecticut State Prison. The Roman Catholic church did not ask for clemency in either case.