Executions · Illinois · Newspaper clippings

Man executed for extravagant murder scheme

September 30, 1921
Chicago, Illinois
Carl Wanderer is hanged for the murder of his pregnant wife and the vagrant he hired to pretend to rob them

Wanderer, a decorated soldier during World War I, had been a closeted homosexual and married his wife for money. Allegedly, he planned to kill her after he was informed she was pregnant, with the hopes to be with his lover who was only identified by the name “James.”

Wanderer hired a vagrant to stage a scuffle, telling the man he and his wife were drifting apart and he hoped to play a hero in front of her to win her affections. On the night of June 21, 1920, the prearranged scuffle began. In the cover of chaos, Wanderer shot his wife in the chest (she cried “my baby is dead” before expiring). Wanderer then shot his fall guy and proceeded to beat him with his gun as witnesses came to the scene.

He case became a sensation as a war hero expecting his first child valiantly avenged his slain wife in a tragic robbery gone wrong. But things didn’t quite add up, including the fact that both Wanderer and the Ragged Stranger, as the papers called him, both carried nearly identical guns which were somewhat rare, as well as the strange notion that a vagrant with little money could afford to purchase a gun at all and, if he had simply found it, why he hadn’t sold the gun instead of trying to rob someone.

Confronted with this evidence and told his lover James was to come to the station for questioning, Wanderer confessed to the murders. He was sentenced to hang after two trials. His last words were lyrics from Dear Old Pal O’ Mine; after hearing his final song, Charles MacArthur of the Chicago Examiner remarked “That son-of-a-bitch should have been a song plugger.” (Song pluggers were employed by stores to sing or play instruments of new sheet music being sold.)

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