Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Cora Werntz Rendall, Serial Killer – Indiana, 1936


Some sources spell the names, Rendall and Werntz as “Rendell” and “Kizer.”

ARTICLE IN PROGRESS (many more entries to add).

*** 

Nov. 30, 1932 – Schuyler Colfax Werntz dies. Bother-in-law.
Mar. 27, 1933 – Elmer Werntz dies. 3rd husband.
Sep. 1933 – Jesse William Welch dies.
Spring 1934 – George Kelly, nephew, living in CR’s house, becomes ill with convulsions, recovers in Epworth hospital.
Feb. 8, 1935 – Cora marries Herbert J. Rendall.
Jul. 7, 1935 – poison purchased.
Jul. 11, 1935 – Herbert J. Rendall dies. Coroner orders examination. 6 life insurance policies, $2,500, payable to Cora.
Jul. 20, 1935 – questioned by police. held by police.
Jan. 1935 – Autopsy in Indianapolis.
Oct. 4, 1935 – pleads not guilty.
Jan. 8, 1936 – Trial begins (?); defense presents case.
Jan.16, 1936 – found guilty (Thursday afternoon).
Jan.17,1936 – Sentenced to life in prison.
Jan. 21, 1936 – Sent to Indiana Women’s Prison, Indianapolis.

***

FULL TEXT: South Bend, Ind., July 21. Police today questioned Mrs. Coira Werntz Rendall in connection with the deaths of two other relatives after toxicologists found strychnine in the vital organs of her fourth husband, Harry Rendall, 46.

Rendall died July 11, supposedly of acute alcoholism. But Coroner A. L. Kapp, his suspicions aroused, ordered an examination. The toxicologist’s report, received today,said there was evidence of a dose of strychnine sufficient to kill a man easily.Mrs. Rendall’s arrest followed.

The first death in the family occurred Nov. 30, 1932, when Schuyler Colfax Werntz, brother-in-law of Mrs. Rendall, died. On March 27, 1933. Mrs. Rendall’s third husband, Elmer Werntz, also succumbed mysteriously. The third death was that of Jesse William Welch, brother of Mrs. Rendell, in September, 1933. All had convulsions, a typical symptom of strychnine poisoning, Coroner Knapp said.

County officials and police joined tonight in questioning Mrs. Rendall for five hours, but they declined to reveal whether she had made any damaging admissions.

[“Quiz Woman In Death Of 4 From Poison,”Daily News (New York, N. Y.), Jul.22, 1935, p.4]

***

FULL TEXT: A crisis of investigation of the mysterious poison death July 11 of Henry J. Rendall, 626 South Michigan street, is expected to develop in circuit court this afternoon when George A. Schock, attorney for Mrs. Cora Werntz Rendall, seeks Mrs. Rendall’s freedom through a writ of habeas corpus.

When this develops, police and Coroner A. L. Knapp will be faced with the necessity of showing cause why she should not be released.

This will result either in the filing of some specific charge against her, or an admission on the part of the authorities that despite hours of grilling since late Saturday afternoon they have been unable to obtain any damaging admissions from her.

Attorney Schock appeared at the office of Chief of Police Laurence J. Lane this morning and demanded that he have a five-minute interview with his client, who was held incommunicado in the woman’s ward of the county jail over the week-end when she was not being questioned at police headquarters.

~ Judge Agrees to Rule. ~

Coroner Knapp, Chief Lane and Assistant Chief Hamilton were in conference in the chief’s office when Mr. Schock appeared. They asked him to wait until they had concluded their conference. When 15 minutes had passed and he had not been admitted to the chief’s office. Mr. Schock returned to his own office.

From there he called Circuit Judge Dan Pyle on long distance telephone at Michigan City, Ind., where Judge Pyle had gone on business this morning. The judge agreed to return to South Bend this afternoon. The other county courts are in vacation.

County Prosecutor George L. Rulison will come into the case formally this afternoon when here presents the police and coroner in the habeas corpus proceedings.

No sooner had Mr. Schock left the police station then Chief Lane, who returned to his desk this morning after a trip in the east, ordered Mrs. Rendall taken to the detective bureau from her cell in the county jail. She was still being grilled behind closed doors at noon by the chief, Assistant Chief Hamilton and Coroner Knapp. Other relatives are to be questioned later today.

~ Examination by Chemist. ~

Police today planned to submit to a chemist the contents of a number of bottles and other receptacles found in the Rendall home by detectives who searched it Saturday. Among these is a partly filled whisky bottle from which Mrs. Rendall says her husband drank before hedied. She maintains she believes it contained poison liquor he obtained somewhere.

Coroner Knapp revealed that he spent part of Sunday visiting numerous drug stores in search of one which might have sold someone in the Rendall household a quantity of strychnine. According to an Indianapolis toxicologist’s report, Mr. Rendall died from the effects of a dose of strychnine.

Steps were planned also to interest the authorities in Marshall county in the deaths in the last three years of three other members of the Rendall household. These include Elmer Werntz, Mrs. Rendall’s former husband, who died in March, 1933; a brother-in-law, Schulyer Colfax Werntz, who died several months before that, and James W. Welch, who died in September, 1933. Authorities have been told they all died under unusual circumstances.

~ Had Policies on All. ~

John Werntz, a son of Elmer Werntz, made a sworn statement Saturday night in Plymouth that Mrs. Rendall had benefited by insurance policies carried on the lives of all these men.

He said he had overheard an argument between Mrs. Randall and Elmer Werntz, his father, in which the father had charged that she wanted to carry insurance “on every one in any way connected with her.”

A nephew of Mrs. Rendall,George Kelly, who still lives in the house, was taken ill about a year ago, according to Mrs. Rendall’s own statement, but recovered in Epworth hospital.

Among other activities today, Chief Lane, at the request of Coroner Knapp, directed detectives to make a more thorough search of the Rendall household for a quantity of strychnine purchased several years ago by Elmer Werntz, and mixed him in a paste intended to kill rats.

~ Canvas Drug Stores ~

Other detectives were as signed to resume the canvass of drug stores in an effort to find out about purchases of strychnine.

Authorities also planned to seek Mrs. Jean Oplinger for questioning. According to John Werntz, Mrs. Oplinger is said to have been an acquaintance of Mrs. Rendall at the time Elmer Werntz was mixing the rat poison. John Werntz, in his affidavit, quoted Mrs. Oplinger assaying Mrs. Rendall evidenced interest in the procedure.

“My father took a little strychnine on the end of a knife and said: ‘That’s enough to kill a man,’” John Werntz said in his affidavit.

Coroner Knapp Sunday questioned Mrs. Sarah M. Cook, mother of Mrs. Rendall, but declined to disclose what she had told him other than to say “It was significant.”

[“Seeks Writ To Free Widow – Lawyer Acts As Police Go On With Quiz – Move to Investigate Three Other Deaths.” The South Bend Tribune (In.), Jul. 22, 1935, p. 1]

***


FULL TEXT: Mrs. Cora Wernt Rendall, aged 52, was sentenced to life imprisonment today by Superior Judge J. Elmer Peak for the strychnine murder last July 11 of her fourth husband, Harry J. Rendall.

She was found guilty late Thursday [Jan. 16] afternoon by a jury that deliberated more than 28 hours before returning the verdict that upheld the state’s charges that the former rooming house operator killed her husband of five months to collect $2,500 on five insurance policies.

Judge Peak had the choice of sentencing Mrs. Rendall to life imprisonment or death.

Mrs. Rendall’s attorney, George A. Schock, announced that he would file a motion for a newtrial Monday.

Sentence was pronounced by Judge Peak before a crowded court room. Scores who had waited in the corridor until the prisoner was ushered into the court room by Deputy Ella Mae Paidle found the doors locked when they attempted to enter.

Mrs. Rendall appeared pale and nervous, the first sign of strong emotion she had shown during the entire trial. Her lips twitched convulsively. Her chin quivered as the judge took his seat at the bench.

[“Life Term For Mrs. Rendall – Found Guilty Of Murdering Her Husband – Peak Sets Sentence As She Protests Innocence.” The South Bend Tribune (In.), Jan.17, 1936, p. 1]

***

***

FULL TEXT: Mrs. Cora Wernt Rendall, aged 52, was sentenced to life imprisonment today by Superior Judge J. Elmer Peak for the strychnine murder last July 11 of her fourth husband, Harry J. Rendall.

She was found guilty late Thursday [Jan. 16] afternoon by a jury that deliberated more than 28 hours before returning the verdict that upheld the state’s charges that the former rooming house operator killed her husband of five months to collect $2,500 on five insurance policies.

Judge Peak had the choice of sentencing Mrs. Rendall to life imprisonment or death.

Mrs. Rendall’s attorney, George A. Schock, announced that he would file a motion for a new trial Monday.

Sentence was pronounced by Judge Peak before a crowded court room. Scores who had waited in the corridor until the prisoner was ushered into the court room by Deputy Ella Mae Paidle found the doors locked when they attempted to enter.

Mrs. Rendall appeared pale and nervous, the first sign of strong emotion she had shown during the entire trial. Her lips twitched convulsively. Her chin quivered as the judge took his seat at the bench.

~ Says She Is Innocent. ~

To the judge’s question,” Have you any legal reason why you should not now be sentenced?” Mrs. Randall slowly rose from her chair and said:

“I don’t know why I should be sentenced because I am an innocent woman. I never handled poison in my life.”

Her lips moved in a whispered reiteration of innocence as the judge intoned sentence.

Relatives seated in the rear of the court room sought to offer solace to offer solace after sentence was pronounced that she whisked past them. She requested Sheriff Roy H. Wolfe to “keep them away from me, I don’t want them near.” Only her young son received a greeting from her as she walked back to the jail that has been her home since last summer. She clasped her son in her arms and kissed them.

“I want to see you this afternoon,” she said. She made it plain she didn’t want other relatives admitted to see her.

~ Agrees to Pose. ~

As Mrs. Rendall left the court room she was greeted by newspaper photographers who asked her to pose.

“Certainly I’ll pose,” she said. “Why shouldn’t I? I’m guilty only in the eyes of the people on earth, not in the eyes of God.People who think me guilty are suffering. I’m not. My husband has been with me every night. My husband has been with me every night. He was with me in that court room when I was sentenced. So were my other husbands. I could see all of them. I’m not afraid to face any of them.”

Asked if she was afraid when she prepared to hear sentence, she said:

“No. If I had been sentenced to die I wouldn’t have worried. I’m innocent and I’m afraid of nothing. There is a higher judge than that one upstairs. I’ll get justice.”

Mrs. Rendall entered her cell still protesting the injustice of her trial.

“Well, anyway,” she said turning to Sheriff Wolfe, “those relatives of mine got fooled. They thought I’d go home with them. I was going to stay here anyway if you’d let me. I wanted to help Penny (Mrs. Jennie Penniwell, jail matron) and you promised me I could stay, didn’t you?”

~ Rush Back to Court. ~

The verdict of guilt against the former Plymouth, Ind., woman came with dramatic suddeness late Thursday afternoon after most of the thrill-seeking spectators had started to leave the court room.

Word that the jury had reached a verdict spread rapidly through the court house and spectators who had started to leave for their evening meal came rushing back to the court room. Relatives of Mrs. Rendall crowded into the front row.

A deep silence fell over the court room as the poisoner,supported on the arm of Mrs. Penniwell, entered through a side door. She was attired in widow’s black hat and veil. It was apparent she was prepared to leave the court room and return to her home if acquitted.

Her face paler than usual, Mrs. Rendall sat at the attorney’s table in utter silence while she awaited the arrival of the attorney. Mr. Schock, and Deputies Robert A. Grant and John L. Warrick fromn the prosecutor’s office. Her mouth was drawn pencil-line thin and occasionally she bit her lower lip. Eyelashes twitched spasmodically behind her thick lensed spectacles.

When finally attorneys for the state and defense had arrived she again had regained the perfect stone-like composure that characterized demeanor throughout the seven-day trial. She showed not the slightest sign of nervousness as Judge Peak took his place on the bench and ordered Bailiff Charles Fisher to summon the jury. Factory whistles sounded 4:30 o’clock as the jury entered.Mrs. Rendell eyed each juror, then settled back in her chair expressionless. The jurors appeared wan and tired from their long hours of deliberation. One woman juror’s eyes were swollen. She appeared to have been crying.

~ States Straight Ahead. ~

The jury verdict was delivered by Vern Hardenbrook, foreman, to Judge Peak. As the judge unfolded the typewriten sheet of paper Mrs. Rendall stared straight ahead, looking at no one in particular. In a hushed court room the judge read.

“We the jury find the defendant Mrs. Cora Werntz Rendall guilty as charged.”

The verdict came as a shock to many in the crowded court room who greeted it with an audible gasp. But Mrs. Randall never changed expression. Not a muscle in her square-set face moved.

Not until the convicted woman was ushered out of the court room did she show any emotion. One the step leading down from the second floor she stomped her leg heavily on the marble steps. Half-way down three young girls smiled at her.

“Never mind, you young snips,” she snapped at them,”this thing isn’t over yet. Don’t laugh too soon.”

Then turning to Sheriff Roy H. Wolfe, she said in a loud voice:

“I’m innocent. I’m not through fighting.”

Back in the cell that has housed her since her arrest early last summer she was sullen and silent. She declined to comment on her conviction.

~ Judge Halts ‘Circus.’ ~

The sensational nature of the seven-day trial brought action by Judge Peak to check “circus” tendencies in the court room. On the second day of state’s evidence the judge announced to the spectators:

“This is no theater.”

Thereafter the court room doors were locked when all available seats were filled. His action brought praise from lawyers and judges.

Mrs. Rendall was arrested last July after an autopsy revealed the presence of strychnine sulphate in her husband’s body. The state called its chief witness Ralph Beck, 19-year-old former roomer in the Randall home, 626 South Michigan street, who charged Mrs. Rendall had him purchase strychnine for her four days before her husband’s death. The state called 20 other witnesses to substantiate its charges.

The widow categorically denied all the state’s accusations and charged Beck with attempting to revenge himself on her for trouble over rent money.

The defense built its entire case about the contention that Rendall died of uremic poisoning superinduced by excessive consumption of moonshine whisky.

[“Life Term For Mrs. Rendall – Found Guilty Of Murdering Her Husband – Peak Sets Sentence As She Protests Innocence.” The South Bend Tribune (In.), Jan.17, 1936, p. 1]

***

***

***

***


FULL TEXT: Mrs. Cora Werntz Rendall, 52-year-old convicted poison slayer of her fourth husband, today exchanged her widow’s black for the gray denim garb of Indiana woman’s prison in Indianapolis where she began serving a life sentence imposed here last Friday by Superior Judge J. Elmer Peak.

Still cheerful and confidant that she would receive a new trial, the former rooming house operator stepped into Sheriff Roy H. Wolfe’s automobile at 10:15 o’clock this morning, waved goodbye to jail attaches and started the trip south.

Her last words before leaving were:

“I’ll see you all soon.”

Whether or not she does see them soon depends upon aruling by Superior Court Judge J. Elmer Peak on a motion for a new trial which Mrs. Rendall’s attorney, George A. Schock, is preparing.

[“Mrs. Rendall Taken Away, Confident of Being Retried,” The South Bend Tribune (In.), Jan. 21, 1936, p. 1]

***

***

***
 

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

***

No comments:

Post a Comment