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Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Domestic Tragedy.

Little Murders

Annie Schau rushed from her home in Erie, Pennsylvania, on December 18, 1886, and ran to the neighbors screaming, “I am shot and Minnie is shot dead.” The neighbor ran to Annie’s house and saw her father, Christian Schau, running through the backyard with a smoking revolver in hand. Inside the house, Annie’s 22-year-old sister Minnie lay dead, shot through the heart. The girls’ mother was wild with grief, surrounded by her other six children mourning piteously.

21-year-old Annie Schau was taken to a surgeon and treated for a gunshot wound to the chest just below the heart. Mrs. Schau had also been injured, the flesh had been torn from her throat in shreds. This was the culmination of a long history of abuse by Mr. Schau against his wife. Several months previous she had been compelled to flee for her life. Schau promised to treat her better and his wife returned to him.

Mrs. Schau told the police that she and her husband were sitting to dinner with their 9-year-old son, Frankie, when Schau got up, locked the door and procured his revolver. He then made an unexpected assault upon his wife. She screamed and the two daughters seized their father just as he was about to fire the revolver into his wife’s head. Little Frankie managed to get the door open and as Mrs. Schau ran from the room her husband fired three shots at her but missed each time. Failing to bring his wife down, Schau turned the gun on his daughters and shot both then fled the house.

The killer ran for the outskirts of the city but was overtaken by Police Officer James Higgins. Schau pulled the revolver and tried to fire at the officer, but the gun was empty. He turned the revolver on his own head but there was no use. Higgins took his club and knocked Schau senseless. As Higgins took him back to the station, a crowd had gathered calling for a lynching, but they took no action.

When he first arrived at the police station, Schau was cocky, boasting of shooting at the officer, but once he was behind bars he broke down and cried bitterly. His story was that his wife was beating him badly and he drew the revolver to defend himself. His daughters, who had come to his rescue, seized the gun and accidentally shot themselves, one after the other.

Christian Schau was completely abandoned by his family. They all refused to help him and none would visit him in jail. He stuck to his story through the arraignment hearing, but on February 8, 1887, as the grand jury was deliberating, Schau tied a handkerchief to the metal frame of the upper bunk in his cell and tied the other end around his neck. He hanged himself by lifting his feet off of the floor; the jail physician said that strangulation under such conditions could not produce death in less than half an hour. On his body, the jailers found a letter, dated February 2, addressed to his family intending to make a disposition of the little property that he owned.

"A Domestic Tragedy." Plain Dealer 19 Dec 1886.
"A Queer Case." Cleveland Leader 9 Jan 1887.
"Double Tragedy." The National Police Gazette 8 Jan 1887: 3.
"He Cheated the Gallows." New York Herald 8 Feb 1887.
"Live State Notes." Patriot 20 Dec 1886.
"Murderer Schau Arraigned." Cleveland Leader 22 Jan 1887.
"Schau Cheats The Hangman." Plain Dealer 8 Feb 1887.


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