Emma Heppermann, St. Charles Black Widow 1940, Part IV-The Trial

Return to Part I-Prologue & Investigation
Return to Part II-The Inquest
Return Part III-Murder Warrants

Part IV–The Trial

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
Wednesday February 26, 1941
St. Charles Weekly Cosmos-Monitor

POISON MURDER CASE GOES TO FRANKLIN CO.
Counsel for Defense Gets Affidavit of Fifth Person
For Venue Change at Last Minute
SEEK EARLY TRIAL
Geneva Schaefer, Ira C. Jones and Tyrell Robinson,
Local People Who Approve Change

Prosecuting Attorney David A. Dyer announced he would seek an immediate setting for the Hepperman poison murder case after Circuit Judge Woolfolk today sent the case to Franklin county of which Union is the county seat, on a change of venue.

The venue change was granted after affidavits of five St. Charles county residents are of the opinion the defendant, Mrs. Emma Heppermann, cannot get a fair and impartial trial here, were filed with the court.

A last minute affidavit was responsible for the venue change when the court was ready for trial today. Harold Pellett, counsel for the defendant, was ready to present affidavits of six persons, only four who reside in this county. Prosecuting Attorney David A. dyer pointed out that affidavits of five residents of the county would be necessary and Pellett was allowed an hour and a half to secure the fifth signature. Tyrell Robinson, a Negro laborer, was the fifth county resident who signed the affidavit.

The early ones to ask for the venue change were Miss Geneva Schaefer, St. Charles drug clerk, Ira C. Jones, St. Charles contractor, Clint Brown, Foristell farmer and William F. Meyer, a farmer, who resides three miles south of Wentzville. Those from Lincoln County who signed affidavits were R. S. Bettis of Troy and J. B. Mudd of Millwood.

Pellett opposed the case going to Warren county because of its proximity to St. Charles while Dyer suggested Warrenton because of its possible convenience. Judge Woolfolk said in view of the statements he would send the case to Franklin county.

The defense objected to the case being tried in the 35th Judicial district which includes St. Charles, Lincoln and Pike Counties.

Dyer said the next term of the court at Union began the second Monday in March and he would ask that the case be tried the earliest possible date.

Mrs. Heppermann is charged with the murder last May 28 of Anton Heppermann, her seventh husband and fifth one to die under mysterious circumstances. The state charges her with feeding him arsenic poison in his food which caused his death.

The costs of jurymen and witnesses, including mileage for their appearance in court today will run over $750, a court attachee said. If the venue change would have been filed earlier, the state would have been spared the extra costs.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
Wednesday, March 5, 1941
St. Charles Weekly Cosmos-Monitor

MRS. HEPPERMAN TURNED OVER TO FRANKLIN CO.
Woman Charged With Poison Murder of Husband
Now a Charge of Adjoining County
VENUE CHANGE
Prisoner Who Had Been in Law Spirits Prior to Trial
Made No Comment on Transfer

Mrs. Emma Sarana Heppermann, 46, who is charged with the poison murder of Anton Heppermann, her seventh husband, last May 28, was transferred from the St. Charles to Franklin county jail at Union today where she will be kept in custody pending the outcome of her trial, sent there on a change of venue.

Chief Deputy Sheriff Les Plackemeyer, accompanied by a matron, drove the prisoner to the adjoining county seat where she was turned over to Sheriff Alvin Diestelkamp. Mrs. Heppermann made no expression on the change.

Her new prison is on top of the Franklin county court house and she will have as company nine other prisoners, including one woman, a Negro.

Thirty prisoners, including two colored women, were in jail here when Mrs. Heppermann was taken away.

The change of venue to Franklin county was obtained Monday morning when the case was scheduled to go to trial here. The lawyer for Mrs. Hppermann had to buttonhole people on the street in a last minute effort to obtain a fifth affidavit, which was necessary for the venue change.

During her last few weeks in jail here, Mrs. Heppermann seemed slightly worried, a deputy sheriff stated.

The woman will not be returned here and if she is sentenced at Union, she will be transferred to the state penitentiary from there. An early setting of the case will be sought by Prosecuting Attorney Dyer.

The prisoner had more than one run in with reporters and news photographers while in jail here. It was not unusual for her to let go with a verbal blast at the boys when they attempted to snap her picture or obtain an interview.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
Wednesday, April 30, 1941
St. Charles Weekly Cosmos-Monitor

EVIDENCE IN HEPPERMAN CASE STARTED TODAY
Prosecutor Charges Woman Poisoned Wentzville Man
Two Weeks After Their Marriage
SON ON STAND
Herbert Hepperman Tells of Father Feeling Sick Shortly After Marriage to Defendant

From Tuesday’s Daily:

Testimony in the trial of Mrs. Emma S. Hepperman, charged with the poison murder of her husband, Tony Hepperman, Wentzville, Mo., farmer, began today at Union, Mo., before a jury in the court room of Circuit Judge Ransom A. Breuer, at Union, where the case was taken on a change of venue from St. Charles. The state is asking for the death penalty.

Prosecuting Attorney David A. Dyer, in outlining the State’s case to the jury, charged that Mrs. Hepperman, whose marriage to Hepperman was her seventh, had poisoned him shortly after they were married following a two-weeks’ courtship. Mrs. Hepperman, attired in a black and white print dress, listened intently as her three attorneys occasionally objected to statements of the prosecutor.

The first witness today was Herbert Hepperman, 23 years old, a truck driver of Wentzville, and a stepson of the defendant. Hepperman, facing a crowded court room, related details of a three-day visit he made to his father’s farm home shortly after Hepperman married the defendant who had been his housekeeper for several weeks before the marriage.

Hepperman testified he visited his father for three days between May 11 and 13, 1940, and had a number of meals at the home. At the time, he said, his father complained of feeling sick and his 12 year old sister, Ethel, was seriously ill. The stepmother served the meals but did not eat with them, declaring she was not hungry.

Suggestions that a doctor be called were scoffed at by his stepmother, Hepperman said, who declared that if the girl were taken to the doctor she would be endangered by the ride and it was too expensive to have the doctor come to the farm home.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
Wednesday, April 30, 1941
St. Charles Weekly Cosmos-Monitor

DEFENSE WILL START POISON CASE EVIDENCE
State’s Evidence Expected to be Finished Tonight;
Verdict is Expected by Saturday
NIGHT SESSION
Dr. Ben Neubeiser Tells How Seventh Husband of Defendant
Took Poison Through Mouth

Conclusion of the state’s evidence in the Hepperman poison murder case was expected by tonight with along parade of defense witnesses scheduled to begin tomorrow.

Several local persons were subpoenaed today by the defense to appear at Union Thursday and Friday. The case is expected to be terminated then with a verdict in no later than Saturday night.

George J. Koch, Jr., former State Highway Patrol Sergeant in the patrol’s laboratory at Jefferson City, who testified yesterday that he found enough arsenic in Hepperman’s vital organs to cause death, was under cross-examination by defense counsel this morning. He testified he could not tell from his examination how the arsenic was taken but said the poison could not have been put in the organs after death.

At a session last night, Dr. Benedict Neubeiser of St. Charles who performed the autopsy, testified it was his conclusion that the 53 year old farmer, died of arsenic poisoning, taken by mouth rather than by injection. The autopsy showed the lining of the stomach was destroyed, he said.

Dr. Neubeiser told Circuit Judge Ransom A. Breuer and the jury of Franklin County farmers and business men that when Hepperman was taken to St. Joseph Hospital, St. Cahrles, where he died last May 28, his physical condition indicated he was suffering from arsenic poisoning.

The physician expressed the opinion also that Hepperman’s 12 year old daughter by a former marriage, Ethel Hepperman, was suffering from arsenic poisoning at the same time her father was. She was a witness for the State yesterday. Witnesses testified yesterday that Mrs. Hepperman served meals to the family, but did not partake of the food herself, saying she was not hungry.

The plump, white-haired defendant, 45 year old mother of eight children, sat composedly in the crowded courtroom during the testimony of the witnesses for the State. She has steadfastly denied she poisoned her husband. The State will ask for the death penalty.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
Thursday, May 1, 1941
St. Charles Banner-News

MURDER TRIAL TESTIMONY AT UNION BEGINS
Courtroom Crowded as Son of Tony Heppermann Tells Story
Before Jury This Morning

From Tuesday’s Daily:

Testimony in the trial of Emma Sarana Heppermann, accused in the poison murder of her husband, Tony, Wentzville farmer, was begun this morning at Union where the case was taken on a change of venue. Circuit Judge Ransom A. Breuer is presiding.

Selection of a jury of 12 men was begun yesterday morning and was not completed until later afternoon. Prosecuting Attorney David A. dyer will ask for the death penalty.

Dyer, in outlining the State’s case to the jury, charged that Mrs. Hepperman, whose marriage to Hepperman was her seventh, poisoned him shortly after they were married, following a two weeks’ courtship.

Mrs. Hepperman was dressed today in a black and white dress and listened intently as her three lawyers made occasional objections to the prosecutor’s statements.

The first witness today was Herbert Hepperman, 23 year old son of Tony. He faced a crowded courtroom and related details of his three day visit he made to his father’s farm home shortly after Hepperman married the defendant.

He testified that he arrived home May 11 and had a number of meals at home. At the he said his father complained of feeling sick and his 12 year old sister, Ethel, was seriously ill. The stepmother, he said served the meals but did not eat with them, declaring she was not hungry.

Hepperman told the jury his suggestions that a doctor be called were scoffed at by his stepmother, who declared that if the child were taken to the doctor, she would be endangered by the trip and it was too expensive to ask the doctor to come to the farm home.

Dr. Ben L. Neubeiser was certified to appear in the court this afternoon. He attended Tony Hepperman at St. Joseph’s hospital and obtained a statement from him. Several State Highway Patrolmen and residents of Wentzville have been subpoenaed.

DOCTOR TELLS HOW VICTIM WAS POISONED
Session Will Be Held Tonight;
Defense Witnesses Will Be Heard Tomorrow

From Wednesday’s Daily:

The murder trial of Mrs. Emma Sarana Hepperman, accused in the arsenate poisoning of her seventh husband, Tony, a Wentzville farmer, was resumed today at Union, where the case was taken from St. Charles on a change of venue. Prosecuting Attorney David A. Dyer expected to finish his case in chief by this evening or early tomorrow morning.

George J. Koch, Jr., former State Highway Patrol Sergeant at the patrol’s laboratory at Jefferson City, testified yesterday that he found enough arsenic in Hepperman’s vital organs to cause death. He was under cross-examination by defense counsel this morning. He testified he could not tell from his examination how the arsenic was taken, but said the poison could not have been put in the organs after death.

Dr. B. L. Neubeiser testified at the night session yesterday. He said that when Hepperman was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he died May 28, his physical condition indicated he was suffering from arsenate poisoning.

The state is seeking to show that the defendant, who was married to the deceased five weeks before his death, put the arsenic in his food. Her motive, it was contended, was to obtain his $6,000 farm and $1,000 in United States savings bonds.

Dr. Neubeiser expressed the opinion that Ethel, 13 year old daughter of Tony, was suffering from arsenate poisoning at the same time. Witnesses testified yesterday that Mrs. Hepperman served meals to the family but did not partake of the food herself, saying she was not hungry.

A large number of witnesses from St. Charles County have been subpoenaed by the defense. They include County recorder Harry Sullentrop, Attorney Warren Dalton, Lon Hueffle of Wentzville, Dr. Raymond G. Cooper, and two St. Charles Newspapermen.

Court was expected to remain in session tonight.

HEPPERMAN WITNESSES ON STAND
Three Called to Testify Last Night; Only One Heard;
Trial May End Late Today

Defense counsel for Mrs. Emma Hepperman in the murder trial at Union indicated today that testimony would be offered to show that tony, the defendant’s husband who died last May, had suffered from a stomach ailment long before he met the defendant.

First testimony for the defendant was given last night when Attorney W. R. Dalton of St. Charles took the stand. His testimony was limited merely to the fact that he prepared an inventory of the estate. Two newspapermen, Darby R. Tally and Harold C. Crabill, summoned by the defendant, were not required to testify after the reporters were questioned privately by Mrs. Hepperman’s attorneys.

A defense demurrer was overruled yesterday by Circuit Judge Ransom A. Breuer. It was expected that the trial, which began Monday, would close late today. The State seeks a death penalty.

The courtroom was crowded last night as the defense began presenting its case. The prosecution has sought to show that the defendant, who married Hepperman five weeks before his death, put arsenic obtained from fly poisoning in his food.

Witnesses for the State yesterday included Steve Heppermann, brother of Tony and Mrs. Rosie Simpson, Negro laundress, who worked occasionally for the Heppermans. The brother testified that four days before his death his brother had known he was poisoned. Mrs. Simpson testified that Mrs. Hepperman told her shortly before Hepperman’s death, “Hep has $1,000 and I’m going to get it.”

Mrs. Hepperman has remained composed throughout the trial. Last night she told a Banner News reporter:

I just sit here and listen. That’s all I’ve got to do.”

Her Attorneys were debating last night whether or not to put her on the stand. The jury hearing the case is made up mostly of farmers.

Dateline: Union, Missouri
Wednesday, May 7, 1941
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

LIFE TERM FOR MRS. HEPPERMAN IN POISON MURDER OF HUSBAND
Verdict After Nine Hours Deliberation
Defense Counsel Immediately Filed Motion For New Trial;
Hearing Set For Next Week

From Friday’s Daily:

Mrs. Emma s. Hepperman, seven times married woman, was found guilty by a jury of twelve men in the circuit court of Union, shortly before noon today and was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment in the Missouri penitentiary. The verdict was returned after deliberation of nine hours.

Three ballots were necessary before her punishment was fixed. Two of the jurors held out for the death penalty on the first vote while one voted for death the second time. The third ballot was unanimous for life. Counsel for the defendant immediately filed a motion for a new trial. The hearing being set for next week in Circuit Judge Ransom Breuer’s court at Union, before whom the case was hard.

Closing arguments in the trial of Mrs. Hepperman charged with poisoning her husband, Tony, a Wentzville farmer last year were completed at 5:20 p.m. Thursday and the case given to the jury. After a short recess for dinner the jury remained closeted until 10:20 p.m. and asked to be locked up for the night. They resumed deliberations at 9:00 o’clock this morning.

The State asked for the death penalty in the final argument and Assistant Attorney General Oliver Nolen told the jury to

“say by your verdict that when a man eats the food prepared by his wife and when he places his head upon a pillow at night he won’t have to fear death in her hands.”

Judge Ransom A. Breuer, in his instructions to the jurors told them they could make one of three findings: “Guilty with the death penalty, guilty with life imprisonment penalty, or an acquittal.”

As the state was unable to produce any witness to testify that Mrs. Hepperman poisoned her husband, Judge Breuer pointed out that

a crime may be proved by circumstantial evidence if the circumstances are consistent with one another and when taken together shall exclude any reasonable hypothesis of innocence.”

Defense counsel argued that the State’s case against Mrs. Hepperman was

built upon the poison of the mind instead of poison of the body,

because the relatives of Tony Hepperman resented her marriage to him a short time before his death last May.

It was asserted by the defense that the State had not proven conclusively that Hepperman had died of arsenic poison from fly paper and other insecticides. Mrs. Hepperman, who was referred to as the “little woman” by the defense, did not testify.

The State referred to Mrs. Hepperman as having a heart as cold as the tombstone on her husband’s grave.

Mrs. Heperman displayed her first signs of emotion in the closing arguments. When Nolan asked for the death penalty, she grinned at the jury. When he pointed an accusing finger at her and called her the murderer, she visibly paled and shook her head violently as if saying: “No”.

The verdict was a notable achievement for Prosecuting Attorney David A. Dyer who with law officers of the county and state did a find job of solving the fiendish crime.

From Thursday’s Daily:

Rebuttal witnesses were expected to be called by the state today in the Hepperman poison murder case at Union as the as the trial is rapidly drawing to completion. At the rate the trial is progressing arguments are expected to be presented tonight or Friday with the jury getting the case no later than noon Friday.

Defense counsel for Mrs. Emma S. Hepperman, indicated they would seek to show by testimony of witnesses called today that Hepperman had suffered from a stomach ailment long before he met Mrs. Hepperman some nine weeks before his death last May 28. Relatives of the dead man called by the prosecution which rested its case yesterday, testified that Hepperman had been in good health before he knew Mrs. Hepperman.

A defense demurrer was overruled yesterday by Circuit Judge Ransom A. Breuer.

More than 250 persons, the largest crowd since the trial began, jammed the court room last night as the defense opened its case. Only one witness was called, W. R. Dalton, St. Charles attorney, who gave evidence about the inventory and appraisal of Hepperman’s estate.

The prosecution has sought to show that the defendant, who married Hepperman five weeks before his death and less than a month after she became his housekeeper, put arsenic obtained from fly paper in his food. Her motive it was contended was to obtain his $6000 farm and $1000 in United States savings bonds.

Prosecution witnesses yesterday included Steve Hepperman, brother of the dead man and also a Wentzville farmer, ad Mrs. Rosie Simpson, Negro laundress, who worked occasionally for the Heppermans. The brother testified that Hepperman, four days before his death, knew that he had been poisoned. Mrs. Simpson’s testimony was that Mrs. Hepperman told her shortly before Hepperman’s death, “Hep has $1000 and I am going to get it.”

An earlier prosecution witness, Miss Rosaline Karrenbrock, clerk in a Wentzville general store, testified that Mrs. Hepperman bought fly paper, which it has been established contained arsenic, on several occasions between April 13 and May 9, 1940. The witness said Mrs. Hepperman stated she wanted the fly paper “for water bugs” and rejected a suggestion that another insecticide would be better for the purpose.

F. A. Upsher Smith of St. Paul, Minn., chemist for the company that made the paper, testified under cross-examination by the defense that sodium arsenic was used in the manufacture of the paper.

He gave his opinion that sodium would show up in a chemical analysis of the contents of the stomach after death, had the fatal arsenic come from the fly paper. The report of the analysis presented by the prosecution showed arsenic trioxide, but not sodium.

Defense counsel said they had not yet determined whether Mrs. Hepperman would take the stand. The defendant mother of eight children, is 46 years old. Plump and white haired, she has sat in the courtroom and followed the trial with composure. She has fixedly denied she poisoned her husband.

Hepperman’s Letter Told Advantages of His Household

Anton Hepperman, whose first wife had been dead for eight years, was a lonely man, so when he saw the newspaper advertisement for a position as housekeeper in a “motherless home”, inserted by Mrs. Emma Hepperman, now on trial charged with his poison murder, he wrote a long an simple letter stating the advantages of working in the Hepperman household. The letter, dated March 1, 1940, which was read to the jury, said in part:

I am a kind-hearted working man, and I know it would suit you if you would see my place. I have two houses, two mules, three cows, ten hogs, 200 chickens, a lot of canned fruit, lots of milk, eggs and butter. I butchered five hogs this winter. Well, you know that don’t sound like starving. Well, I’ll be waiting for an answer from you.”

Dateline: Union, Missouri
Wednesday, May 14, 1941
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

NEW TRIAL REFUSED TO HUSBAND KILLER
Emma Hepperman To Begin Serving Life Term in State Penitentiary
Within a Few Days
GRANTED APPEAL
Counsel Takes Case to State Court After Franklin County Circuit Judge
Refuses Second Trial

The gates of the state penitentiary will be swinging open soon to receive Emma Hepperman, whose motion for a new trial, was overruled Thursday in Franklin County Circuit Court by Judge Ranson A. Breuer.

Convicted of the arsenic poison murder of her seventh husband, the woman was sentenced to a life term by a jury a week ago. Her counsel filed a motion for a new trial contending the state failed to make a case and pointed out alleged technicalities.

Immediately after the court refused a new trial an appeal to the Supreme Court was filed and granted.

The Franklin County sheriff will take the 46 year old woman to Jefferson City within the next few days where she will begin her life term for the crime.

Continue reading Epilogue

Return to Part I
Return to Part II-The Inquest
Return to Part III-Murder Warrants

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