Thursday, May 1, 2014

Rose Veres, Suspected Hungarian-American Serial Killer - 1931

This US case is of particular interest in that all parties are Hungarian immigrants. Thus the Veras case ought to be compared with the serial murder syndicates operating in Hungary up till the early 1930s. (See: Husband-Killing Syndicates)
Some news sources use other spellings “Veras, Vera,” but “Veras” seems to be the correct spelling.


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 9): Specters of nine strange deaths stalked Mrs. Rose Veres, weazened “Witch of Delray," today as detectives questioned her about the death of a tenth man in her home within the last 10 years. Mrs. Veres vigorously denied implication in the death of Steven Mak, 68,. ostensibly of a fall from a ladder.


Her denials came through a Hungarian Interpreter after the tight-lipped woman insisted she could not answer in English, although John Walker, negro neighbor, said she confessed to him that Mak had been slain.

The woman was to appear in court today on a habeas corpus writ similar to one for her 18-year-old son, William, held in connection with stories that he had participated with his mother in an alleged beating of Mak that preceded his plunge from an attic window.

Police checking the strange death record of the woman's last 10 years learned that three of her husbands were among the 10 deaths. Her attorney, Frank W. Kenney. Jr., said Mak was another husband. The fatal roster included:

John Toth, carbon monoxide poisoning.
Stephen Flash, alcoholism.
John Kolachl, intestinal ailment. Garbor Veres, died with Toth.
John Norvay, undetermined.
Louis Kulacs, undetermined. Alex Porezios, undetermined.
John Skrivan, said to have hanged himself in the home.
Steve Sebastian, supposed alcoholic.

~ Many Neighborhood Rumors. ~

Information concerning the deaths was tangled and vague, police said, because of long-standing neighborhood rumors about strange events in the Veres home.

Detective Lieutenant Rudolph H. Hosfelt today revealed that Mak had been under partial police protection since July 6 when neighbors, reported be was being beaten in the basement of the home. A week ago, Hosfelt said, police quieted a disturbance in the Veres home upon complaint of a neighbor and that Mak told him Mrs. Veres had given him some "medicine," which he believed was poison, to get insurance drawn in her favor.

A post-mortem was to be held today on Mak’s body.

[“Detroit Woman Questioned About Tenth Man's Death In Her Home In Ten Years,” The News-Herald (Franklin and Oil City, Pa.), Aug. 26, 1931, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 9): Detroit - A mother and her son were held by police today following the death by a fall from a window of a roomer in their home and the subsequent discovery by police that ten men, on most of whom the woman held insurance policies, had died in her rooming house during the past eight years.

The woman, Mrs. Rose Veras, 48, whose rooming house is in this city’s Hungarian colony, is held on a technical charge of homicide. Her son, William, 18, was arrested for investigation.

The death of Steve Mak, 68, a roomer at Mrs. Veras’ home opened the police investigation. Mrs. Veras told police Mak fell from a ladder while repairing an attic window, other witnesses said Mak was not at work on a ladder, and that it appeared he had been pushed from the window.

George M. Stutz, assistant prosecuting attorney, said he had learned there was one valid insurance policy on Mak’s life, for $4,000, of which Mrs. Veras was the beneficiary. He said he had learned Mrs. Veras recently borrowed money to make a payment on the policy.

~ Says It’s Customary ~

Mrs. Veras told police it was customary in the Hungarian colony for a landlady to insure her roomers in her behalf. Police said 75 policies were found in her home. They expressed the belief that several of them had been made out in her favor by most of the ten men whose deaths occurred in her house since 1923.

Detective Lieutenant John Whitman said he had learned Mrs. Veras paid the funeral expenses of seven of the men who died at her house.

Police examined their records to determine the cause of the death of the ten, and announced that post mortems had been held on the bodies of two who died of alcoholism, and that no evidence of criminal activities had been found.

The ten  men who died in Mrs. Veras’ home, they said, were Hungarian.

~ Freedom Delayed ~

Frank M. Kenney, Mrs. Veras’ attorney, presented a writ of habeas corpus for the release of Mrs. Veras and her son, returnable today. Instead of dismissing the writ, as he first announced. Recorders Judge Henry S. Sweeney extended the time to Thursday, saying he desired to give the police “all the time they want in investigating the case.”

Kenney declared the action against Mrs. Veras to be the result of neighborhood gossip. He said the previous deaths had been investigated and showed no criminal activity.

Detectives investigating Mrs. Veras’ activities said she had a record of six previous arrests, but no convictions. One of the arrests, they said, was for embezzlement.

[“Detroit Woman, Son Jailed As Suspects In Insurance Murders Ten Men Meet Death In Rooming House Within 8 Years; Policies Named Accused As Beneficiary, Police Claim.” Syndicated (AP), Sandusky Register (Oh.), Aug. 27, 1931, p. 1]


FULL TEXT: (Article 3 of 9): Detroit – Four persons were in custody today as authorities sought to learn whether the deaths of ten men over a period of eight years in Mrs. Rose Veras’ rooming house were from natural causes or violence.

~ Find 75 Policies ~

Mrs. Veras, the 48-year-old Hungarian immigrant who held insurance policies on the ten who died, has been in custody since Tuesday on a technical charge of murder. Other policies, 75 in all, were found by officers in her home and investigators were attempting to learn the fate of the insured.

The list of deaths under investigation had reached 11 today, with discovery that Valet Peterman, 68, a boarder in the Veras home, died shortly after moving to another house.

Sam Denyen who, police said, lived in the Veras home until two weeks ago, was arrested in Logan, W. Va., late yesterday and a detective left last night to question him. Mrs. Veras’ 15-year old son, Gaber, was detained for questioning yesterday. Another son, William, 18, has been held for several days.

~ Pushed Out of Window? ~

The investigation was inspired by the death of Steve Mak, a roomer, Tuesday morning from injuries received in a fall. Mrs. Veras said he fell while working on a ladder.

Neighbors who claimed to have witnessed his fall, told police he appeared to have been pushed from an attic window and drugged at the time.

[“Widow Quizzed in 10 Deaths,” “Probe Rooming House Deaths – Four In Custody As Police Investigate Death of Eleven Men; Hungarian Woman Held Insurance Policies,” syndicated (NEA), Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (Wi.), Aug. 28, 1931, p. 1]



FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 9): Detroit, Aug. 31 – Duncan C. McRae, assistant prosecutor, announced today that Mrs. Rose Veras, rooming house proprietor, held on a technical charge of homicide following the death during the past eight years of 12 men in her home, had confessed to “a party not connected with the police department,” that she pushed one of the men from an attic window, the fall causing his death.

McCrae said that the woman told the person whose name was not revealed by police that she pushed Stephen Mak, the last of the 12 men to die, from an attic window after attempts to poison him has failed.

~ Had 75 Policies. ~

Harry S. Toy, prosecuting attorney, said he would not reveal how the confession was obtained. He said that for reasons he “did not care to disclose” the person’s identity, which would not be revealed at present.

Seventy-five life insurance policies were found in Mrs. Veras’ home, when she was arrested, on the lives of the men who died in her home. Officials said that Mrs. Veras held at last $6400 insurance on the life of Mak.

~ Denies Others. ~

McCrae said the woman denied any complicity in any of the other deaths in her home, but had admitted she killed Mak to obtain insurance money of which she was the beneficiary. She said she held seven policies on Mak’s life and that she paid the premiums on all of them.

According to McCrae, Mrs. Veras confessed she tried to poison Mak by putting lye in his coffee and liquor that he drank, but when she found he was not “dying fast enough” she lured him up a ladder, placed at the side of her home, urging him to enter an attic window and then pushed him from the window. Mak died the day following the fall from the window.

[“Detroit Woman Admits Killing One of 12 Men To Collect Insurance,” syndicated (AP), The Southeast Missourian (Cape Giradeau, Mo.), Aug. 31, 1931, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 9): Detroit. Sept. 1.—After intermittent grilling of more than 100 hours. Mrs. Rose Veres. 48, so-called “Witch Widow.” of Medina street where her unkempt boarding house is located, today broke down and  confessed to killing one of the 12 men who died under what police alleged were incriminating circumstances during the past eight years. She is charged with murder and faces life imprisonment.

According to Assistant Prosecutor; Duncan McCrea, in charge of the weird case, the widow said:

“I was hard up and needed the insurance money on the man. I tried to poison him twice but he didn’t die, so I pushed him out of the attic window.”

Her victim was Steven Mak, 68-year-old roomer, whose death led to the probe which disclosed that other men had died “mysteriously” in her boarding house.

[“Detroit Woman Admits Murder – Mrs. Rose Veres, Alleged ‘Witch-Woman’ Confesses To Death Push - Sought Insurance Money On Victim, syndicated (International News Service), New Castle News (Pa.), Sep. 1, 1931, p. 12]

FULL TEXT: (Article 6 of 9): Detroit, Sept. 2. – Officers investigating the death of Steve Male and eleven other lodgers in Mrs. Rose Veras’ rooming house said tonight a witness had told them he saw Mak pushed from an attic window of the rooming house.

“A pair of arms” shoved Mak from the window, they quoted George Halasz, the witness, as saying, and a moment later Mrs. Veras peered out. Mak died August 28 of injuries suffered in the fall.

Halasz, 49, and a former lodger in the rooming house conducted by the 48-year-old woman, said he had gone to the house to see a man rooming there and was waiting outside when he saw Mak fall to his death. Halasz also was quoted as saying he moved out of the rooming house because Mrs. Veras sought to take out an insurance policy on his life, naming her as beneficiary.

Mrs. Veras had paid premiums on $2,600 of insurance on Mak’s life and on seventy-five other policies, many of them on the lives of lodgers who died in her house or shortly after they moved out, within the past eight years.

[“Witness Says Lodger Pushed From Window,” syndicated (AP), Bluefield Daily Telegraph (W. Va.), Sep. 3, 1931, p. 1]

FULL TEXT (Article 7 of 9): The “Old Gray Witch of Medina Street” sits in her tiny room in the Michigan House of Correction at Plymouth. Imprisoned fear life, far from her native hills of Hungary, she talks to no one. All through the past Winter she was silent, shunned and feared by her fellow-prisoners. Even now seeing from her window the trees budding and the grass turning green, just as the Magyar slopes came to life in the Spring in her native town of Sarud, she keeps a seemingly mystic vigil, her strange eyes fixed upon objects which do not exist.

Perhaps it is just as well for her that things beyond her window panes do not intrigue her, for by the terms of her sentence she will never again be nearer them than, she is now. Twelve men died, tragically in hear house; three were suicides. And the other nine? In charging the “witch” with murder, the State decided to concentrate on the case of Stephen Mak, the twelfth man to die.

It was last August 21st.

In the front yard of her home on Medina Street in the Hungarian colony of Detroit, 11-year-old Marie Chevalia was playing. All morning she had been making mud pies.

It was a warm day, but the air was heavy, and dull smoke from surrounding factories resisted the sunlight. Against this background of haze; the house directly across the street from the yard where little Marie was playing looked somewhat ghostly.

The reason, perhaps, lay in the legends of Medina Street.

Almost from her cradle days, little Marie Chevalia had heard people say strange things about that house and its inmates.

“Behind those filmy curtains,” Medina Street mothers told their, .children when family circles were gathered around the hearths, “stalks a bad witch-woman. Her name is Mrs. Rose Veres. She bewitches factory men, they go to live in her house, and in the cellar the witch-woman brews potions. She has the Evil Eye. When she looks at these men, they have to do when she tells them. They want to go away, but they can’t. She bewitches them. Then they die.

“She was born with a full set of teeth and a veil, and if she wants she can change herself into a wolf or a hare.”

In the Old World, among the Magyrs, in the Hungarian hills whence most of these people had come, so-called witches were common. Other people didn’t have to believe in them if they preferred not to, but all the cynical sophistication in the world couldn’t take the vampires and other evil spirits out of the darkness which descended upon Sarud and Nagyrev every night.

These people knew. They had seen the vampires. They had seen the wolf-men and the wolf-women and beard their blood-curdling cries whenever anyone in the village died.

So Mrs. Veres, it was clear, was a “witch,” even though she lived in Detroit, in the United States of America.

Why, many times she had been seen growling about the alleys at might, garbed in her long flowing garments of black flannel, a cape tucked tightly about her stooped shoulders and her hair covered by a lace boudoir cap.

On such occasions it was considered unsafe to be abroad in the darkness. And when the word would go out that “The Witch of Medina Street” was on a nocturnal prowl, every door in the neighborhood would be locked and double-barreled, and every shade drawn.

So little Marie Chevalia, as she fashioned her mud-pies last August 21st, was glad that she was in her own yard, glad that it was daylight, glad that she was in her own yard, glad that her Mamma and Papa had warned her against the bad witch.

Soon, as Marie watched, Mrs. Veres stopped out from behind the front door. Marie dropped her mud pies and stared.

Mrs. Veres, her net boudoir cap on her head, descended the steps and spoke a few words in low tones to John Walker, a colored man who had been sprinkling the lawn. Walker was one of Mrs. Veres’s boarders, and occupied an attic room. At the “witch’s” direction, he dropped the hose and retired to the cellar to shut off the water and perform some other duties.

As soon as Walker had disappeared’ behind the house, little Marie saw Mrs. Veres pick up a long ladder and place it against the side of the house. Then, clutching her skirt, beneath which she was accustomed to wear five or six petticoats, the “Old Gray Witch of Medina Street” walked back into her house and closed the door behind her.

Transfixed, by vague fears and a very definite curiosity, Marie remained, wide-eyed, squatting over her mud pies. Probably because she was a member of the more curious sex, little Marie’s curiosity was stronger than her fear. That is why she was later able to recount the entire drama as it unfolded before her young eyes.

Presently an old man emerged from the “witch-house.” He was unsteady on his feet. He was carrying a small box and a hammer. Marie recognized him as Stephen Mak, one of Mrs. Veres’s boarders. He walked toward the ladder and put a foot on it.

Hesitantly he climbed, step by step. At the top he paused to lay his hammer and box on the ledge. Then he opened the window, pulled himself partially through and sat on the sill. For a full minute he remained in that position – then before the watchful eyes of little Marie, be suddenly disappeared.

George Halasz, a short, swarthy man who lived nearby, was strolling along Medina Street. Up to this point, he had seen nothing unusual. From the sidewalk he called once or twice for Mike Ludd, a friend who boarded at the Veres house. Receiving no immediate reply, Halasz leaned against a tree and started rolling a cigarette.

A moment later Walker returned from the basement, rear, and began walking toward the street. He was almost directly below the attic window when a box of nails dropped in front of him; then a hammer thudded. He raised his hands above his head and drew back, then looked up. As he looked, the body of Stephen Mak hurtled through the attic window head-first, crashed against the side of the house next door and plunged headlong to the ground. 

Walker raced to the back door and shouted loudly for Mrs. Veres. George Halasz removed his newly rolled cigarette from his mouth and looked on in amazement.

Marie Chevalia screamed and ran into her house.

Marie’s screams aroused the neighborhood and quickly a crowd gathered around the Veres home. Its gong clanging, an ambulance swung into Medina Street, and fifty-five minutes later the ‘Widow Veres” her face noticeably dirty and her head covered with cobwebs, calmly and inquiringly entered her yard from the alley beyond. Mak was taken t» the Detroit Receiving Hospital, where he died two days later.

Mak’s death went into the preliminary official reports as an accident. Mrs. Veres told police that she had asked him to fix the window, and that he had presumably fallen because of his age and infirm condition. At the time, she explained, she had been shopping, and her elder son, William, was at a movie. Walker corroborated this story. Police were not suspicious. Mrs. Veres’s reputation as a “witch” was not taken seriously beyond Medina Street.

But rumoxs began, to get around. Mak was the twelfth man to die prematurely after a residence in the Veres house. The first was Veres himself. The. rest were boarders. And little Marie Chevalia kept telling her mama that “the witch killed Mr. Mak. I saw her face in the window.” George Halasz was quite sure of that, too.

Then it was discovered that the window Mak went up to fix needed no fixing; that he wore shoes when he went up and none when he came down, that he had told neighbors he was afraid of Mrs. Veres and was sure that she was going to kill him; that there were marks on his head which looked like blows; and something in his stomach which might not be just liquor.

It was revealed, too, that on the morning of Mak’s death Mrs. Veres had cut a hole in the attic partition through which a man’s body, might drawn, that that she had offered Walter $500 to “keep his mouth shut” about his suspicions.

Officials of insurance companies volunteered the information that Mrs. Veres had a $5,000 policy on Mak’s life, double indemnity in case of accidental death—and that she was; still trying to make collections on policies issued to her on the lives of dead former boarders. It was revealed, too, that she owed $1,000 to her next-door neighbor, Aaron Freed, and had promised to pay him “as soon as I collect some insurance money.” Police soon found a trunk containing over seventy-five policies taken out by Mrs. Veres since she moved to Detroit.

William, her elder son, had testified that he was, at a movie at the time of Mak’s “fall.” But John Veres, the widow’s younger son, frankly told detectives another version.

“Bill told me to say he was at the Grand Theatre,” John told officers. “But he wasn’t. He was at home with Mother.”

William Veres was destined to share his mother’s fate. He, too, received a life sentence, in spite of his youth. Old Mrs. Veres sits motionless in the House of Correction. ‘Her eyes’ seem fixed upon objects.

[“While a Little Girl Watched the Old Gray Witch of Medina Street – The Hungarian Widow’s Twelfth Boarder Tumbled to His Death, But Marie of the Mud Pies Saw All, And Told!” Ogden Standard Examiner (Ut.), Apr. 3, 1932, page number unknown]


FULL TEXT (Article 7 of 8): At lost relentless justice has been meted out to America’s most cold-blooded woman killer – Mrs. Rose Veres, known as the Witch of Delray. She was responsible for the deaths of 12 lodgers – simple Hungarians whose lives she had insured.

FREEDOM’S door has been slammed on the Witch of Delray.

The air she breathes for the rest of her days must be screened through prison bars.

There will be no recapture of the years when she roamed the streets of Detroit, frightening children and killing men.

The Witch of Delray, who actually is Mrs. Rose Veres, murdered for profit, which is why she was sentenced to life imprisonment in Michigan.

For a time, while lawyers were fighting desperately for a new trial for her, it looked as though she might be free again. But now Recorder’s Judge John J. Maher, at Detroit, has denied her appeal.

Mrs. Veres made a good thing of being a witch. She got away with it for seven years, during which time she became a legendary figure in black, and by the time the law caught up with her the number of her victims was reckoned at 12. Her bank-deposits for the period totalled £23,000.


She worked out a simple plan for living by the death of others. She took a rooming house in the Delray section of Detroit, where most of her lodgers were, like herself, Hungarian born. They were simple folk and Mrs. Veres volunteered to look after their money. At the same time she insured their lives.

When police got interested in the goings-on in her home they discovered 75 insurance policies on her boarders, in all of which she was the beneficiary. She had a reason why.

“I kept insurance policies on most of my boarders,” she said, “because that is the way my people do. We want a good funeral. There must be flowers and lodge members. I gave everyone a fine funeral.”

The police thought too many fine funerals were being held at the frame dwelling on Medina-street.


They became curious when Steven Mak, 68, tumbled from a ladder out side the Veres household and died of a fractured skull. They began asking questions and soon discovered he was the 12th man to die at the Medina-street house since September 21, 1924, when Steven Sebastian suffered what was described on the death certificate as a fatal cerebral haemorrhage.

After a little inquiring in the neighborhood, detectives found Marie Chevalia, 11, who was making mudpies outside her home when Mak fell. “I saw Mr. Mak go up the ladder,” she said. “Mrs. Veres was holding it for him at the attic window. He was right at the attic window. He swayed and moaned, as if he was sick.”

Her story spun a web around the Witch of Delray when she added:

“While he was falling, Mrs. Veres and William (her son) poked their heads out of the window.”

Yes, that was right, Mrs. Veres remembered. She had asked Mak to repair a window. But the police said the window didn’t need repairs.

Then there was the story of John Walker. Mrs. Veres, he said, told him to water the ground where the ladder rested, and the Witch herself placed it on the slippery clay.

And there was £2000 insurance on Mak’s life.

A jury believed that Mrs. Veres and her son pushed Mak to death and returned a verdict that provided the maximum penalty under Michigan law for both – life imprisonment.

Responsibility for the 11 other deaths wasn’t proved against Mrs. Veres. But the police discovered many strange circumstances as they delved into her dusty past.

They learned that her husband, Gabor, and Laszlo Toth, a boarder, were working on a car in the Veres garage one day in 1927 when suddenly the door slammed. Both died of carbon monoxide poisoning generated by the automobile exhaust.


They heard about men whose names were known as John Nordal, Balit Peterman, Gabor Feges, Steven Faish, Alex Porczio, Berni Kalo, John Sokivon and John Coccardi. All of them slept on wall-lined cots in the dirt floored cellar.

All of them had casks of wine between their beds. All of them died. Some said their deaths were caused by lye in the wine.

While all these things were happening, Mrs. Veres was becoming known around the neighborhood as a sinister character.

The Detroit district in which she lived was mainly populated by native born Hungarians – simple folk who still retained many of the customs and beliefs of the old country.

To them werewolves, human vampires and witches were very real beings – beings that could do harm to innocent people who crossed their path.


So it is not surprising that locally the notorious Mrs. Veres should be looked upon by these people as a witch.

That when she appeared, the pious people should devoutly cross themselves for fear of the evil eye.

Some said she was born with a full set of teeth and a veil. And some said:

“If she wants, she can change her self into a wolf or a hare.”

That’s how she became the Witch of Delray and why she was feared by both adults and children.

Although prison claims her, her spell continues.

Almost two years after she was gaoled John Kampfl, one of her basement lodgers, cut his throat. It was not a critical wound. Doctors said he would recover.

“No,” he said. “The Witch cast her evil eye on me.”

The next morning he died, which probably isn’t the reason the courts refused her a new trial.

But who knows?

Mrs. Rose Veres murdered ruthlessly for profit while she was becoming known as the Witch of Delray?

The way the jury figured, William Veres was as guilty as his mother.

[Gerald Duncan, “America’s Female Bluebeard Is in Gaol For Life,” World’s News (Sydney, Australia), Jun. 30, 1945, p. 6]


FULL TEXT (Article 9 of 9): Detroit, Mich., Dec. 10 – The “witch of Delray,” central figure 13 years ago in a murder trial which ended  in her conviction and a life sentence after bizarre testimony linking her to 11 other deaths, was a free woman tonight by reason of a “not guilty” verdict in a belated retrial.

She is Mrs. Rose Veres, now 64, who for many years kept a rooming house and kept a rooming house was a two story frame building in what was formerly the village of Delray. This community, made up for the most part of Hungarian and middle European immigrants, is now part of Detroit.

~ Son Convicted, Too ~

At the retrial a jury of eight men and four women took eight hours to vote an acquittal for the widely known “which,” who was convicted originally with her son, William, of first degree murder for killing Stephen Mack, a roomer, by pushing him out an attic window.

Mrs. Veres and her son served 13 years of their life sentences and recently won new trials on a Supreme court ruling that their convictions were invalid because of the absence from the courtroom of the presiding judge when the verdict was returned.

~ Courtroom is Packed. ~

When the new trials were ordered, prosecuting authorities released William Veres to stand trial again. The retrial began Nov. 26 before Recorder’s Judge Paul E. Krause, and each day’s session has been in a courtroom packed with present and former Delray neighbors and residents. Mrs. Veres speaks no English and testified thru an interpreter.

Evidence was produced at both trials that Mrs. Veres’ rooming house had the local reputation of a “house of dreath” because of the deaths there of 11 other persons other than Mack between 1924 and 1931. Children feared her, it was said, because of her long hair and reported “baleful eye,” and the name “witch of Delray” was applied to her.

When Mack died from a fall from Mrs. Veres’ attick window he had a $4,000 insurance policy, of which Mrs. Veres was the benedficiary. Police later found 75 insurance policies in the names of roomers.

[“’Baleful Eyed Witch’ Is Free After 13 Years – Wins In New Trial Over Old Death Case,” Chicago Tribune (Il.), Dec. 11, 1945, p. 5]


EXCERPT: It had been the custom each time one of her roomers died to have photographs made of the funeral showing her giving the corpse a final embrace. [Curtis Haseltine, “Murder for Money – Case of Delray’s ‘Witch’ Up Again,” The Detroit Free Press, Aug. 27, 1944, Magazine Section, p. 7]

Here are two long, well-illustrated articles on the Veras case:
“The Witch of Delray,”  The Deceased of Detroit, Jul. 23, 2010
“The Witch of Delray,” Weird Detroit, Sept. 11, 2011


























For similar cases, see Murder-Coaching Moms


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