Walburga Korschel was born in Germany in 1880. As a young woman, she moved to Wisconsin. Life was tough for her on the farm until she met and married Fred Oesterreich.
Fred was born on December 8, 1877 and was the wealthy owner of an apron factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was a very serious man who worked hard and drank harder. He spent more time at the bar with his friends than he did at home with Walburga, who everyone called Dolly.
In autumn 1913, Dolly called Fred and told him that her sewing machine had broken. She knew that Fred would send over 17 year old sewing machine repairman, Otto Sanhuber.
When Otto arrived, he was greeted at the door by Dolly wearing nothing but a silk robe and stockings.
The two began meeting at hotel rooms and in Otto’s room at a boarding house. Dolly eventually tired of going to see Otto and started inviting him over and into the bed she shared with Fred.
Otto’s comings and goings attracted the attention of the neighbors who asked after the young man they had seen so often at the Oesterreich’s home. Dolly told the neighbors that he was her brother who was a bit of a wanderer.
Then Dolly came up with a plan. She convinced Otto to quit his job at the apron factory and move into her attic. She set up a bed and desk for him and Otto moved in.
For the next 5 years, he spoke to no one but Dolly. Once Fred left for work, Otto would come downstairs and help Dolly with her chores and pleasure her in the bedroom. He also began making bathtub gin. When Fred would come home in the evenings, Otto would spend his time reading novels that Dolly had checked out for him at the library and writing stories for Pulp magazines.
Pulp magazines were collections of fiction stories that you could purchase at the grocery story. They were similar to paperback romance novels you would see today and often featured similar images on their covers.
Dolly took some of his stories and had them published under the pen name Walter Klein.
Otto’s time in the house didn’t go totally unnoticed. Fred would often ask Dolly about noises that he heard and couldn’t explain. He also told her about seeing shadows moving in the upstairs windows.
Believing that either their house was haunted or that he was going a bit crazy, Fred decided to move from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, California. Dolly’s only request was that the new house also have an attic. Although rare in LA, Fred found her a house with an attic.
Dolly gave Otto the money she had gotten from selling his stories and sent him by train to LA. Otto worked as a janitor and lived in an apartment while he waited for Dolly. The lovers were reunited when Dolly and Fred moved in.
Fred purchased a new factory and life continued as usual until August 22, 1922. Dolly and Fred went to a party that evening, but got into an argument and left early. The two returned home, still fighting, and Otto began to get worried for Dolly’s safety.
Suspecting that Fred might get violent, Otto came down from the attic with 2 .25 caliber revolvers and shot Fred three times.
Dolly had to act fast. She had Otto secure her in the closet and lock the door from the outside. He then took Fred’s diamond watch and the guns and returned to his room in the attic.
Neighbors heard the shots and called the police. They found a distraught Dolly in the closet and, even though they suspected that she was involved, they could not locate the murderer or weapon.
Dolly inherited her husband’s small fortune, sold the house and bought a new one.
She and Otto were now free to live a normal life, but, instead, they chose to continue on as before. Dolly lived in the house and Otto took up residence in the attic.
Dolly hired lawyer Herman Shapiro to manage her dead husband’s estate and the two became lovers.
After dating a short time, Dolly gave Herman the diamond watch that had supposedly been stolen during the murder. When Herman asked about it, Dolly said that she had found it in the couch cushions, but didn’t think it was important enough to notify the police.
Herman was suspicious, but gave Dolly the benefit of the doubt.
During the time that Dolly was in a relationship with both Herman and Otto, she took a third lover, Roy Klumb. Shortly after giving Herman the watch, she gave Roy one of the revolvers used in the murder. She asked him to dispose of the weapon saying that she was afraid police might mistake it for the one used in her husband’s murder and accuse her.
Roy believed her and deposited the gun in the Le Brea Tar Pits. Dolly told the same story to a neighbor who buried that revolver in his rose garden.
In 1923, Dolly broke things off with Roy. In revenge, he went to the police about the gun. Dolly was arrested.
With no one to care for Otto, Dolly sent Herman to her house. She told him to take food to her vagabond half-brother. He was to knock 3 times on the ceiling in the bedroom closet.
Otto came down and told Herman every detail of his 20 year long affair with Dolly. Herman told him to get out and never come back. Otto fled to Canada.
The police still couldn’t explain how Dolly could have shot Fred from inside the closet and only she and Herman knew about Otto. Without enough evidence to hold her, they let Dolly go.
In 1930, Herman went to the police and told them about the watch and what Otto had told him. They arrested Dolly again. Otto had recently returned from Canada and he was arrested also.
The neighbor that had buried the gun in his rose garden saw Dolly in the news and handed it over to police.
Otto went on trial first. He was found guilty of manslaughter, but the statute of limitations for the crime had expired a year before the trial and the court had no choice but set him free. Otto left Los Angeles, changed his name and married.
Dolly went on trial next. The jurors could not agree and the trial resulted in a hung jury. The case was left open for several years, but, eventually, they decided not to try the case again.
Dolly began a relationship with a man named Ray Hedrick. The two dated for 30 years and lived a rather unremarkable life. The couple married on April 5, 1961.
Dolly died 3 days later at the age of 81.
A video summary of this week’s post can be found at
Young Dolly, Otto after trial and Dolly with Ray-https://www.kqed.org/pop/27643/meet-walburga-the-married-woman-who-hid-a-secret-lover-in-her-attic-for-a-decade
Otto and Dolly-http://murderpedia.org/female.O/o/oesterreich-walburga-photos-3.htm
Dolly in jail-https://www.vintag.es/2016/06/the-strange-and-true-case-of-dolly.html