City Engineer Murder

Most of us are familiar with the Park Avenue School building, located on the corner of 7th Street and Park Avenue in Newport's east end. But how many are aware that construction of the school resulted in the MURDER of the City’s Engineer?
In 1890, a cornerstone for the new public school was laid with much fanfare. Shortly into construction, the foundation contractor found a problem. The plans and specifications called for an eight-foot high cellar, but when the contractor raised the wall to the desired height, it was found to be too low. Not as much of the stonework was showing above the ground as was called for in the plans. The building committee, contractors, and the superintendent put their heads together and found that, not only was the cellar wrong, but that the entire building was “hind end first” (backwards). The architect’s plans called for the school to be built on the southeast corner and it was being built on the southwest corner.
A September 13, 1890 article in The Covington Commonwealth newspaper pointed the finger squarely at the City Engineer, Charles Jungerman. Mr. Jungerman had been hired by the contractor “to survey the premises and drive the necessary stakes to guide the men at their work.” The article’s author quoted Mr. Jungerman as saying that “he knew of nothing wrong,” to which the author responded:
“The Commonwealth is glad that he knows so much, for then the contractors, architect, Superintendent, School Board and a great many other people must be mistaken, and not the Engineer.”
Needless to say, the article did not set well with Mr. Jungerman.
On Sunday, September 14, 1890, around 2:45PM, Thomas Riley, a reporter for The Commonwealth, entered the Court House to see what arrests had been made over the weekend. Upon entering the East entrance, he was immediately confronted by Mr. Jungerman, who said, “What in the hell did you write that article in the paper about me yesterday?” to which Mr. Riley responded, “Write what?” Mr. Jungerman then uttered a profanity and struck him over the head with a cane, which resulted in a large gash. Jungerman then ran out the door, with a dazed Riley beyond him. With blood streaming down his face, Riley descended the steps and encountered two young girls. “Where did that man go?” he asked. One little girl pointed to an area next to the steps, where Jungerman was hiding, about 15-feet away. The two men made eye contact and moved toward each other. Riley raised a .38 revolver and fired one shot. According to a newspaper article from the time, “the two clinched, when Reilly (sic) fired two more shots, both of which took effect, and Jungerman fell on the sod face foremost.”
The Court House square was rather crowded and a number of witnesses observed the events. One of them, Charles Anderson, rushed to Jungerman and told him that he was not hurt very bad. “Yes, I am,” replied Jungerman. “I am killed. I am shot here,” placing his hand over his heart. “Who shot you,” said Mr. Anderson, to which Jungerman replied, “Riley.” He then died in Mr. Anderson’s arms.
Riley was quickly arrested and, out of fear for his safety, was moved to the Covington jail.
As soon as the post-mortem was held, Jungerman’s remains were removed to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where he lay in state. Mr. Jungerman’s remains would eventually be removed to Nashville (his hometown) for burial.
Thomas Riley was prosecuted for the crime of murder; however, in May of 1891, a hung jury prevented a conviction. In a new trial in 1893, he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in the Frankfort Penitentiary. He immediately appealed the ruling. Within just a few months, the Appeals Court would acquit Riley of the charge. No additional charges were filed against him.
Fun Fact: The nearly complete school was set on fire by an arsonist in January of 1891. According to a Kentucky State Journal article from the time, the fire department’s “hose was quickly laid, but when the water was turned on the pressure was insufficient to throw it a distance of over ten feet.” The building was a total loss.
The school was immediately rebuilt; however, in 1940, another fire, again set by arsonists, would gut the three-story structure and destroy its iconic tower. The school would be rebuilt (as Dora Cummings School), but this time the third floor was removed, leaving it as a 2-story structure.


from the Facebook page of Old Photos of Newport