Thursday, August 18, 2011

Annie Hauptrief, Texas Black Widow Serial Killer – 1924

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 7): San Marcos, Texas, July 23. – The bodies of three of four children of William Hauptreif, who died within six weeks of each other late last year, are expected to be exhumed to determine, if possible, if a plot was afoot to poison an entire family.

The fourth child, doctors are quoted as saying, is known to have died from the effects of this poison.

The plan, if carried out, will have resulted from the arrest here of Mrs. Annie Hauptreif, wife of William Hauptrief, and stepmother of the children, and her brother, Richard Schulze. Both are charged with murder and assault with intent to murder.

The latter charge was filed after the husband of the woman was sent to the hospital Friday In a serious physical condition. It was reported that an examination revealed that he had been poisoned by arsenic.

The murder charge resulted from the death of Annie, eldest of the fonr children, who died In Austin, November 11. Physicians there, at the time of her death, were quoted as saying that arsenic was found in her stomach. This statement, it is said, was verified by the State health officer.

All of the children died within period of six weeks, and all exhibited the same symptoms, it is said.

The deaths of the first three caused no comment. But when the fourth died an investigation was begun. When the husband was taken ill, the arrests were made.

Mrs. Hauptrief is 30 years old and is the mother of a year-old child who is in jail with her. Her husband is nearly 50 years old. She is his second wife. They were married two years ago. The wife was arrested at the house of her mother at Nelderwald.

Wednesday Hauptrief filed a petition for divorce. He alleged that his wife attempted to kill him by administering poison. The petition also alleges that he was forced to employ B. G. Neighbors, an attorney, to bring the suit at a cost of $500 and asks that Mrs. Hauptrief be forced to reimburse him to this extent.

He did not request the custody of their baby daughter.

The charges against the woman and her brother assert that the instrument of death they are alleged to have used against the girl and attempted to use against the husband was poison.

State’s attorneys have forbidden the husband to discuss the case with anyone and the wife will not talk to anyone but her lawyer.

If Mrs. Hauptrief did plan to murder her husband and his children a motive has not yet been established.

Hauptrief is a farmer in the Goforth community and is considered well-to-do.

[“Suspect Mother of Poisoning Five – Four Children Dead, Husband Seriously Ill – Mrs. Annie Hauptrief and Brother Held on Murder Charge. – Bodies of Three Children May Be Exhumed for Medical Examination.” The Houston Post (Tx.), Jul. 24, 1924, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 7): San Marcos, Texas, Sept. 4.— William Hauptrief, 49, farmer, fell in love with his wife, Annie, at the funeral of Court Schroeder her first husband. He did not know that Schroeder died from poison administered by Annie. Hauptrief is recovering from illness brought on by poison which the woman gave him.

Mrs. Hauptrief, in the Hays county jail here, confessed to District Attorney Blundell that she not only poisoned Schroeder and attempted to poison Hauptrief, but she also caused the deaths of her step-children by giving them arsenic.

Before Schroeder’s death, Hauptrief told interviewers, he had been a friend of Schroeder and his wife for a long time, and the grief of the young widow as Schroeder was being lowered into the grave struck a sympathetic chord in Hauptrief’s heart. There followed a short courtship, betrothal and marriage.

~ He Sympathized ~

Sympathy for the seemingly grief-stricken widow governed Hauptrief’s actions. He gave her the solace of a home and the comforts of a cheerful fireside. Hauptrief heard of his wife’s confession to killing her first husband only a few days ago, as his condition had been too serious. “Annie’s grief at Court’s burial was natural and unassumed, as far as I could tell,” Hauptrief said. “Clad in black, and with her young eyes red from long weeping, my heart was filled with sympathy for her as she became near-hysterical when they begun throwing dirt into the grave.” At four other funerals the woman was a living picture of a mother overcome with life’s sorrows.

~ Poisons Stepchildren ~

First, Lydia, 12, daughter of Hauptrief by a former marriage, became ill and died after a few days of suffering. During this time, Mrs. Hauptrief hovered about the body of the little girl and cared for her as though it was one of her own offspring. Then within a few weeks of each other the remaining children died: Walter, 14; Herbert, 8; and Anna, 10. At the bedside of each Mrs. Hauptrief kept a constant watch and followed the instructions of the village physicians who, failing to save the children, did their best to make easy their passing. 

~ Hauptrief Is Stricken ~

Deaths of the four children occurred under mysterious circumstances and the feelings of the mothers of the village went out to the woman seemingly ill-favored by Providence. No investigation into the deaths of the children were made until Hauptrief became ill. Mrs. Hauptrief had persuaded him to will her their farm of 180 acres, valued at $12,000, only a few hours before he was stricken. This made him suspicious. He had an analysis made of the drink, prepared for him by Mrs. Hauptrief, which sent him to bed. It showed traces of arsenic. There followed closely an investigation into the death of the last of the Hauptrief children, Anna, and a charge of murder was filed against the stepmother. A charge of assault to murder also was filed in connection with the attempt to poison Hauptrief.

~ Investigation Ordered ~

The state took a hand and ordered an investigation into the deaths .of the other three children. Four little graves in the hillside cemetery gave up their dead and state chemists examined the little bodies. Three more murder charges were filed and Mrs. Hauptrief was ordered held without bail until the grand jury meets this month. During the course of investigations, officers found two containers of poison under the Hauptrief home, and placing those on a table, ordered Mrs. Hauptrief brought in. The containers were the first things seen by the woman as she was led into the room. Looking toward Attorney Blundell, she said, “I suppose you want me to tell you about the poisoning of my first husband.”

~ Woman Confesses ~

She then made a written statement, admitting poisoning Schroeder and the four children and attempting to poison Hauptrief. In regard to the children, she said they were “unmanageable and too noisy about the house.” “They were in the habit of drinking coffee each afternoon upon returning from school,” the statement said, “so I put arsenic in the coffee until all of them died.”

~ Hauptrief Wants Divorce ~

Hauptrief has filed a petition for divorce and has asked for custody of their one-year-old daughter, Lenora. The baby is being kept by Hauptrief’s mother while Mrs. Hauptrief is in jail. Another baby is expected soon – to be born in the jail, as all pleas for release of the expectant mother on bail have been refused. The death penalty will be asked when she is brought to trial, according to Blundell. Should he get the sentence, it will be the first to be given a woman in Texas.

[“Five Are Poisoned by Texas Borgia – First Husband, Four Step-Children Are Said to Be Victim of Woman’s Mad Desire to Murder.” The Bakersfield Californian (Ca.), Sep. 4, 1924, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 7): On Monday, October 6, there will begin at San Marcos, one of the most famous trials scheduled ever to go down in American criminal history. It will be the unraveling of a mystery so profound that not even a lengthy typewritten confession fixing the guilt for five murders, including the horrible deaths of four little children by poison, has explained to the satisfaction of criminologists the motive that brought about an astonishing and revolting plot in which a country housewife plays the role of murderess.

Mrs. Annie Hauptrief, self-confessed murderess of her four step-children and of her first husband, and would-be killer of her second husband, William Hauptrief, will go to trial.


Perhaps from the laconic lips of this mystery woman will come at last a logical explanation of this crime – an explanation that will make sound grounded the attempt of a wife and mother to take the lives of those loved her. There may be a reason for the quintuple murder – and Monday will be the beginning of the answer. Until now, Mrs. Hauptrief, charged with the murder of her four stepchildren and with assault to murder her husband, William Hauptrief, has remained silent and uncommunicative in the Hays county jail, at San Marcos.

When confronted with evidence that pointed toward her guilt, shortly after her arrest last spring, she said at once that she had done it, but — “I don’t know why I done it.”


Hays county and the pleasant farming lands holding the twin villages of Uhland and Goforth, where the principals of the murder plot lived, were shocked and grieved and highly incredulous when they heard that one of their own daughters, well loved and respected and credited with good housewifery and with love for all children had committed a heinous crime that took the lives of her four little charges. They could scarcely believe that Annie Schulz, daughter of one of the oldest and most respected families in Niedenvald, who had become Mrs. William Hauptrief with the avowed intention of mothering Hauptrief’s orphaned children, had done this thing. Yet Annie Schulz Hauptrief had confessed her guilt.

Neighbors of the Hauptrief mystery farm in Hays county knew Mrs. William Hauptrief as an ordinary, thrifty, patient mother of the well-to-do widower’s four children. They had known her before her marriage, first as Annie Schulz – who played with children – and next as Mrs. Court Schroeder, widowed by the death of her husband three months after the wedding. Friends and neighbors of the Schulz family were pleased when William Hauptrief, prosperous Goforth farmer, had claimed as his bride the young widow – the grieving widow – of Court Schroeder. The match was thought to be a happy one, for it gave a mother to four motherless children.


Then came the mysterious and lamented deaths of those four little ones. First Lydia, winsome 12-year-old girl, was taken ill and died. Then Walter, aged 14, was stricken down and buried. Anna, the littlest girl, came next; and finally Herbert, the baby boy, whose death caused an investigation. No one thought that the fault lay with the grieving step-mother, who had attended them with devotion in their last illness and who had raised flowers to put on their graves after they were gone.

It was not until William Hauptrief was seized with the same illness that had killed his children, and the doctors had found his ailment to be arsenic poisoning, that any shadow of a doubt or suspicion rested on the step-mother. But the rapid succession of deaths in the same family, and the remarkable immunity of Mrs. Hauptrief and her baby daughter, Lenora, to the fatal sickness, aroused suspicion that led to the arrest of Mrs. Hauptrief while her husband lay ill and fighting for his life in a San Marcos hospital.


District Attorney Fred Blundell and Sheriff Allen proceeded quietly with their investigations, and soon confronted Mrs. Hauptrief in her cell with a can of arsenic they had found concealed under the Hauptrief house. Even with circumstances pointing strongly toward Mrs. Hauptrief’s implication in the crime, no one connected with the case expected the astonishing admissions made by the prisoner when she saw the poison they had found.

Mrs. Hauptrief confessed to the poisoning of her first husband, and to the killing of the four Hauptrief children; she admitted that she was trying to kill Hauptrief when she was found out. But further than confession she has not gone, and there remains the complexity and the mystery of a horrible murder plot without an apparent logical motive. Richard Schulz, Mrs. Hauptrief’s brother, is held as an accomplice in the crime, under $10,000 bail. What part he played in the murder plot, if any, will also be discovered when the case of Mrs. Hauptrief comes to trial.

Out in the farmlands of Hays county are other people connected with the Hauptrief case – an old bent couple, silver-haired, who believe stubbornly in the face of the trouble that their Annie was a good girl. And a husband grieved at the revelation of the confession of his wife – nursing a baby girl, whose mother waits in jail for sentence. While lost in the tall fall grasses that have not been trimmed away, four little graves wait too – if they do not already know the reason they were dug.

[Bess Carroll, “Hauptrief Trial Will Open Monday – Poison Plot Motive Is Sought – Confession Has Failed to Clear Up Reason Behind Five Deaths.” San Antonio Light (Tx.), Oct. 5, 1924, sec. 2, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 7): San Marcos, Tex., Oct. 31 – Alone and unwatched, the body of Mrs. Annie Hauptrief rested in a local undertaking parlor tonight waiting the last services, which will be paid at Upland, a small German community here, tomorrow afternoon at 3 o’clock.

Mrs. Hauptrief’s body was found in the morning shortly after 7 o’clock suspended from a narrow band from her cell door in the Hayes County jail, where she had been during the last five months on a charge of poisoning her four stepchildren and attempting to poison her husband.

Before hanging herself to the door of her cell, Mrs. Hauptrief carefully made the cot in her cell, packed her clothing and personal belongings in a small handbag and dressed herself carefully.

A note found on her bed, addressed to members of her family, asked that her husband and year-old baby be treated kindly.

“You all know that how I felt some day,” the note said.

~ Narrow Band Used. ~

Taking her own life, Mrs. Hauptrief tied a narrow domestic band around her throat and lifted her feet from the floor, causing strangulation, Sheriff George M. Allen declared this afternoon. She could have saved her own life by simply lowering her feet to the floor, it was stated.

~ • ~ • ~

San Marcos, Tex., Oct. 31. – Mrs. Hauptrief was to have gone to trial in the Hays County district court next February on charges of murdering her four stepchildren and attempting to murder her husband, William Hauptrief.

The case was continued at the October term of court because Mrs. Hauptrief, according to her attorneys, was about to become a mother.

Her husband is now slowly recovering from effects of arsenic poisoning, which Mrs. Hauptrief, in a confession made to District Attorney Blundell, says she gave to him.

~ Brother’s Letter. ~

Lydia Hauptrief, 12 years old, was the first of the children to die. She died April 7, 1922. Barely had the stepmother succeed in getting her sorrowing eyes dry when Walter, 14, died April 11 of the same year. In May came the death of the youngest, Herbert, 8. The last of them, Annie, 10, died Nov. 11, 1922.

Surviving relatives of Mrs. Hauptrief will demand a searching investigation of her care in the Hays County jail as a result of her death.

This morning before news of her death had been received, David Watson, counsel for Mrs. Hauptrief, received a letter from her brother, charging that his sister was being neglected in the jail.

In this letter, the brother asserted that, despite her delicate condition, due to approaching motherhood, and the mental strain, she was not under observation at the jail and left alone.

[“Woman in Jail Awaiting Trial Hangs Herself From Cell Door – Relatives Demand Investigation Of Prison Attention,” syndicated (AP), The Galveston Daily News (Tx.), Nov. 1, 1924, p. 1]


EXCERPTS (Article 5 of 7):

When confronted with the display of the containers she stored poison in, Mrs. Hauptrief  said “I suppose you want me to tell you about the poisoning of my husband.”

In regard to the children, she said they were “unacceptable and too noisy about the house.”

“They were in the habit of drinking coffee each afternoon upon returning from school,” the statement said, “so I put arsenic in the coffee until all of them died.”

[“Woman Held For Murdering Five – Annie Hauptrief Admits Poisoning Man and Children – Tried To Kill Sixth – Present Husband Fell in Love With Her at Funeral of Her First Victim,” The Newburgh Daily News - Sep. 20, 1924, p. 1]


EXCERPT (Article 6 of 7): The strangest part of Mrs. Hauptrief’s case, as it develops now, is that Willam Hauptrief was so moved by her grief at the funeral of her first husband, Court Schroeder, that he fell in love with her then and there. It was a case of July and early October, she being in full matronly bloom and he a 49-year-old widower, father of 11 children.

[“Noose May End Life of Woman Who Poisoned Six,” The Emporia Daily Gazette (Ks.), Sep. 9, 1924, p. 7]


EXCERPT (Article 7 of 7): In a confession to state authorities she told first of how, four years ago, she had entered a compact of death with her first husband, Court Schroeder.

She prepared two cups of coffee, both heavily laden with arsenic. They raised the cup to their lips – Schroeder drank deeply and drained his cup. And, as he crumpled to the floor in the agonies of death, she laughed aloud and dashed her cup, untouched, on the floor beside his body.

A verdict was rendered, but the true circumstances were not revealed at the time.

[“Texas Woman in Cell Facing Numerous Counts for Murder,” Springfield Republican (Mo.), Aug. 22, 1924, p. 4]



Court Schroeder (first husband), died 3 months after wedding; died 1920.
Walter Hauptrief, 14, died Apr. 11, 1923.
Lydia Hauptrief, 12, died Apr. 7, 1923.
Herbert Hauptrief, 8, died May 1923.
Anna (Annie) Hauptrief, 10, died Nov. 11, 1923.

William Hauptrief (husband), crippled by poison, in wheelchair

Important dates:
Jul. 20 (or 21), 1924 – Ann Hauptrief and brother arrested.
Sep. 4, 1924 – DA Fred Blundell states he will seek death penalty in Oct. trial.
Oct. 13, 1924 – trial date put off until Feb. 1925.
Oct. 31, 1923 – Annie Hauptrief commits suicide by hanging in jail cell.

























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


For more examples, see Step-Mothers from Hell.


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