August 22, 1922
Los Angeles, California
Walburga “Dolly” Oesterreich’s secret lover she has hidden in her attic shoots and kills her husband before staging the scene as a robbery gone wrong
Dolly met her future lover, Otto Sanhuber, when she was 33 and he was 17. The pair quickly transitioned from friends to lovers, meeting for affairs in his boarding room or at her house. When neighbors became suspicious of Sanhuber’s frequent visits, they alerted Dolly’s husband, Fred. To keep prying eyes away from her dalliances, she suggested Sanhuber should quit his job and live secretly in her attic. Sanhuber leapt at the idea as it not only have him easier access to his lover but allowed him to pursue his dream of becoming a pulp fiction writer.
The living arrangement was kept even after the Oesterreichs moved. Dotty selected a house with an attic and arranged for her paramour to move into the new house before she and her husband moved. According to Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective’s Scrapbook, Dolly also “entertained” the local ice man, butcher, and milk man while Sanhuber watched through a peephole in the attic to Dolly’s bedroom.
On August 22, 1922, after 9 years of living in the attic, Sanhuber overheard the Oesterreichs engaged in a loud argument. Fearing for Dolly’s safety, he emerged from the attic and shot Fred 3 times. The lovers then staged the scene, removing Fred’s diamond watch to appear as though the crime was a botched robbery. Dolly then stepped into the closet and Sanhuber locked the door from the outside, tossing the key before returning to his attic. Police strongly suspected Dolly in the involvement of her husband’s murder, but they could not explain how she had locked herself inside the closet. They never discovered Sanhuber’s presence in the house, either.
Sanhuber eventually moved to Canada only to return to L.A. He evaded any suspicion in the murder for 8 years until Dolly and her new lover, her lawyer, had a falling out. In anger, he informed police of Sanhuber’s involvement. Sanhuber was arrested and convicted of manslaughter, but was released because the statute of limitations had expired (in California, the statue of limitations on manslaughter is 6 years). Dolly was also arrested but her jury was hung (the majority favoring acquittal) and ultimately the indictment against her was dropped.
Clipping: The Akron Beacon Journal, April 10, 1930
Dolly pointing to the closet she claimed to have been held captive in:
Other stories from today:
565: First Nessie Spotting, 1500 years ago (2017)
1928: Revenge Murders Fueled by Cocaine (2017)
1903: Vintage news: woman accidentally kills husband while trying to save him from dog attack (2018)
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Today in Horror History: August 22