Johann "Jack" Unterweger (born 1950 in Steiermark, died 29 June 1994 in Graz) was a serial killer who murdered prostitutes in several countries.
He was born in 1950 in the Austrian state of Steiermark to a Viennese prostitute and an unknown American soldier. He grew up in poverty with his abusive, alcoholic grandfather in a one-room cabin.
He was in and out of prison several times during his youth for assaulting local prostitutes. He murdered 18-year-old German Margaret Schäfer in 1974 by strangling her with her own bra.
He was sentenced to life in prison and used that time to study. He became an author of short stories, poems, plays, and an autobiography, "Fegefeuer – eine Reise ins Zuchthaus" which was a success with critics and the public. He was released after only 16 years of his life term, thought to be a successful "resocialized" prisoner.
In the first year after his release, however, police found later that he killed six prostitutes in Austria.
In 1991, he was hired by an Austrian magazine to write about crime in Los Angeles, California, writing articles about prostitution and riding around town with the local police. During his time in Los Angeles, the three prostitutes Shannon Exley, Irene Rodriguez, and Sherri Ann Long were beaten, sexually assaulted with tree branches, and finally strangled with their own brassieres.
Back in Austria, police had enough evidence for his arrest, but he was gone by the time they entered his home. After police chased him through Europe, Canada and the USA, he was finally arrested by the FBI in Miami, Florida on February 27, 1992. While a fugitive, he had time to call Austrian media to try to convince them of his innocence.
Back in Austria, he was charged with eleven homicides. The jury found him guilty of nine murders because no cause of death could be determined for two of them, as nothing was found of them but bones. On June 29, 1994 he was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. That night, he took his own life by hanging himself with his pants.
Because he died before he could appeal the verdict, it was never legally valid. Thus, according to Austrian law, Unterweger is to be regarded as innocent.