The Lady-killer

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The prisoner was taken to the West Forty-seventh Street station house, where he was subjected to roundthe-clock questioning. He denied emphatically that he was Johann Hoch, the wanted murderer, claiming that it was a case of mistaken identity. He insisted that he was Henry Bartels, a drummer in Rhine wines for a vintner with home offices in Frankfort on Main. This pose lasted until a Chicago newspaperwoman brought one of his living victims, Mrs. Anna Hendricks Schmidt, to New York to identify him. This was too much even for Hoch. He admitted his identity and unburdened himself of an extraordinary statement.

“I am Hoch,” said the man who had married some fifty women and murdered at least a third of them, “and I am a much abused man.”

Hoch-Bartels-Schmidt was extradited to Chicago for confrontation by those of his wives who were still among the living—an experience that left him unmoved. “Believe me,” he told the newspaper reporters, “all those women married me, not because they loved me, but because they thought I was wealthy … they gave me their money because they thought they would receive it back with more.”

One man who felt he had come to the end of a long trail with the arrest of Hoch was the Reverend Mr. Haass, who had left Wheeling to become pastor of St. Matthew’s German Lutheran Church in Utica, New York. Mr. Haass, who was dubbed “Hoch’s Nemesis” in the newspaper headlines, gave a lengthy interview to the Hearst papers, telling how the death of Mrs. Caroline Hoch in Wheeling had put him on the murderer’s trail and how he had pursued the villain doggedly ever since. Pastor Haass closed his interview with this stern judgment on his long-time adversary: “No punishment that can be meted out to this man Hoch will be too severe. I have followed him for ten years and I know him to be the biggest scoundrel of the century. Certain it is, whatever may be proven, he is a murderer, and a multi-murderer. …”

Hoch went on trial for the murder of Mrs. Marie Welker Hoch on April 19, 1905, and was found guilty exactly one month later. The first words he uttered after getting the verdict were these: “It serves me right.”

While awaiting execution Hoch actually received several proposals of marriage. Fortunately the inexorable processes of the law saved the authors from their own folly. The multiple murderer was hanged in Chicago’s county jail on February 23, 1906. The legacy that Hoch left us, based on his travail as an experienced husband, was summed up in a terse bit of personal advice he gave to a reporter after his arrest. “Women are all right in their place,” Hoch said, “but marry only one at a time.”