Saturday, April 3, 2021

"Yes, I Shot to Kill."

Commerce on the busy intersection  of Twenty-Fourth and J Streets, in Omaha, Nebraska, was interrupted, the evening of October 16, by the crack of three pistol shots. A young woman fired once in the air, trying to get the attention of the man who had just walked away from her. When he continued walking without turning around, she aimed at his back and fired again. Then she pointed the revolver at her own head and fired a third shot. Two bodies fell to the pavement.

Both were still alive and were quickly taken to Presbyterian Hospital. The man was Henry J. Reiser, a well-known, single, man-about-town, connected to the Armour meat packing company. The shot had severed his spinal cord, and he was not expected to live. The woman was Mrs. Eloise Rutiger, a prominent Omaha social leader, whose husband was also associated with Armour. The bullet had only grazed her head, and she was in no danger.

“Is he dead yet?” Mrs. Rudiger asked when she came to in the hospital, “Yes, I shot to kill. It was for my husband to do, but he would not, so I did it myself. The wretch has given me enough cause, and I hope I have accomplished what I undertook.”

Henry Reiser had come to America from Germany, ten years earlier. He was from an aristocratic family and was often referred to as Baron Henry Reiser. He first settled in Chicago where he became a packing-house promoter then moved to Omaha to work for Armour. He met Eloise Rutiger through her husband two years before the shooting.

Mrs. Rudiger was instantly fascinated and eventually seduced, by the handsome young baron. He had a “marvelous influence” over her—a “mesmeric power” she would later say—which seems to have been noticed by everyone except her husband.

“I loved the man at first and do not deny it.” Mrs. Rudiger said, but their relationship did not run smoothly. Reiser, at times, became abusive. Once he fractured her ribs, and she begged the physician who treated her not to tell her husband.

Eventually, guilt overcame the power over Reiser had over her and Mrs. Rutiger told her husband about the affair. Mr. Rudiger wanted to divorce his wife and went to Reiser asking if he would admit to adultery so they could settle the matter quietly.  Reiser refused, so Eloise Rutiger went to Reiser and asked him herself. When he refused again, she shot him and tried to shoot herself.

Henry Riser clung to life for nearly two months, but his death was inevitable. When he died in December, Eloise Rutiger was indicted for first-degree murder.

The courtroom was filled to capacity when Eloise Rudiger’s trial began in March 1894, and public sentiment was generally in her favor. She pled self-defense, citing Reiser’s hypnotic control over her. The jury deliberated for four days, sleeping when they could, in chairs or on the floor. They could not reach an agreement; seven wanted to convict and five to acquit. Two of the five would convict if the charges were reduced to manslaughter, but the remaining three were unyielding. The trial ended in a hung jury.

The case was tried again in June, and this time Mrs. Rudiger was acquitted. Her husband stood by her through both trials and during her ordeal they had reconciled. After the verdict was read, Mr. and Mrs. Rudiger left the courtroom together.

Originally posted March 18, 2017.

“Died of his Wounds,” Logansport Reporter, December 16, 1893.
“Dressed to Kill,” Omaha World-Herald, March 19, 1894.
“Given to the Jury ,” St. Louis Republic, June 9, 1894.
“Henry J. Reiser Dead,” Daily Inter Ocean, December 16, 1893.
“A Married Woman Kills her Lover,” National Police Gazette, November 18, 1893.
“Mrs. Rudiger Acquitted,” Elkhart Daily Review, June 13, 1894.
“Mrs. Rudiger Killed Him,” New York Herald, October 28, 1893.
“Mrs. Rudiger of Omaha,” Galveston Daily News, October 28, 1893.
“Reiser's case is Hopeless,” Omaha World-Herald, November 10, 1893.
“Shot Her Seducer,” Salem Daily News, October 27, 1893.
“Sorry for the Jury.,” Omaha World-Herald, March 27, 1894.


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