My recollection at the time of going through this story with my mother in the summer of 2012 was that she had no recollection of it. I do not recall if I referred to Susie Olbrantz then as Mom's cousin rather than her aunt. My recollection from that time is that Mom acted as if she didn't even know who Susie Olbrantz was and had never heard of this bit of family history. However, she had recently recovered from a very bad health scare and a months-long hospitalization, and we were going through her family tree binder I'd put together hastily for her. I had felt a sense of urgency at the time, to get Mom's family tree together as much as I could. Perhaps her memory was not the best then. However, at the time of the events in question, Mom would only have been about 10 years old, so it is quite possible she was never told anything about this horrific event by Grandma or any other older family members who may have had knowledge of what happened. Mom passed away in March of 2016 so I cannot ask her questions.
Since that time, a lot more information has appeared to be available on the Olbrantzs, but since our family is SO large, I have mostly restricted myself to concentrating on direct line ancestors, not ancillary ancestors like aunts and uncles and further back, or their descendants. It was merely because I was - quite delinquently - going through my "Blog Posts/Spam" inbox this morning that I found a post to this story from Rhonda Whetstone and read about her 2017 article!
When reading my initial post and my comments below, please amend any reference to my mom's cousin to my mom's aunt! I decided to do it this way rather than mess with the original text of my post from 2012 (below the asterisk line). Thank you.]
Wow! Distant cousin Lucille unleashed a family bombshell on me early this morning - good thing I didn't read the email last night, I wouldn't have gotten any sleep!
It seems, darlings, that there was a MURDER in the family! EEK!
Here is the article from The Milwaukee Journal in October, 1937. Because it was a google records I was not able to "grab" it to save it, I had to cut it up into screen shots and save it that way, so it's in bits and pieces but readable -- try to ignore the red borders!
Joseph was the husband of a distant cousin on Mom's side of the family (the Makuskis). Susan Catherine Olbrantz was a Makuski before her marriage in 1925 to Joseph Olbrantz. Lucille sent me this photograph that must have been clipped from a different article than the one I found (posted above):
I guess I've watched too many "48 Hours Mysteries" and "Dateline" murder stories on television. Poison is a very PERSONAL type of weapon and historically, a woman's weapon, because it is neat, clean, non-violent -- it can be administered from a distance. The perpetrator of the crime does not have to be confronted with the bloody reality of a dying or dead person at one's feet as a result of one's actions with gun, knife, or club. In short, poison is the perfect weapon for someone seeking to kill not in the heat of anger or passion (like with a gun or knife or, heaven forbid, beating someone to death with fists or object), but for someone seeking to kill in a "bloodless" way after thinking about it for a long time. REVENGE. Cold. Calculated.
In cases like this, the spouse is usually the first suspect. But in this case, Susan herself had ingested a piece of the poisoned candy, as had one of her children (son Raymond, age 11). If her target was her husband, would she have risked the lives of one or more of her children and herself, too? If murder/suicide was the goal instead (wiping out the entire family) would she not have made sure that her other children also ingested some of the poisoned candy? And where the heck would she have gotten her hands on strychnine? Where would anyone get their hands on strychnine in 1937?
I thought about this quite a bit today. The year 1937 -- the US is still recovering from the Great Depression. World War II had not yet started and the economy was still in bad shape. Joseph Olbrantz supported his family with a WPA (Works Progress Administration) job, like millions of other men around the country did -- there was not much other work available. Money for such luxuries as boxed candy (chocolates? not identified in the article) would have been non-existent. It might have seemed unusual for a new box of candy, a pair of cotton gloves and a pair of children's stockings to appear on the front seat of the Olbrantz vehicle, but in a small community where everyone knew everyone and pretty much knew how each others' families were doing, the Olbrantzes may have figured that it was a gift left behind by a friend, a family member, or a well-wisher.
The gloves aren't identified as men's, women's, or children's. The stockings were called "children's stockings" - I assume because their size made them easily identifiable as such. So, whoever left the box of candy knew the Olbrantzes had children young enough to wear the stockings. And the gloves? Hmmm.... Cotton gloves. Hmmmm..... perhaps women's gloves? Meant as a gift for Susan? Cotton gloves and a pair of children's stockings - doesn't sound like gifts a man would buy for a young family.
What is truly frightening about this crime is that the entire family could easily have ingested some of the candy and died. At the time, Susan and Joseph had at least two other children: Joseph, born in about 1929 and Elizabeth, born in about 1935. Perhaps the only thing that saved them from strychnine poisoning was that they were young and probably already abed when Daddy brought out that deadly box of candy.
I was not able to discover any further information on the crime or any further newspaper articles. I will keep looking, of course!