Archive for 1920s

The Man in the Attic

Oesterreich murder trial

For years Fred Oesterreich was convinced he was hearing strange noises in his house but was always reassured by his wife, Dolly, that it was either his imagination or just some frisky mice.
 
It was odd, Fred thought, considering that the unexplained bumps in the night had followed him and Dolly not only through four houses in Milwaukee, where Fred operated a large apron sewing company, but to three more in Los Angeles, where the Oesterreichs moved in 1918.
 
Fred was apparently neither a superstitious nor a very curious man, because while he may have grumbled about the noises and the occasional disappearing item or empty humidor, he did nothing about it.
 
Dolly, whose given name was Walburga, felt neglected most of the time because Fred was always at his factory. As bad as being spurned felt, Dolly often preferred the loneliness to Fred’s company as he was a drinking man who like to get violent with his women when he was besotted. In 1913, the Oesterreichs were a childless, very wealthy and quite unhappy couple about to celebrate their 15th anniversary when the events that would culminate in Fred’s killing a decade later began.
 
It started innocently enough in Milwaukee on an average day when Dolly told Fred that her sewing machine was broken. Fred sent over one of the factory mechanics, a young man named Otto Sanhuber, described later in the memoirs of Beverly Hills Chief of Police Clinton Anderson as “a rather small man in horn-rimmed glasses.”
 
Another reporter was more descriptive, although it is a safe bet that the writer was operating with a bit of poetic license: “Little Otto stood just a smidgen under five feet, had a receding chin, buggy eyes and suffered from a severe case of acne. More often than not, his nose dripped.”
 
As is typical in stories like this, Dolly was attracted to the naive 17-year-old and soon Dolly was teaching Otto skills beyond sewing machine repair. He became a regular sight around the Oesterreich property, fixing Dolly’s frequently broken machine and performing other chores around the place for Fred.
 
“He had been popular with Mr. Oesterreich, too, until he took a trip to St. Louis with Dolly,” wrote Anderson. “After that, Oesterreich ordered Otto to stay away from both his door and his Dolly.”
 
As far as Fred was concerned, when Otto vanished after the confrontation the matter was closed. He and Dolly resumed their gloomy relationship, moving several times throughout their time in Milwaukee.
 
Near the end of the Great War, Fred looked to the west and opened another apron factory in Los Angeles. In 1918 he and Dolly settled in Southern California, upsizing their living arrangements as the business expansion proved more and more successful.
 
Fred occasionally complained about the cost of living in Southern California, as his grocery bill jumped significantly after the couple’s move from the Midwest. Dolly simply shrugged her shoulders and dismissed it like she did with his grumbling over the noises that she said were either mice or a settling house.
 
In August 1922, Beverly Hills police were called to the Oesterreich home by neighbors after a series of gunshots and a woman’s scream cut through the night. There officers found Fred lying on the floor of his living room, dead from three shots of a .25 caliber automatic. The autopsy showed that the gun was fired at very close range.
 
“The expensively furnished room showed evidence of a fierce struggle,” Anderson wrote. “An open French window, with the screen unlatched, suggested that the murderer had left the house hurridly.”
 
Locked in a walk-in closet, with the key on the ground in another room, was Dolly. She told investigators that she was hanging clothes in the closet when she heard a fight downstairs. As she turned to investigate, the closet door was slammed shut and locked. She could not provide any description of the killer or killers.
 
Further investigation revealed that while the house was disturbed, nothing was missing except Fred’s diamond-studded watch. Police were also confused about why a burglar would carry such a small firearm, “a gun more likely to be found in a lady’s purse,” one newspaper account said. Equally curious were the accounts of neighbors that they heard the Oesterreichs involved in a heated argument when the couple returned from an evening out.
 
Dolly OesterreichRigorous interrogation of the newly widowed woman yielded no leads. She acknowledged that she and Fred fought — frequently and loudly — but denied she had anything to do with his murder. Over the next few weeks police ran down their few leads, concentrating on discovering any secrets in Dolly’s background. There were none. No one who knew the couple or was friendly with either Fred or Dolly could shed any light on the possibility of a love triangle turned deadly. They had a reputation for bickering in public, but were never violent when others were around.
 
With no weapon, their main person of interest with a pretty solid alibi, and no sign of a lover, police let the case percolate — hoping for something helpful would brew up.
 
The Fates intervened about a year later when Captain Herman Cline, a Beverly Hills cop, dropped in on Herman Shapiro, the attorney handling Fred’s $1 million estate, to go over the facts of the case one more time. On Shapiro’s desk Cline saw a glittering, diamond-studded wristwatch. Shapiro confirmed that Dolly had given him the watch.
 
“Shapiro remembered a diamond studded watch had been taken from slain Fred’s wrist,” wrote crime reporter Max Haines. “When he mentioned this to Walburga, she smiled and said she had been mistaken. She found the watch under a cushion in the living room and simply wanted Shapiro to have it as a gift.”
 
Chief Anderson recalled in his memoirs that Dolly “had not considered it important enough to bother the police about.”
 
Of course the newspapers trumpeted the development, which prompted two informants to come forward independently with even more damning evidence against Dolly. Each man had disposed of a small-caliber pistol at Dolly’s request, they both said. One of guns was later recovered from the La Brea Tar Pits, while the other was found beneath a rose bush at the man’s home.
 
Again, Dolly had a ready — if unbelievable — excuse: “She explained the guns were old things kept around the house for many years,” Anderson said. “She had decided to get rid of them because, under the circumstances of her husband’s death, their presence in her home might prove embarrassing.”
 
It proved much more than awkward for Dolly. Although the newspaper reports do not say whether either gun was the murder weapon, their mere existence was good enough for the cops. In July 1923, Dolly was arrested for killing her husband.
 
“The District Attorney’s investigators hacked away tirelessly at her story, but without success,” Anderson wrote. “After they had tested and discarded every possible theory which might link her to the crime, the murder complaint against the widow was dismissed.”
 
Seven years passed and the case was all but forgotten when the Beverly Hills police received a strange phone call from attorney Shapiro. He and Dolly had apparently had a falling out and the attorney decided to tell police what he knew about Fred’s death. The attorney announced that he had a client who wanted to confess to the killing.
 
Investigators hurried to Shapiro’s office where they were met by the attorney and his client, Otto Sanhuber. The story he told borders on the incredible, but savvy readers who have been keeping track of the clues probably have an idea just what happened that August night in 1922.
 
It began back in 1913 when the broken sewing machine helped ignite a passionate affair between the handyman and the boss’s wife. When Fred fired Otto after the trip to St. Louis, Dolly was not prepared to give up her lover. Instead, she secretly installed him in a living space beneath the rafters in the attic of her home.
 
The arrangement continued for 10 years, through seven moves, including one across the country.
 
“Sanhuber ticked off four attics in Milwaukee and three in Los Angeles in which he lived before the murder ended his rent-free existence,” Anderson wrote. “When the family moved to Los Angeles in 1918, Otto had wanted to get out and join the army, but Mrs. Oesterreich wouldn’t hear of it.”
 
Sex and affection were the primary reason for the bizarre arrangement, but the relationship between Dolly and Otto evolved into something akin to a marriage.
 
“Through the years, every morning after the straight man of the house left for work among the aprons, Sanhuber would descend from his garret hideaway and help Mrs. Oesterreich with her housework,” according to one newspaper account. “At night he would steal back into his attic and read newspapers and magazines by candlelight until bedtime.”
 
One report — not confirmed in any other paper — said that Otto earned a small income by writing fiction for magazines: “To pass the time when he wasn’t performing at his specialty, Otto wrote adventure stories. Walburga typed them and sent them off to the pulps.” This should be taken with a grain of salt as the reporter also calls Dolly “a gorgeous woman with a figure that could wake a corpse,” and claims Fred was “filled with more holes than your average Swiss cheese” (The official account indicates Fred was struck three times).”
 
Occasionally Dolly would join him in his strange studio apartment.
 
Otto said that on the night of August 22, 1922 it was business as usual in the Oesterreich house, which meant an argument between the drunken Fred and his wife while Otto hid in the attic.
 
This night, however, would start violent and escalate into killing. In his confession Otto said he was listening to Dolly and Fred argue when Fred became physically abusive. Enraged to the point of irrationality, Otto burst from the attic and shot Fred to death.
 
Dolly immediately took command and set the stage to look like a burglary. She then told Otto to vanish.
 
In the ensuing years Dolly moved out of her mansion to a luxury apartment where she lived comfortably managing her investments. Otto finally moved out, married, and got a job as a janitor. Eventually, the guilt of his crime made him contact Shapiro.
 
Dolly was again arrested for her husband’s murder and jailed awaiting trial.
 
Otto went on trial first in 1930, and tried to back away from his strange confession without success. However, the case would hold one final twist.
 
The jury did not take long to convict Otto, but instead of finding him guilty of murder, he was convicted of manslaughter. At the time the statute of limitations on manslaughter was seven years and Fred’s killing occurred eight years before Otto’s trial. Otto’s attorney argued that he could not be convicted of manslaughter and thus could not be punished. The district attorney did not object and the judge ordered Otto freed.
 
Dolly went on trial several months later, defended by one of Hollywood’s elite attorneys, Jerry Geisler, who defended such notables as Errol Flynn (statutory rape), Busby Berkeley (murder), Benny (Bugsy) Siegel and Charlie Chaplin. Dolly took the stand in her own defense and put the blame all on Otto. The jury was unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. The DA opted not to try the case again.
 
After the trial Dolly and Otto went their separate ways (Otto’s wife had vowed to stay with him through thick and thin). She lived in luxury to the ripe old age of 75, dying in April 1961. She left her multimillion dollar estate to her business manager whom she married two weeks before her death.
 
Otto’s fate is unknown.

Kill One, Get Two Free

Lillian Raizen, murderess

The story of the Glicksteins of Brooklyn, New York, serves as a grim example of what can happen to a family when a beloved member is murdered.
 
In December 1921, Lillian Raizen, 29, visited the office of Dr. Abraham Glickstein. With three patients sitting in the waiting room and Glickstein’s wife standing expectantly near the street entrance of her husband’s office, Lillian walked directly into the doctor’s operatory, approached him and fired three shots from a revolver she had hidden in a cheap skunk muff she carried.
 
Lillian then turned and calmly walked out of the office and was lost in the crowd before anyone knew Glickstein had been hurt. Because the muff muted the sound of the gunfire, no one realized that the doctor had been shot. In fact, until they examined him, the witnesses assumed he was having a heart attack or stroke. The witnesses could only give a basic description of Raizen.
 
The doctor stumbled out the exam room and fell in the doorway. His last words were “For God’s sake, get help.”
 
The second tragedy touched the Glickstein family literally hours later as the family mourned the death of Abraham. His body was resting in his home prior to its journey to the doctor’s final resting space.
 
Although the New York Times reported that some 2,000 people “drawn by morbid curiosity” were standing on Bedford Avenue outside the home, in keeping with Jewish tradition the Glickstein house was only occupied by mourning family members when Abraham’s widowed mother, 68-year-old Lena Glickstein, arrived to view her son’s body for the first time. She had not been told how her son died, only that it had been sudden and unexpected.
 
“Mrs. Glickstein, who had been in failing health for several years, showed unmistakable signs of feebleness,” the Times reported. “The aged woman became excited when she observed the large crowd, and by the time she was ushered into the room in which the coffin rested she was on the verge of collapse.”
 
According to witnesses inside the home, Lena Glickstein was led into the parlor by two granddaughters and slowly made her way to the simple wood casket where her son lay.
 
“Abraham, my son, you ought to be going to my funeral,” she said, kissing her son’s forehead. “Instead, I am going to yours.”
 
Whether she actually made her next statement is unknown (it makes for a much more dramatic story), but the end result is not in doubt.
 
“She slowly lifted her eyes to several relatives weeping at the head of the coffin, and continued: ‘I wish to God I had died instead of my boy. I must go with him,'” according to the Times reporter.
 
Lena then collapsed on the carpet, dead.
 
“Dr. Samuel Swetnick by that time was standing beside the aged woman, but was not quick enough to catch her before she fell,” the reporter wrote. “He, with the other physicians, leaned over her and after a cursory investigation, announced that she had died of heart failure due to the strain occasioned by her grief.”
 
The Times said that Abraham’s widow, Anna, and several other female relatives fainted following the tragedy.
 
After a delay of three hours while authorities sorted through the chaos created by the tragedy and the rabbis conferred about how to combine the ritual mourning of Lena with that of her son, the funeral of Abraham was completed.
 
At the time Abraham and Lena were buried, New York’s finest were running down clues as to who the shooter might be. Even based on the vague description of the shooter, police were looking for Lillian. The Glicksteins had known Lillian and her family for more than 20 years, one of the doctor’s brothers said
 
“After I heard her described, I thought it must be Lillian,” he said.
 
The manhunt did not last long. As calmly as she did when she shot Dr. Glickstein, Lillian Raizen walked into the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Harry E. Lewis on December 14 and promptly confessed to the shooting. Not surprisingly, she claimed temporary insanity.
 
Lillian told investigators that she and the doctor, who looked after her family, had carried on an affair for six years, beginning when Lillian was 21 and continuing until shortly before Lillian wed Charles S. Raizen, described in the press as “a toy manufacturer.”
 
“He destroyed my life,” Lillian swore. “And I decided to kill him. I had confessed our relations to my husband on our honeymoon last May and he forgave me. But the knowledge of our intimacy preyed upon my mind. I feared I was becoming insane.”
 
She told police that she purchased a .38 pistol from a man in Jacksonville, Florida, where she had been sent by her family in an attempt to cure the melancholia that was taking over her mind.
 
“I looked at him for fully two minutes without a word. Then something happened. I remembered the pistol…I had it in the fur scarf which that afternoon I had sewed into the form of a muff,” she confessed. “I took a firm grip on it and while Dr. Glickstein stared in amazement at me I tried to pull the trigger,” she went on. “I don’t know whether he spoke to me. In fact I don’t know what happened. I must have pulled the trigger, for I saw him fall.”
 
Lillian said her motive for killing the doctor was to rid herself of the strange hold the doctor had on her.
 
“Dr. Glickstein knew me when I was a little girl. Advice from him is virtually a command. He dominated me,” she wrote in a statement released the day before her trial. “Afterward, I was never able to escape the strange influence he had over me. Even after I married Charles Raizen, one of the best men, this doctor tried to draw me back to him.”
 
Not surprisingly the family denied any sign of untoward behavior by the head of the household.
 
“We are exceedingly surprised, however, with her story regarding the motive for the killing,” Abraham’s son-in-law told reporters. “There was never the slightest indication on her part in her friendly intercourse with the family of Dr. Glickstein that his conduct had ever been anything but that of a friend and a physician toward a patient.”
 
Lillian’s alienist, Dr. Samuel A. Tannenbaum said his patient was suffering from “a slight form of mania.” Her family said she had always been hysterical and neurotic. Whether the intimacy was real or imaginary, consensual or rape, it consumed Lillian to the point of madness.
 
“Mrs. Raizen called on me three months ago,” he said. “She told me a story of her relations with Dr. Glickstein. She showed unmistakeable evidence of a homicidal mania.”
 
Charles Raizen stood by his wife throughout the ordeal, placing the blame squarely on the back of Abraham Glickstein. He said he received many letters from his wife as she rested in Florida, but they only convinced him that Dr. Tannenbaum’s diagnosis of “homicidal mania” was spot on.
 
“She told me that Dr. Glickstein when he heard of our engagement which led to our marriage, tried to induce her to break off with me,” he told the press. “She wept as though her heart would break when she told me how Dr. Glickstein attacked her and how she had to fight him off.”
The accused murderess was taken to Belleview Hospital for a sanity check, which eventually revealed she was competent to stand trial where a jury would determine if she was insane when she gunned down the doctor.


Five months before Lillian killed Dr. Glickstein, another high-profile murder took place in Brooklyn. The case involved allegations similar to those raised in the Glickstein case and would have a profound and crushing impact on the Glickstein family.
 
In that case, Olivia Stone, a Cincinnati nurse, traveled to Brooklyn to confront an attorney named Ellis Guy Kinkaid, whom she believed had wronged her by seducing her. The long trial contained lurid letters, including some written by Stone threatening Kinkaid’s life, as well as dueling alienists.
 
During her trial for first degree murder, the Times reported that her defense was “temporary, transitory emotional insanity, also termed ‘Brain Explosion,’ a mental condition, in which, it was maintained, was predicated on acts of the slain man.”
 
The prosecution, citing the threatening letters and Stone’s trip from Cincinnati to Brooklyn, asserted premeditation. The jury disagreed. Amid a joyous outcry from the gallery, Stone was acquitted.
 
“The cheers which greeted the acquittal drowned out the voice of the clerk as he started to poll each juror,” a courthouse hack wrote.


Not surprisingly, Anna Glickstein watched the Stone case closely and became despondent when the defendant was acquitted, fearing her husband’s killer would receive a similar verdict.
 
During Passover, one of the most joyous Jewish holidays, Anna and her daughters visited the home of her parents, but the Seder was subdued.
 
“There is no justice,” people would later report Anna as repeating over and over.
 
After the dinner Anna and her youngest daughter, Frances, retired to a guest bedroom in preparation for bed. Shortly before dawn Frances was awakened by a loud crash below her window.
 
“Louis Lebowitz, who lives on the ground floor, looked out and saw Mrs. Glickstein lying on her back, her arms stretched wide,” the Times reported. “She had fallen on a heavy iron post, which had been knocked from its base by the blow. In her hand was a silk handkerchief.”
 
The Glickstein family insisted that Anna had accidentally fallen, but it was apparent from the evidence that she had launched herself out the window so she fell in such a way that an accidental slip could not explain.
 
When advised of the tragedy, Lillian, held in lieu of bail, broke into tears.
 
“I am the cause. I am to blame,” the warden of the Raymond Street Jail told reporters Lillian had cried. “If I had been in my right mind, I would never have shot Dr. Glickstein.”
 
The trial of Lillian Raizen for the murder of Abraham Glickstein began before Justice James C. Cropsey on February 12, 1923 to a full gallery of curious court watchers and reporters.
 
As far as trials go, it was a typical affair for cases like this. The only issue to be answered at this trial was whether Lillian was sane when she shot the doctor, and if not, what degree of murder was the crime.
 
It was necessary for Lillian to take the stand, and for her part, Lillian played the role of the mentally unsound defendant quite well. She talked of her “urge to kill” and her need to force the doctor to “return her to the way she was.”
 
On February 19, 1923, after 12 hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of second-degree murder against Lillian Raizen. Lillian, confident of acquittal, was rendered speechless by the verdict at first, but then shuddering, she blurted out: “Oh, my God! Oh, My God, how miserable I am.”
 
Then she blotted her eyes with her handkerchief as she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
 
The damage she wreaked on the Glickstein family lingered on long after Lillian was locked up in Auburn prison.
 
The New York Times, on August 19, 1927, ran the following brief:

Laura Glickstein, 26, was taken to the Kings County Hospital yesterday for treatment as a drug addict, following her arrest the night before on charges of possession of morphine and forging prescriptions to obtain narcotics. According to the police, she admitted the use of drugs, which she said she had begun following the murder of her father, Dr. Abraham Glickstein, by Mrs. Lillian Raizen and the death of her mother and grandmother.
Although Dr. Glickstein had been reputed to be wealthy, his estate dwindled down to almost nothing, Miss Glickstein told police. She said that she was unable to sleep following the crushing series of misfortunes that had followed her and in despair began to use drugs.

There are no records of what happened to Laura Glickstein, but her future was exceedingly dim.
 
In “Women and Addiction in the United States — 1920 to the Present, Stephen R. Kandall wrote: “Facing limited treatment options, women addicts lived almost totally dependent on men for their drugs, with little belief that America‚Äôs hard-line approach held any hope for them.”