Dolly and Fred Oesterreich
Dolly and Fred Oesterreich

This is one of the strangest stories I have come across.  Hold on to your horses because we’re up for a wild ride!  This story was the basis for the movie The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom.

Fred Oesterreich was killed in his home.  He was shot 3 times, twice in the heart and once in the temple.  His body was laying in the parlor by the front door.  There were chairs overturned and rugs in disorder, and there was a bullet in the ceiling showing Fred put up a fight. 

Dolly Oesterreich was locked in the closet from the outside.  Dolly told the police that they were out with friends and when they came home a man forced her into the closet where she heard 3 shots and began screaming.  J.W. Ashley a neighbor was out walking heard the screaming and looked in the window and saw Fred’s body.  He called the police.  The police arrived and let Dolly out of the closet where she was crying hysterically.  There was jewelry worth over $50,000 that were left in the house.

Police believe that the murder was done by a six-member robber gang which included one woman.  Early in the morning police officers heard a wild party going on and went into the house, they arrested one of the members who had a .25 caliber pistol that had been shot recently.  None of the “gang” could account for their time during the murder.

Cora Norton
Cora Norton

Inquest into Fred’s death held at Riedeman Undertaking Company.  Cora Norton the next-door neighbor testified that the murderers were in the house for 15 minutes.  Her niece Flora Rawson was staying with her at the time and substantiated that part of her testimony.   Cora then also testified that the screams she heard could not have come from a closet, “they were too distinct for that.”

This confirmed to lead investigator Detective Lieutenant Herman Cline that the gang was not responsible for the murder, and that somehow Walburga “Dolly” Oesterreich was somehow involved.

Dolly Oesterreich
Dolly Oesterreich

Walburga “Dolly” Korschel was born in Milwaukee around 1880.  Dolly was working in a bonnet factory in Chicago when she was 14.  Dolly was always beautiful. There she met Fred Oesterreich, 17, the son of a shoe store owner.  They had a three-year romance and married.  They moved to Milwaukee where they opened their own shoe store.  The store did well, and they opened other stores in surrounding cities.  They also started a small manufacturing company that made Men and Boy’s caps. 

Dolly and Fred moved to Los Angeles in 1918 when Dolly was 30.  They started up a new manufacturing facility Oesterreich Garment Company.  The company did very well, and the couple bought a mansion on North St. Andrew that had once belonged to a movie star. 

Dolly and Fred's Home
Dolly and Fred’s Home

And then August 22, 1922 disaster strikes!  Fred is shot and killed, and Dolly is locked in her closet.

Lieutenant Cline becomes the lead detective and suspects that Dolly killed Fred.  Herman Shapiro, Dolly’s attorney, who is helping her settle the estate, admits that he has lived with Dolly in her house since Fred was killed, and that the gold watch he is wearing belonged to Fred, which he turns over to the police.  This somehow leaks to the press and two witnesses come forward.

J.E. Farber and Roy Klumb told the DA about Dolly giving them .25 caliber pistols to get rid of.  Frank Dominguez, Dolly’s attorney labeled Klumb as “Judas Iscariot” as Klumb had tried to sell his story to the newspapers before going to the police. 

Roy Klumb
Roy Klumb

Roy Klumb the 23-year-old actor/producer seems to have disappeared.  He was set to be the star prosecution witness and can’t be found anywhere; friends and family say they don’t know.  Klumb supposedly pursued Dolly and asked her repeatedly to marry him.  When she wouldn’t he asked for money and cars.  She gave him $600 to go away and he became furious and tried to sell the story and when he couldn’t do that he went to the police.

A meeting occurred between Deputy District Attorney William J. Clark, head of the homicide squad Detective Lieutenants Herman Cline and Captain George K. Home to present the evidence against Dolly Oesterreich to try her for murder.  The main evidence consists of one rusted pistol and the rusted bent pieces of a second pistol.  All they have is Klumb and Farber’s testimony.

Dolly behind bars
Dolly behind bars

Dolly was arrested and detained in the city jail.  When they wanted to question Dolly her attorney, Frank Dominguez said, “My client will not say a word until I give her permission.  I think it is more important this morning to tell about the rats that run over the cots in the women’s department of the city jail and make the women prisoners hysterical.  My client is so wrought up over the rats frightening her that she cannot even discuss her case.” 

A bail hearing is held because of the rats and Dolly’s failing health. Dolly is released on a $50,000 bond.  That’s about $800,000 in today’s dollars.

Detectives Cline and Captain Home toured the Oesterreich’s home.  They found a second door to the closet that Dolly was locked in from the Dressing Room.  Dolly had sold the house and apparently the new owners put in the second door.  Dominguez said that Dolly wanted to clear the atrocious murder and that she had nothing to conceal.

Patrolman Stoll was the first police officer on the scene and his reports are missing.  The reports contained information about the closet door and the door to the room leading to the closet.  Dolly spent the day listening to a Dictaphone tape that Frank recorded to the ex-con and said, “Where one is not guilty of crime, there is nothing to fear.”  Dolly listened to that sentence over and over.

The trial was postponed or continued ten, that’s right 10 times.  Finally, on January 16, 1925, two and a half years after the murder, Dolly was released.  Judge Carlos Hardy dismissed the case for  on a motion by the District Attorney for insufficient evidence. 

So that’s the end of the story….

Not even close!

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