|Birth name:||Billy Gohl|
|Cause of death:||Died in Prison|
|Number of victims:||2 (but possibly 41+)|
|Span of killings:||After 1900–1912|
Billy Gohl (? - 1928) was an American serial killer who, while working as a union official, would murder sailors passing through Aberdeen, Washington. He murdered for an unknown period of time and was a suspect in 41 murders until his capture in 1913. Washington State had abolished the death penalty the year before his conviction, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Those in favor of the reinstatement of capital punishment would often cite him as an example of a prisoner who deserved to die for his crimes.
Gohl was employed as a union official at the Sailor's Union of the Pacific. Before this he had been employed as a bartender after returning broke from the Yukon. Already an accomplished criminal, Gohl was suspected of being responsible for many of the large numbers of deceased migrant workers that would be found washed up on shore during his tenure as a bartender, as well as a number of other crimes. As a union official, Gohl would use his reputation and intimidating size to discourage strikes and "recruit" new union members. The Union building proved to be a location that was ideal for his crimes, both in providing victims, and in concealing the evidence of their murders. Sailors arriving in the port of Aberdeen would usually visit the Sailor's Union building soon after disembarking. There they could collect their mail and, if they wished, set some money aside in savings. Gohl would usually be on duty, alone. Typically Gohl would ask if the sailors had any family or friends in the area. Then he would turn the conversation to the topic of money and valuables. If the sailor was just passing through, and would not be missed by anyone in the area, and had more than a trivial amount of cash or valuables on hand, Gohl would choose him as his next victim.
Gohl would kill most of his victims in the union building by shooting them. Then after relieving them of their money and valuables, he would dispose of them in the Wishkah river, which ran behind the building and into the harbor. According to some reports, there was a chute which descended from a trap door in the building directly into the river. Other reports state that Gohl would use a small launch to murder his victims and dump the bodies directly in the harbor. Though suspected of being responsible for the large numbers of sailors who would disembark in Aberdeen and disappear, nothing was done to stop him until an accomplice, John Klingenberg, was brought back to Aberdeen after trying to jump ship in Mexico to escape prosecution, or possibly to escape Gohl.
Klingenberg was able to testify to seeing Gohl alone with a sailor, Charles Hatberg, whose body had recently been found in the harbor, soon before his disappearance. Gohl had already been arrested for the Hatberg murder and was convicted of two counts of murder, though suspected of 41 or more, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The second count was for the murder of John Hoffman, a witness to the Hatberg murder who was shot and injured by Gohl on the night of the murder, and killed the next day by Klingenberg, for which he was sentenced to 20 years. Gohl was later transferred to an asylum for the criminally insane, where he died in 1928.