Dolly Oesterreich – The end of the craziness

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Dolly Oesterreich
Dolly Oesterreich

John Oesterreich, Fred’s brother, began receiving death threats over the phone and through letters telling him to stay away from Dolly’s trial and to not testify.  The District Attorney immediately began an investigation.

The state is putting their case together and gathering witnesses.  One of the witnesses is Alvie Judkins of Milwaukee.  Alvie was Dolly’s paid companion hired by Fred when he was out of town on business.  Her testimony was two-fold; 1.  She will testify that as soon as Fred left Dolly told Alvie to leave, and 2.  There were a lot of domestic arguments. 

Alvie was all set to go when she began receiving anonymous letters threatening her life and the life of her husband if she went to Los Angeles to testify.  She agreed to go to Los Angeles and testify if Los Angeles would pay for the trip for her, her husband, and her attorney.  They agreed so the Judkins headed out.

Otto Sanhuber was also scheduled to testify, subpoenaed by the prosecution.

Monday, August 4, 1930, Dolly’s trial begins.  Judge Carlos Hardy will preside as he did in Otto’s trial.  James P. Costello, deputy district attorney was prosecutor and Jerry Giesler was the defense attorney.

August 4, 1930 was also the day Dolly was supposed to go to court for the case that Herman Shapiro filed against her.  The civil case was postponed until November.

Ray Klumb and Clara Norton
Ray Klumb and Clara Norton

The prosecutions witnesses except for Alvie Judkins were the same as in Otto’s trial.  They were Cora Norton, the next-door neighbor; Roy Klumb that threw the gun in the tar pits, the undertaker, the police investigators from 1922.

Dolly barrels into the courtroom with a huge smile, dressed in black with a black hat that partially covered her face.  The trial began with a bitter argument between the prosecution and the defense in jury selection.  The defense was willing to forego a jury trial and the prosecution insisted on a jury trial.  Judge Hardy ruled in favor of the prosecution.

Then the defense wanted to ask the prospective jurors whether the verdict from Otto’s trial would affect their decision in this trial since a manslaughter verdict would set Dolly free, and the prosecution wanted no reference to the Sanhuber trial given to the prospective jurors.  Judge Hardy agreed with Giesler, the defense attorney. 

Giesler also asked the prospective jurors if their opinion would be changed if they knew that Dolly had “sinned morally”.  Costello asked if Dolly’s promiscuousness could be considered as leading to the motive of the murder.  He followed up by asking about capital punishment.

The jury picking took three days, and the jury took their seats at the opening of court on Thursday, August 7, 1930.  Several prospects were dismissed because of their disapproval of Capital Punishment.  And get this!  The jury consisted of six men and six WOMEN!  Yes, there were women on this jury!  What a difference 1930 is from 1922!

Herman Shapiro
Herman Shapiro

Alvie was not coming to testify.  At the last minute, the city decided it was too expensive to bring three people from Milwaukee to Los Angeles.

Once again Herman Shapiro is MIA.  Costello find that he is in New York.  Costello called both Herman’s attorney and his sister.  Finally, his sister admitted that Herman was in NYC.  Costello told the sister to let him know that he would get a warrant issued and that he would also take it up with the California Bar and get him disbarred. 

Another disappointment for the prosecution was that private detective Phillip Stover fell and broke his leg and could not travel to Los Angeles.  Stover was one of the private detectives that Fred had hired to follow Dolly and Otto around.

Deputy district attorney Russel gave the opening remarks, basically recapping the shooting and locking Dolly in the closet. 

Next the Cora and Flora show continued with the previous next-door neighbors repeating their catty remarks about Dolly for the third time.  This time they added that Dolly was intoxicated, something new for a new trial!

Testimony follows with the Medical Examiner testifying to Fred being killed by three bullets shot downward.

Shapiro it was found was now in Saint Louis.  He demanded that the city of Los Angeles pay his air fare, or he would not return to Los Angeles, this did not go over well with Costello who sent him heated telegrams.  Shapiro responded with his own telegram – sent collect!

“Burton Fitts, District Attorney:  Understand Costello desires my testimony in the Oesterreich case.  Am here on business that will take another month to conclude.  Cannot understand your need of me because relationship of attorney and client that existed between defendant and myself would bar my testimony.  This is apparent because my testimony was inadmissible in the Sanhuber case.  In addition, I have your promise.  Therefore, my absence should cause the state no embarrassment.  However, if matters develop requiring my presence wire me funds covering round trip aeroplane fare from Saint Louis and I will appear upon eighteen hours’ notice.”

Costello had Judge Hardy issue a bench warrant for Herman the next day.

Police that were first on the scene testified with nothing new to add, same for the medical examiner, and the county surveyor.

Roy Klumb also testified adding nothing new to his testimony.  He did repeat his testimony from Otto’s trial that Dolly had once told him that she had a lover that she was afraid would kill her husband.

John Farber testified about burying the second pistol under his rose bush.  Nothing new.

New witness, the cook from next door testified how he heard fights with cursing between the Oesterreichs prior to the shooting. 

The next new witness was John Farber’s wife a friend of Dolly’s.  She testified that Dolly and told her not to be surprised if she heard Dolly and Fred were getting a divorce.  Dolly was fed up!

A bank teller testified that Dolly and Otto once had a joint checking account.

Otto Sanhuber
Otto Sanhuber

Otto testifies next.  Keep in mind Otto is testifying for the PROSECUTION.  Otto really had nothing new to add, he did blame Dolly for starting their affair. He told the story of being in the attic during the scuffle and the shooting, her heard Dolly in her closet.  Otto heard her call out, “Fred, are you trying to fool me?”

He said he then heard her running downstairs, scream, run back upstairs and faint in her closet.  Otto was on the stand for two days and relayed no new information.

The jury then took a road trip to the house where Fred was killed. 

Costello asked for a three-day (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) recess as he had witnesses coming in from Milwaukee and was granted it.  The defense was thrilled as Dolly was to be their only witness and that gave them plenty of time to prepare her.

Surprise!  Guess who came from Milwaukee after all?  That’s right Alvie! Her testimony really woke up the audience!  Alvie testified that she was employed by Fred at the manufacturing plant as an office girl.  She testified that Fred was suspicious of Dolly and hired Alvie to be her companion when he went out of town on business trips.  Dolly was having none of that!  She sent Alvie home after the first night and called her back the day before Fred was to return, remember Otto first lived in the attic in Milwaukee.        

When the Oesterreichs were getting ready to move to Los Angeles, Dolly said to Alvie, “ I don’t know why I’m going to California with him.  You know what I think about him.”

Alvie replied, “Why don’t you divorce him?”

“No, there is only one way to get rid of him and it isn’t divorce”, was Dolly’s answer.

After Fred died Dolly returned to Milwaukee to take care of some or the estate business.  Alvie spoke to her several times.  “Tell me who did it,” Alvie asked her several times.

“Don’t ever ask me that question”, responded Dolly.  “I sweat blood while they were questioning me.  But don’t forget this:  I’m a fox!  I’m so hard now that I could shake hands with the devil! “

“But lots of foxes are caught, “ Alvie answered her.

“Not me!  Don’t ever answer any questions about me if you don’t want to get in trouble”, was Dolly’s final answer.

With that Alvie’s testimony was finished, the prosecution rested, and court was dismissed.

Juror coming out of attic
Juror coming out of attic

Monday, August 18, 1930 the defense begins.  Jerry Giesler starts by making a motion to dismiss because if Dolly is guilty of any crime it is as an accessory after the fact.  The motion was denied.

Dolly takes the stand.  With tears streaming down her face, for the first time since the shooting, she throws Otto under the bus.  Costello, the prosecuting attorney theorized in cross examination that while Otto and Fred were struggling, Dolly went and got the second gun and shot and killed Fred.

Closing arguments begin.  Jerry Giesler, the lead defense attorney threw Dolly’s morals under the bus, saying, “she did not commit that crime even though she is guilty of other sins.  We asked no sympathy for this woman.  Her own actions have condemned her as an unmoral woman whose sins will bring their own punishment in time.  But regardless of she may have violated the moral law, she cannot be convicted of murder on that account.”  His closing arguments lasted over five hours.

Saturday, August 23, 1930, at 9:45 am the case was given to the jury.  Two days later the jury sends notice to Judge Hardy that they are deadlocked.  Rumor has it that the jury is 9-3 to convict.  The judge tells them to go back to their hotel and relax and come back the next morning at 9:30 to reconvene.  They reconvene and manage to switch one of the 3 so it was 10-2 to convict of second-degree murder. 

Judge Hardy delayed the jurors lunch hour while he discussed the situation with the two lead attorneys.  The attorneys argued as you would expect, defense for a mistrial, prosecution for more discussions.  At the close of business Monday, Judge Hardy regretfully called a mistrial.  The jury was deadlocked at 10-2 for conviction.  All six women, by the way, voted for conviction. 

Dolly and Attorneys
Dolly and Attorneys

The trial had lasted three weeks and had been very expensive.  Between all of Herman Shapiro’s antics and the witnesses from Milwaukee, the state had paid a lot of money.  A new trial was set for October 14, 1930.  And then it was postponed until November 17 and her civil suit with Shapiro was postponed until January 22. 

District Attorney Castello has made a motion that when the case is called on the 17th that it will be put off the calendar.  That means that there will be no second trial but if some new evidence comes to light, he will be able to reopen the case and put it on the docket.  Castello did this because of the hung jury in the August trial and the fact that so close to the holidays the Milwaukee witnesses did not want to come back to Los Angeles for weeks.

Judge Hardy and Jerry Giesler were not happy.  Judge Hardy gave Castello until December 15, to decide whether to drop the charges or go back to trial. In the meantime, Dolly was released on her own recognizance.  So, on December 8, 1930 the charges against Dolly were dropped. 

Jerry Giesler
Jerry Giesler

Jerry Giesler got a lot of publicity from Dolly’s trials.  Front page publicity and became known as the attorney to the stars!  He defended Charlie Chaplin, Alexander Pantages, Errol Flynn, Bugsy Siegel, Robert Mitchum,  and Marilyn Monroe.  Jerry died from a heart attack in 1962.

Judge Herman Shapiro
Judge Herman Shapiro

Herman Shapiro was a well-known attorney in Los Angeles and even paired up with Jerry Giesler on several cases.  In 1936 he was elected to the bench in Whittier.  That’s all I could find on Herman.

Dolly and Attorney 1935
Dolly and Attorney 1935

Dolly developed a taste for litigation.  She sued a jeweler in 1931 for about $3,500 for jewelry she said she gave him for safe keeping in 1928.  In 1932 she won a case against Herman for $90,000 in real estate. 

In 1935 Herman reported to Castello that he had been receiving death threats and threats of bodily harm and attributed them to Dolly.  He had just won a lawsuit against her for $140.  He showed the investigators where he had broken ribs from a scuffle with Dolly’s business manager Ray Hedrick, remember him?  Dolly and Hedrick were called into the investigator’s office and given a slap on the wrist and told to leave Herman alone.

She was also sued by several people for misrepresenting real estate that she leased to them.  She lost both cases. 

Dolly and Ray's Wedding
Dolly and Ray’s Wedding

In March 1961 Dolly and Ray Hedrick were married.  Do you really think she was faithful to him for 30 years???   Dolly swore that she was 65 although she had to be in her mid-eighties at least.  Ray said they had been in love for 30 years, and they were marrying now because Dolly was ill and as her husband, he could make medical decisions for her.  And she was very ill and died on April 8, 1961 about two weeks after she married Hedrick.

Hedrick inherited millions in real estate.

Dolly lived a long life. She was wealthy beautiful and had lots of lovers. Unfortunately she was crazy too!

The made for TV movie Man in the Attic, was inspired by Dolly’s story. It starred Anne Archer and Neil Patrick Harris.

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