Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wholesale Killer of Husbands & Cousins : Tillie Klimek (Gbrurek) - 1922


Tillie Klimek made her confession and was arrested on Oct. 28, 1922. [“Poison In Husband's Food,” The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Ne.), Oct. 28, 1922  Page 2]

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 5): Chicago —Dragged back to life from the very edge of the grave, Joseph Klimek may prove the nemesis that will send his wife, Tillie to the gallows—and, with her, her cousin, Mrs. Nellie Sturmer Koulik.

Klimek is expected to be the state’s star witness in the trial here February 27 of the two women, charged by police as being the “Bluebeard” poisoners of twenty persons. Both are held under indictments of first degree murder.

The aged man who may turn their nemesis is Mrs. Klimek’s fourth husband. Mrs. Koulik has had two husbands and is mother of thirteen children.

Assistant State’s Attorney “W. F. MacLaughlin says the trial jury will be asked to impose death penalties, which, if granted, will break an established precedent—for no woman ever has been executed in Illinois.

In a local hospital, Klimek is slowly recovering use of his legs.

~ “Crippled by Arsenic” ~

Physicians say he was, paralyzed by the secret “introduction of arsenic into his food over a prolonged period.”

As days pass he nurses his hatred against the woman who he says plotted his life and vows he will make her pay.

“She made me get more insurance,” he mutters. “I did not suspect, though the soup and things did taste queer. Then I got sick.”


Detectives, dipping deep into the sinister pool swirling past the heads of the two women,  have exhumed the bodies of twelve whose deaths are laid at the door of the indicted pair.

In each body coroner’s chemists say they found enough arsenic to kill a dozen.

~ What State Charges ~

Attorney McLaughlin promises trial testimony will show —

That while one of Mrs. Klimek’s husbands lay dying, Mrs. Klimek often remarked she believed he would not live long.

That a few days before the husband did die, Mrs. Klimek secured a coffin for “a bargain” for $30.

That after his death she played dance music on a phonograph in the room whore the body lay.

Tracing Mrs. Klimek’s nuptial ventures, it has been found that in January, 1914, Joseph Mitkiewicz, the woman’s first husband, died. Within a few weeks after Mitkiewic’s death, Mrs. Klimek married John Huszkakski. In May he died.

Within a few months also came the end of John Guszkowski, a sweetheart.

Mrs. Koulik, the other woman, is specifically held on charge of having poisoned her husband, John Sturmer. Arsenic was found in his stomach, chemists say.

H»was Mrs. Koulik, police say, who gave the poison to Sirs. Klimek n« an easy way to make money “at poison parties” where death was always the invited guest.

In a whirligig of vehement syllables, now in English, now in Polish, now beseeching, again, profanely vindictive, both women deny their guilt.

“They are going to the rope,” the prosecution says.

“I’ll help send them there.” The “spared” fourth husband of Mrs. Kllmek says.

“We’re going to be freed,” the women say.

But a jury is yet to have the final word.


~ ~ ~ Alleged Poison Plot Victims ~ ~ ~

Here is a list of victims of the alleged poison plot involving Mrs. Tillie Klimek and her cousin, Mrs. Nellie Stunner Koulik. It will be offered as evidence.

~ Joseph Mitkiewicz. First husband of Mrs. Klimek. One thousand dollars insurance.

~ John Ruszkakski. Mrs. Klimick’s second husband. Left $1,200 cash and $722 insurance.

~ Frank Kupczyk. Mrs. Klimek’s third husband. Left $1000 insurance.

~ John Guszkowaki. Former sweetheart of Mrs. Klimek, who jilted her.

~ Mrs. Rose Chudzinski, cousin of Mrs. Klimek.

~ Miss Helen Zakrsewski, cousin of Mrs. Klimek. Died at age of 15.

~ Stanley Zakrewski. Mrs. Klimek’s cousin. Died at age of 16.

~ Stella Zakrewski, cousin of Mrs. Klimek.

~ “Meyers,” a husband, or sweetheart of Mrs. Klimek, concerning whom little is known. Missing.

~ Wojcik Sturmer, first husband of Mrs. Koulik.

~ Dorothy Spera, granddaughter of Mrs. Koulik. Died at age of 2.

~ Sophie Sturmer, daughter of Mrs. Koulik.

~ Benjamin Stunner, son of Mrs. Koulik and twin brother of Sophie, who died one month after his sister.


~ •• ~ The following are alleged to have been poisoned but did not die. ~ •• ~

~ John Sturmer, son of Mrs. Koulik. Taken ill but recovered. Is aiding state to prosecute his mother.

~ Mrs. Rose Splitt. Says she was poisoned by candy given to her by Mrs. Klimek because of jealousy.

~ Miss Stella Guszkowski, sister of John Guszkowski, sweetheart, of Mrs. Klimek. Given candy by Mrs. Klimek and became ill.

~ Nick Micke, son-in-law of Mrs. Kuizlowski, sister of Mrs. Koulik, and cousin of Mrs. Klimek. whose; life was insured by Mrs. Koxlowski. Found wandering about streets, stricken with partial paralysis which, physicians say, was caused by arsenic.

~ Mrs. Bessie Kupczyk, sister-in-law of Frank Kupczyk, former husband of Mrs. Klimek. Told state’s attorneys sin- was taken ill after eating at Mrs. Klimek’s home.

~ Miss Lillian Sturmer. 15-year-old daughter of Mrs. Koulik by first marriage. Lived at Mrs. Koulik’s home for one year when 13 years old. Made deathly sick by food. Now suffering from heart trouble.


[Roy Gibbons, “Husband Seeks to Send Wife To Gallows in “Bluebeard” Murders,” syndicated (ULU), Joplin News Herald (Mo.), Feb. 26, 1923, p. 3]

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PHOTO CAPTION (Article 2 of 5): So startling have become the "poison dinner murders," alleged to involve Mrs. Tillie Klimek and Mrs. Nellie Sturmer Koulik, now-estimated at twelve, that Assistant State's Attorney William McLaughlin, of Chicago, has been directed to devote his entire time to the case. The so-called Chicago murder trust was composed of women, who carefully worked out diabolical murders with arsenic. Mrs. Klimek has declared Mrs. Koulik supplied her with poison. [Standalone]

[“Charge Women Served Poison Dinners,” syndicated, combining caption from New Castle News (Pa.), p. 13 & photo from The Sandusky Register (Oh.), p. 3; both Nov. 17, 1922]

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EXCERPT (Article 3 of 5): The story came from Mrs. Stella Grantkoski, a friend of the accused woman. “When her husband was sick she worked all the time in a tailor shop,” said Mrs. Grantkowski. “Mrs. Klimek did not show any grief at all. She used to joke about her husband’s sickness, and, after he was buried, she told how she grabbed him by the ears as he lay in his coffin and said to him ‘You old devil, you’ll never get up again to bother me.’”

[“’Female Bluebeard’ Pulls Husband’s Ears As He Rests In Coffin – ‘You will Never Get Up To Bother Me Again,’ She Said.” The Baltimore American (Md.), Nov. 17, 1922, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 5): Chicago. Oct. 28. – His body slowly burning up from poison. Joseph Klimek traced the sensation of death creeping on him for physicians today. The wife of the dying man was arrested, and according to the authorities, has admitted that she administered “white poison” to him.

With Klimek’s charges that an attempt has been made to slay him for his insurance, the authorities ordered the bodies of two former husbands of Mrs. Klimek exhumed. Both are said to have died under mysterious circumstances, after their lives had been heavily insured.

~ “I’m Burning Up,” He says. ~

“I seem to be burning up.” Klimek tried feebly throughout the day at the hospital where he is under elimination.

“I have always been a healthy man and only recently passed a rigid insurance test.

“Suddenly I found I could no longer smoke. Tobacco made me sick. Then I noticed that the soup and coffee tasted ‘funny.’”

Mrs. Klimek, shortly after their marriage, the husband declared, demanded that he take out more insurance for her protection.

“I kept working despite the increasing pains. Gradually my legs became numb, than my arms and hands,” Klimek declared. Klimek, according to neighbors, is Mrs. Klimek’s sixth husband.

His stepson, Joseph Mitkewics, is employed in an engraving plant. Tests of food found in the Klimek house were being made today to determine alleged presence of arsenic. Klimek’s stepson is also being held. Mrs. Klimek denied the statements that she had been married six times.

‘‘Let them dig up the bodies of my two former husbands,” she cried. “They’ll find that one of them died of pneumonia and the other of a throat infection.”

~ Two Dogs Also Dead. ~

Confronted with her husband’s charges that his two dogs died after eating scraps from the table, Mrs. Klimek said: “I know what killed them. They just fell over.”

“If my husband has been poisoned, it’s moonshine.”

Klimek from his hospital cot denied that he drank moonshine. A search of the Klimek home revealed a package, said to be arsenic, and labelled “rat poison,” five hypodermic needles, which Mrs. Klimek said belonged to Miss Ida Enright, a nurse who had
formerly lived with them. Mrs. Klimek’s second husband, Frank Kupicak, died less than a year ago. Her first husband. father of the man arrested with Mrs. Klimek, la said.

[A. J. Lorenz, “Husband Dying, Wife Accused As Bluebeard – ‘I’m Burning Up,’ Chicagoan Tells Doctors Tell – Insurance Plot Is Scented.” Syndicated (Universal Services), The Washington Times (D.C.), Oct. 28, 1922, p. 3]

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EXCERPT (Article 5 of 5): Gbrurek [Tillie Gbrurek Klimek] located most of her unfortunate mates through  a marriage broker. She was first married in 1885, to John Mitkiewitz, who survived until 1914. In that year, Gbrurek claimed to be the recipient of spiritual visions that predicted the deaths of those around her. these visions would not only foretell the passing of the unfortunate individual, but also the date of his or her demise. The spiritual; messages were particularly potent and accurate when it came to foretelling the passing of the unfortunate individual, but also the date of his or her demise. The spiritual messages were particularly potent and accurate when it came to foretelling the demise of Gburek’s husbands.

In 1914, Gbrurek proclaimed that John Mitkiewicz would die in a matter of weeks. To everyone’s amazement, Gbrurek’s husband inexplicably died at the appointment time, providing his widow with a life insurance settlement in the process. Once again using a marriage broker, Gbrurek married her second husband, John Ruskowski. Within a few months of the marriage, Gbrurek predicted the death of her new husband, and once again, the message from the spirits was infallible. As in the case of Mitkiewicz, Ruskowski had also purchased life insurance and named his new wife as the beneficiary. Within months of his death, Gbrurek married Joseph Guszkowski. As before, this marriage was a short one and ended just as Gbrurek had predicted – including her receipt of another life insurance settlement.


Almost immediately after Guszowski’s death, Gbrurek married her fourth husband, Frank Kupczyk. This marriage lasted four years before Gbrurek made the dreaded prediction of his death, less than two weeks before the event was to take place. By this time, Gbrurek’s reputation had become widespread in the local area, particularly because she had earlier predicted the death of one of her neighbors. Thus, her reputation as a seer became unquestioned when the death of Frank Kupczyk occurred on schedule.

Suspicions about Gbrurek’s powers became rampant after she married Anton Klimek, her fifth husband, and quickly predicted his demise. Law enforcement authorities decided to investigate this last prediction and the number of mysterious deaths that had befallen Gbrurek’s unfortunate husbands. Not completely to their amazement, their investigation found Klimek had been fed arsenic with the meals that his devoted wife had prepared for him. The Black Widow was immediately arrested and later charged with murder after the exhumation of the remains of her earlier victims.


Gbrurek’s prosecutors were able to assemble a strong case against the murderer and bring her to trial in late in 1921. A jury quickly convicted Gbrurek, and she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

[Michael D. Kelleher and C. L. Kelleher, Murder Most Rare: The Female Serial Killer, 1998, Praeger Books, New York, p. 35]

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Tillie Klimek Quote –

“The next meal I cook is going to be for you – you have caused all my trouble.”

That was the significant remark made by Mrs. Tillie Klimek, on trial on charges of poisoning her third husband, to Police Lieutenant Willard Malone when he arrested the woman on a charge of murder, the officer testified today.

Excerpt from:  [Rodney Dutcher, “State Rests Case In Arsenic Murders – Prosecution Claims Woman Disposed of Three Husbands With Rat Poison.” The Atlanta Constitution (Ga.), Mar. 11, 1923, p. 7A]

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Another article from early in the case:


FULL TEXT: Mrs. Tillie Klimek, who with her cousin, Mrs. Nellie Stermer Koulik, is suspected of having caused the deaths of a dozen or more persons by poison, are named in two more alleged poison cases yesterday. The latest victims, Mrs. Rose Splitt and Miss Stella Grantkoski, told Asisstant State’s Attorney William F. McLaughlin how they became deathly ill after eating candy given them by the women.

At the same time Dr. William J. Hickson, head of the psychopathic laboratory, and his wife began an examination of the mental condition of Mrs. Klimek and Mrs. Koulik under instructions from from Municipal Judge Joseph Schulman. The only explanation given by the judge, before whom the women are scheduled to appear next week, was that “he had his own theory of the case and wanted to test it out.”

~ More Light on Deaths. ~

Miss Grantkoski, with her sister, Lucy, were called to the state’s attorney’s office to testify in connection with the death of their brother, Joseph Guszkowski, a former sweetheart of Mrs. Klimek, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1914. The fact that she herself had been poisoned was a surprise to Mrs. Mr. McLaughlin.

The girl stated that her brother had told her a short time before his death that Mrs. Klimek had confessed to him that she had poisoned her first two husbands. About this time Stella, who was acquainted with Mrs. Klimek, quarrelled with her and then ate some candy Mrs. Klimek gave her. she said that the candy made her very sick, but she recovered.

Mrs. Splitt told Prosecutor McLaughlin that she thought she had been poisoned by candy given her by Mrs. Klimek when they lived in the same building at 833 North Marshfield avenue. Mr. Klimek had seen her talking to Mr. Klimek, and Mrs. Splitt believes that she gave her poisoned candy while jealous.

[“Two Poisoned By Candy By Mrs. Klimek – Judge Has Two Women Tested For Sanity.” Chicago Daily Tribune (Il.), Nov. 17, 1922, pp. 3 & 40]

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http://unknownmisandry.blogspot.com/2011/12/champion-black-widow-serial-killers.html

More: Champion Black Widow Serial Killers

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For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.

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