Attempted Murder of Peter Saali–1924

St. Charles Weekly Banner News
Dateline: St. Charles
February 7, 1924


From Wednesday’s Daily:

Following the confession or Ora Thoele, yesterday, Mrs. Peter Saali corroborated his story in the main details today.

Both confess that the attack on Peter Saali was deliberately planned and carried out with the purpose of dodging personal trouble. The warrants charge assault with intention to kill.

Both were given an opportunity for a preliminary hearing which both waived. His bond was fixed at $5,000 and her bond at $2,500 in default of which both were committed to jail.

It seems that Mrs. Saali and Ora Thoele have been on intimate terms for some time past. He is about forty years old and has a wife but no children. She is about 31 years old and has five children. All are girls except the youngest who is a boy about one year and a half old. The oldest is 9 years.

The story begins about a year ago, according to the confession of Mrs. Saali, when she figured in a runaway and was thrown out of her buggy against a fence. She still wears a scar on her face as the result. Thoele was coming along the road and went to her assistance, taking her to the hospital at St. Charles. “After that” she told the Chief Deputy, “he came to call on me quite often.” She explained that about a week ago neighbors saw Thoele and her go into a shed on the Saali place and reported the incident to Mr. Saali. Saali took up the matter with her and she said she confessed to him and promised not to do it again. Later she got to thinking that she had better talk the matter over so she got word to him to meet her Wednesday after noon at the home of Fletcher Evans, about a mile away. She drove there in a buggy and Thoele “just happened by.” It was on the porch of Mr. Evans home that they laid plans to get Saali out of the way.

Thoele confessed that he selected a club at his home and walked over to the Saali place about 8:30 o’clock that evening. He then took his position outside of the door and waited for the victim to come out. Mrs. Saali went outside three times, so she told Chief Deputy Grothe, but Mr. Saali still sat around. She finally suggested that she heard a noise in the barn and he went out the door to investigate after Thoele had waited an hour and a half for him. The latter got in a good lick with the club over the top of his head and after he was laid out settled him with another lick across the neck. He was then dragged over to the well and thrown in.

In his confession, Thoele claims that Mrs. Saali dragged him to the well but in her confession she said both she and Thoele were implicated. She said “I had my arm around his waist.” The well was about 15 feet deep with ten feet of water. Saali, though undoubtedly unconscious, when thrown in, immediately revived on account of the effect of the cold water. He began to yell for help at which Thoele claims that Mrs. Saali secured a clothes prop and poked him down under the water. Mrs. Saali, however, alleges that it was Thoele that used the prop and that while he was doing it she restrained him saying “O My God, Ora, I can’t stand this!” and bursted out crying.

About that time they heard a noise across the road where Joe Saali, bachelor brother of Peter Saali lives. Thoele departed immediately and Mrs. Saali ran into the house.

Joe, talking to a reporter of the Banner-News, said that he was awakened by a disturbance and went out on his porch to see what was the matter. There was a streak of light across the porch of the house of his brother evidently coming from an open door. At that he heard his call and recognized his voice. He ran back into the house and dressed himself and went out again. By that time the door was closed and the blinds in the house were pulled down. He went in and saw Mrs. Saali sitting by the table reading a mail house catalog. “Where is Peter?” Joe asked in alarm. “guess he is out in the barn, that is where he started for.” The man in the well began shouting for help again and they both rushed to the rescue. The two buckets attached to a rope across the wheel had been drawn up and were sitting beside the old rotten wooden curb. Joe lowered one down but Pete refused to hang on until he knew whom was attempting to rescue him. He had been able to keep himself from drowning by using his elbows against a ledge and scabs on his arms show how he must have paddled and fought. Joe assured him the man giving aid was his brother and after a little hard pulling Saali was brought to the top. He lapsed almost immediately into unconsciousness.

Leaving the injured man with the woman, Joe ran to the nearest neighbor, Carl Stille and telephoned for a doctor. Stille went back with Joe and they spent the rest of the night at his bed side.

Thoele evidently was restless and had to come back to the house. Early that morning before daylight Stille fancied he saw a man peeking into the window. He and Joe went outside the house and found Thoele. It was dark but the latter called out. “Hello Carl”. Mr. Stille turned and asked him what he was doing around there to which Thoele made an evasive reply. Stille then covered him with a revolver and told him to come in the hose and see what he had done. “Surely you don’t think I had anything to do with this!” exclaimed Thoele. Stille told him to his face “You are the cause of Pete being in this condition”. Thoele went in the house and saw the victim of the murderous assault. He viewed the sick man without any unusual emotion.

Several days later Chief Deputy Grothe visited the Saali home and questions Mrs. Saali. She denied knowing anything about the way her husband got into the well, but being pressed for answers to the officer’s questions, she suddenly gave way, rushed to the bedside, put her arms around the sick mam and cried out “Pete! They think I tried to murder you. You don’t think so, do you?” Pete, though conscious, made no reply.

The pole which was used to poke Saali under the water was brought to town as evidence this morning. It had threads of clothing sticking in one of its jagged ends. The club which Thoele used could not be found.

Mrs. Saali broke down and cried during her confession this morning. She came to town thinking that she was to attend the preliminary hearing of Thoele and not knowing of his confession. She was immediately arrested and questioned.

Her husband, though recovering rapidly, is effected with lapses into unconsciousness apparently due to injuries he received on the head.

Thoele this morning asked Deputy Sheriff Morton whether he thought he (Thoele) would go to the penitentiary. Morton replied “I don’t think it. I know it.”

From Thursday’s Daily:

Mrs. Peter Saali was released on bond last night and taken to her home in the country where she could care for her children.

Her father, Albert Stuckey, of Portage Des Sioux, accompanied by Frederick Borgschulte came to town and signed her bond of $2,500. She left for home accompanied by Sam Green who brought her to town yesterday.

The club used by Ora Thoele in knocking Saali over the head was found. It is about an inch and a half in diameter, about four feet long and is heavier than a ball bat. It is hard to understand how Saali could survive after having been attached with such a weapon if the blow was delivered with any considerable force whatever.

Mr. Saali is improving rapidly and will suffer no permanent effects from the blows on his head from Thoele’s club and the plunge in the well Wednesday night, January 30, is the report of Dr. Bernard, Portage des Sioux physician in charge of the injured man.

Mr. Saali in speaking to Prosecuting Attorney Bloebaum yesterday evening is apparently glad to see Mrs. Saali back home to take care of the children. He excused her action by stating to Mr. Boebaum that she pursued the course she did, in self-defense, that she attacked him under Thoele’s orders, and had she failed to do so, Thoele would have attacked her.

From Friday’s Daily:

Wilson and Waye Appointed to Advise with Mrs. Peter Saali

Mrs. Peter Saali was brought before Judge Woolfolk this afternoon and upon formal charge of assault of her husband with intent to kill the Judge asked her if she thought best he appoint lawyers with whom she could consult before the case went further. She replied “I guess that would be best.”

He appointed Wm. Waye and c. W. Wilson as her lawyers. She will not answer the question of guilty or not guilty until she has consulted them.

Mrs. Saali to Answer in Court Monday

She is expected to come to Town Today to consult with Mr. Wilson Her Attorney

From Saturday’s Daily:

Mrs. Peter Saali, 32 years old wife of Peter W. Saali, farmer, charged as an accomplice with Ora Thoele in an attempt to murder her husband and throw his body in a well will appear before Judge E. B. Woolfolk in circuit court here, Monday morning, at which time it will be known whether she expects to plead guilty and throw herself on the mercy of the court or stand trial.

As related in yesterday’s paper, Judge Woolfolk appointed C. W. Wilson and Wm. Waye as legal advisors. On account of having already been employed by the prosecution, however, Wm. Waye could not accept.

Mrs. Saali went back home last night but is expected in town today at which time she will consult with C. W. Wilson and go into the matter of hiring another attorney to assist Mr. Wilson and he may be retained and he may not according to the arrangements at that time.

Mrs. Saali came to town yesterday alone. She had no friend or relative to give her sympathetic advice. She was apparently in a benumbed and distracted condition mentally. Things have happened so fast since the fatal night of the attack on her husband and she is plainly mentally incapable to speak for herself in the manner the law intends.

In her appearance before Judge Woolfolk yesterday the defendant admitted that she had no money. The appointments by Judge Woolfolk will have to be made at the expense of the state. Her father, Albert Stuckey of Portage des Sioux may come to her rescue.

Mrs. Peter Saali Pleads “Not Guilty” of Charge
Her Trial Has Been Set for April 7,
Mr. Saali Files a Damage Suit Against Ora Thoele

From Monday’s Daily:

Mrs. Peter Saali, through her attorney, Judge B. H. Dyer, entered a plea of “not guilty” in circuit court today. Judge Woolfolk set her bond at $10,000. At 3 p.m. today the bond was still unsigned. Her case is set in circuit court for next April 7.

This morning Peter Saali, through his attorney, Wm. Waye, filed an attachment suit against Ora Thoele to recover damages of $2,000 which Saali claims he has sustained on account of Thoele’s attack. $1,000 are alleged actual and 1,000 punitive. Papers were served on Thoele in jail today.

Yesterday, it is understood Thoele was visited in jail and induced to sign a bill of sale of his property in favor of creditors or prospective creditors, about $1,000 going to pay off notes held by the Central Bank, about $600 to go to Peter Saali and about $198 to go to his wife.

The bill of sale gave an invoice which detailed the minutiae of his property even including a sack of bran and several boards. Total about $1800.

It is understood that Mrs. Thoele has retained counsel to see if Thoele still has some way by which she can hope to retain a greater portion of his estate regardless of rights he has apparently signed away.

From Tuesday’s Daily:

Mrs. Peter Saali is still confined at the County jail where she was taken after her bond had been fixed at $10,000. The bond seems especially hard to give, perhaps on account of the cloud of prejudice crated on account of the heartless crime with which she is charged. Her father though a man of some wealth perhaps could not qualify as bond man for the amount named after certain necessary exemptions had been subtracted.

Some sentiment was created on account of the parting of Mrs. Saali with her baby yesterday. The child is a year and a half old and still nursing. When she left her husband on Main Street, the child cried for her, quite naturally. In most cases in Missouri the rule is that when a child is under three years old it can stay with its mother in prison providing the mother requests it. We are informed that this rule is uniformly observed in St. Louis.

Chief Deputy Grothe says that Mrs. Saali enjoyed a good night’s rest last night. Her troubles do not seem to interfere with either her appetite or her sleep.

A change of sentiment favoring Ora Thoele is noticeable. There are some who declare in their opinion he is of unsound mind. It is said that several physicians who have occasionally attended him and his wife are of that opinion. At least his mental qualities are somewhat below standard along certain lines.

The establishment of such a claim, however, could have no effect at this time, as the case of Thoele is settled finally and definitely. There is no appeal from the 30 year sentence.

“I Don’t Know What Made Me Do It” Says Thoele
Man Sentenced To Thirty Years in Penitentiary By Judge Woolfolk
Now Says He Wished That it Would Not Have Happened

From Friday’s Daily:

Ora Thoele 37 years old near Portage Des Sioux who pleaded guilty in the Circuit court yesterday for assaulting and attempting to kill Peter Saali Wednesday night January 30, at the Saali home near Portage des Sioux, and was sentenced to serve 30 years in the Missouri Penitentiary, will not be taken to prison until it is definitely determined what will be done with Mrs. Saali, who admits a part in the attempted tragedy.

In speaking to the reporter in his cell this morning, Thoele denies that he attempted the life of Saali because he “wanted that woman.” When asked whether he didn’t realize the awfulness of the crime he was about to commit he said: “I don’t know what made me do it. I wish it would never have happened.”

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
St. Charles Weekly-Banner News
April 10, 1924

From Thursday’s Daily:

At 4:20 p.m. the jury in the Saali case brought in the verdict of guilty. They assessed the punishment of Mrs. Saali as 15 years in the penitentiary. Mrs. Saali broke down and cried like a child. Her husband Peter Saali stood by her side but seemed petrified, apparently showing no emotion whatever. Mrs. Saali cried out loud like a child on the way from the court house to the jail.

The testimony of Peter Saali this morning rather shattered the even tenor of evidence adverse to Mrs. Saali on the previous day. Mr. Saali declared emphatically that on the night he was thrown into the well his wife was out of the house only twice. On one occasion she went to fetch water. One time he watched her out of the window every inch of the way to the well and back and knows she talked to nobody outside. This statement was indirect conflict with the testimony of Thoele yesterday who declared Mrs. Saali had gone out of the house and talked to him four times.

Marie Saali, eight-year-old daughter of the couple practically corroborated the father’s testimony. She was grilled by the prosecution especially with reference to how many notes she had carried for her mother to Ora Thoele, but stuck to the declaration that it had been only one. This, also, was in conflict with Thoele’s testimony, who had pictured numerous occasions on which notes had been sent.

Mrs. Angie Saali, the defendant, was placed on the stand but her testimony was limited to direct evidence. She was asked “Did you suggest to Ora Thoele that he hit your husband with a club or did you see him at all on the night of the occurrence?” She replied “No.” Attorney Waye representing the State attempted to have her acknowledge that she had told Sheriff Grothe differently, but such questions were ruled out by the judge.

As a matter, perhaps of discrediting the testimony of Ora Thoele that he swayed in what he did entirely by the suggestions of Mrs. Saali, Mrs. Ora Thoele was put on the stand and the defense tried to bring out the fact that Thoele was a business man capable of managing affairs with normal judgment in other matters. Cletus Rothermich, banker at Portage Des Sioux was put on the stand and testified that Thoele had borrowed money of that bank.

Some reflection was cast upon the mental competency of Mrs. Saali by the testimony of Dr. Erich Schulz who testified that he had examined her goiter and found it to be toxic. Toxic goiters, he said, might produce tremor and extreme apprehension. He testified the defendant was of normal mental capacity.

Albert Stuckey, her father, testified that Mrs. Saali was his daughter and that he also had an adopted daughter residing in Alton. He said “Angie” went to school about five years. Mrs. Saali estimated in her testimony that she stopped school in the third grade. She is 32 years old.

The state’s case as built up by the evidence was especially strong. The arguments of the prosecution brought the threads of the story together in well defined manner. Attorney Bloebaum spoke this morning followed by Rufus L. Higgenbotham this afternoon and then by Wm. Way, who made the concluding oration.

Higgenbotham called attention to certain discrepancies in testimony such as the allegation by John Grothe and James Morton that some of Saali’s hair was found on the club used to poke at him after he had been thrown into the well, and the testimony of Joe Saali to the effect that Saali had his hat on in the well. Higgenbotham showed that Ora Thoele was a man of affairs and discredited the assumption that Mrs. Saali could have dictated the trend of events without any initiative on the part of the other. He said Thoele might have testified, thinking that by seeking to incriminate Mrs. Saali he could get out of penitentiary sooner. Another motive might be that Thoele figured, if he could not get Mrs. Saali he would fix it so Pete could not have her. Higgenbotham asked who it would benefit to send Mrs. Saali to the penitentiary. Her husband and her five children were begging that she be spared.

From Wednesday’s Daily:

The following jurors were chosen: Frank Peine, Fritz Fuermann, Gerard Lindhorst, Theo. Karrenbrock, A. E. Weber, G. Schultz, O. E. Bacon, Leo Martin and Robt. Barklage, Gerard Lindhorst, Frank Kennedy, John Greiwe, J. L. Mades, Wm. Schultz, O. E. Bacon, Leo Martin and Robt. Barklage. All witnesses were ordered to remain out of the room until called. The list follows: Peter Saali, Carl Stille, Ed Schiebe, Joe Saali, fletcher Evans, Ella Evans, Mary Saali, Dr. B. P. Wentiker, John Grothe, James Morton, Isidore Grothe, Ora Thoele, Wm. Finck, Al Stucky, Jno. Saali, Harrison Green, Cleta Rothmer, Mrs. Ora Thoele and Osmund Haenssler.

Rufus L. Higgenbotham, attorney for Mrs. Saali is fighting and up-hill proposition but is vigorously taking advantage of every technicality at hand. His first objection was that the court door had been locked and that as his client was entitled to a free and open trial he asked that the jury be immediately discharged. Judge Edgar B. Woolfolk, who is presiding ruled that the door be kept unlocked except in case where the crowd might through that circumstance injure itself, and in that instance the sheriff was instructed to lock the door.

Higgenbotham is laying great stress upon the objection that the information of the prosecution charges attempted murder with a club and that any evidence of attempt to kill Saali by throwing him into a well is inappropriate. He objected to the introduction of a revolver in evidence when Joe Saali, brother of Pete was on the stand. Saali claimed Mrs. Saali, his sister-in-law, on tril gave him the revolver. Higgenbotham protested that the testimony should be confined to using a club on Pete Saali and that the revolver had no place whatever in the trial. The judge admitted the objection but overruled it.

Joe Saali testified that he pulled Peter Saali out of the well. Mrs. Saali helped him, he said, and then asked innocently “I wonder why Pete jumped into the well.”

Wm. F. Bloebaum, prosecuting attorney, is taking the lead in the cause of the state. Attorney Wm. Waye is assisting Mr. Bloebaum stated the case which he expects to prove to the way as generally understood through newspaper reports but throwing a few sidelights not generally made public.

The intimate relations of Mrs. Saali and Ora Thoele were reasserted. She frequently went to town with Thoele and was with him at her own home when her husband was away. Mr. Bloebaum asserted he would prove that Mrs. Saali had asked Thoele “to do away with her old man.” And he told of a meeting at the home of Fletcher Evans I which she said “Let’s get together and do away with my old man tonight.” Thoele said: “I can’t help you with this.” Later in the day they sat upon the porch at Evan’s home when she insisted that he do the deed that night. He demurred, and she finally put her arm about him and asked him if he would not be present anyway. When she went to her carriage in which she had come, he accompanied her. She took a revolver and handed it to Ora and said: “Take this and kill Pete tonight.” But Thoele declined to accept the weapon. Mr. Bloebaum said the foregoing would be proved.

He then related the more-or-less familiar allegations that on the night of the crime she saw Thoele pass the window and went into the yard and again asked him to kill Pete and finally put her arms about him and he then promised, all of which the prosecution alleged they would prove.

Ora Thoele the star witness corroborated the story as outlined by Bloebaum. He said Mrs. Saali told him if he did not kill Pete first, Pete would kill him. He laid the complete blame on Mrs. Saali with the single exception that when Pete came out the door he hit him twice with a club.

Before Thoele testified Higgenbotham put up a strong objection to his appearance saying he was brought here from the penitentiary on an injunction, that he was convict and hence civilly dead and could not testify: that he could not be compelled to testify. Thoele testified that he had never had the benefit of any legal counsel. He said he talked to Bloebaum and Waye concerning his testimony in the present case, however. He said that he had met Mrs. Saali only about 14 times but testified t intimate relations. He related that on each occasion, she had come to town with him, she had done some shopping. Saali’s did not have a car. She accompanied Thoele to town in his Ford.

Thoele said that after he and Mrs. Saali had dragged Pete over and threw him in the well, Mrs. Saali told him to “beat it”. He then left and went home.

Peter Saali Longs to Have his Wife come Back Home Again

From Wednesday’s Daily:

Peter Saali this morning told a report of the Banner-News that he would regard it as a calamity if his wife was not freed. He said that his family needed her at home. The five children were restless without her. “Nobody ever had a better woman than I”, he emphasized. She kicked right in and helped me on the farm. I know when she drove a binder with one hand and held the baby in the other on her knee. I long for this thing to be over so she can come back to her family once more. Her children are restless. I need her and they need a mother’s care”. Saali kissed his wife this morning when she entered the court room. A deputy sheriff searched “Pete” for concealed weapons this morning previous to the appearance of Ora Thoele on the stand.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri

Mrs. Angie Saali To Be Taken to Prison Tomorrow

Peter Saali, Husband of convicted Woman At Jail here Tuesday to Bid Wife Good-Bye

From Thursday’s Daily:

Mrs. Angie Saali of Portage des Sioux, tried and convicted in the Circuit Court here last April for attempting to murder her husband, Peter Saali, by throwing him into a well near the Saali home at Portage last march and sentenced to 15 years in the State Penitentiary, will be taken to Jefferson city tomorrow morning to begin her sentence in prison there awaiting action of the State Supreme court, in deciding the case, after Judge Woolfolk, overruled the defendant’s attorney Higgenbotham motion for a new trial. Peter Saali visited his wife at the jail here last Tuesday and bid her goodbye. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ottemeier, who have been deputized for the occasion and Sheriff Grothe will take Mrs. Saali to the penitentiary.

From Saturday’s Daily

Sheriff Grothe and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ottemeier accompanied Mrs. Angie Saali and Mr. Peppler to the penitentiary yesterday. Mrs. Saali, says the Sheriff, was happy all the way (unintelligible words)side to the trip seemed to flight across her mind. Peppler was more sedate.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
Thursday, March 26, 1931
St. Charles Banner-News


Gov. Caufield yesterday paroled Mrs. Angie Saali and Ora Thoele who were convicted of a felony in 1921 against her husband Peter. Mrs. Saali is paroled to Albert Stuckey of Portage des Sioux and Mr. Thoele is paroled to Arthur Hueller of Osage City. Gov. Caulfield has done the right thing by advising his pardon board to take this action.

Mrs. Saali was under a fifteen year sentence since May 20, 1924 and Thoele under a thirty year sentence since February 7, 1921. Clemency was recommended for her by Judge E. B. Woolfolk who tried the case and by the prosecuting attorney. Peter Saali has always been a convinced believer that his wife was not connected in the crime and has been unremitting in his efforts to secure her release.

Peter Saali was struck over the head with a club and was thrown in a well. Fortunately, his well was nearly dry and after a short period of unconsciousness, he gained enough strength to call for help. His brother heard his call and soon rescued him. The Saali’s have five children, all of whom have been cared for by the father since the mother has been in prison.

Both Mrs. Saali and Ora Thoele had lived highly respectable lives up to the time of the incident just described. The whole episode was the result of a love affair in which ignorance seemed to be the main feature. It was a temporary situation. Neither of them were criminally inclined. The absurd attempt at putting Mr. Saali out of the way cannot be interpreted otherwise than the result of temporary delusion on their part.

The efforts to secure the freedom of these two people are results of petitions sent to the governor by people of this county. Mr. M. Bloebaum acted as their attorney and special adviser. It will be a happy meeting when Ora Thoele returns to his wife who has faithfully awaited him these many years, and when Mrs. Saali returns to her husband and children. Mr. Saali has undergone many hardships caused by the lack of his companion and since the very first has been an ardent advocate of her return, and has unceasingly declared that she was not guilty of the crime of which she was accused.

State Representative Louis Ringe used his efforts in securing the paroles of these well known people.

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