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Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Murder in Pantomime.


Lizzie Lochner returned home from a night on the town sometime after midnight the morning of June 2, 1894. Her husband Joseph, who stayed home with the children—4-year-old Rosa and her infant brother— berated Lizzie for her for coming in so late. They began to loudly argue the matter as they had done many times before.

Their lodger, Gus Englund, was used to being awakened by the Lochner’s arguing but this night was different. The voices grew to a crescendo followed by a few minutes of silence, then the sound of a gunshot. Joseph Lochner burst into his room and said, “Oh, Gus, Gus, I have done it. I have killed my wife.” He then ran out of the building by the back door.



Englund went into the other room and found Lizzie Lochner lying on the floor, a puddle of blood by her head. The baby was still on his mother’s arms and Rosa stood over her dead mother, trembling in fear. Englund sent for the police and the children were taken to the home of Lizzie’s half-brother, Abe Slupsky. 

Rosa Lochner was a witness to the murder, but she had been deaf since birth and her spoken vocabulary was limited to the words: mamma, papa, baby, and bye-bye. It appeared that she would not be able to supply any information. However, after she regained her composure Rosa gave Mrs. Slupsky a detailed account of what happened in pantomime. Her mamma rocked the baby to sleep, then papa woke her up, pointed a revolver at her head and fired, mamma fell dead on the floor, papa took off her rings, then fled.

Mrs. Slupsky notified the police, and after some coaxing Rosa repeated the show for the police and reporters. The St. Louis Post sent an artist who drew Rosa’s motions and his series of pictures was printed in the paper.

The police found Joseph Lochner at his brother’s house at around 2:30 the morning of the murder. He surrendered quietly to the police and admitted to killing his wife, but said she was unfaithful, and he had no regrets over shooting her.

Lochner was 38-years-old and had come to America from Bavaria as a young boy. He had worked hard and saved enough money to open a small bakery in St. Louis. Around the same time, he married Lizzie Rosenstein—ten years his junior and daughter of a well-to-do painter. Lochner’s business failed and his marriage grew cold. Lizzie was young and full of life, but Joseph had not the time, money or inclination to take her out. Despite his admonitions, Lizzie went out anyway and came home late.

While in police custody, Lochner gave a sworn written confession to the murder of his wife. She had gone out that night as she did very often, leaving him at home with his heart full of anger and sorrow. When she returned he asked where she had been, and she told him it was none of his business.

He responded, “Lizzie, if you go on like this I will leave you in the morning.”

“Good you -------,” she said, “Oh, I am so glad. Go to-night for all I care.”

She began singing and dancing in her joy. Lochner was outraged, became crazy and determined to kill her. When she sat down and began to rock the baby he took his revolver and shot her in the head. Lochner was now remorseful and sorry that he killed her telling the police that he wanted to hang, as he had nothing more to live for.

It looked like an open and shut case of first-degree murder—the prosecution had Lochner’s sworn confession, the testimony of Gus Englund, and Rosa’s eye-witness account. Rosa Lochner’s pantomime of the murder was sure to gain the jury’s sympathy.

But there was sympathy for Joseph Lochner as well; his friends in the Bohemian community raised $4,000 for his defense and hired Col. Robert S. MacDonald to represent him. Not to be outdone, Abe Slupsky retained Judge Chester H. Krum to assist the prosecution. Lochner agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder. Without consulting Krum or Slupsky, Circuit Attorney Zachritz accepted the plea and sentenced Lochner to ten years in prison. There would be no trial.

Krum and Slupsky were livid. Lochner’s sworn confession had mysteriously disappeared from the police station, prompting Slupsky to publicly question who had received the $4,000 raised for Lochner and how it was spent. However, nothing could change the outcome. 

On a positive note, Abe Slupsky agreed to adopt his half-sister’s children and planned to take Rosa to Chicago where he was confident that her deafness could be cured.

Sources: 
“Goaded Him to Madness,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 3, 1894.
“In Pantomime,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 21, 1894.
“Lochner's Confession Lost ,” St. Louis Republic, October 26, 1894.
“Murder in Pantomime,” Boston Daily Globe, June 22, 1894.
“A Murder in Pantomime,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 24, 1894.
“Murdered by Her Husband Mrs. Little Lockner Shot in the Night,” St. Louis Republic, June 2, 1894.
“No Regret for Uxorcide,” Decatur Daily Review, June 3, 1894.
“Took His Plea,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 16, 1894.

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