The Death of the Music Lovers
I too have the original 1967 Hardcover Edition of Private Disgrace. It holds the position of honor on my Lizzie bookshelf (23 books total, but no “Hands of Time”). It is a beautifully bound volume, and remains hands down the best book on the case. It was a New York Times bestseller and won the coveted Edgar Award (named for Poe) for best True Crime book of 1967. And yes, the pages are thick with the blood of the victims and the guilt of the youngest daughter.
Some dismiss it because of the epilepsy theory, and Lincoln does play loose with some of the facts. But her subjective approach and vast catalogue of off the record supposition cleaves to the very heart of the case. She gets into Lizzie’s head better than anyone else could. END OF BOOK!
For Lynn and Autumn:
The two prime suspects in the double murder of Carl Bernthaler and Lena Ziechmann were his wife and her father.
Carl was married with children, and there was no evidence he was gay. Lena was apparently infatuated with him since beginning their music lessons when she was a teenager. She even told son that it “was nice to be in love with a man older than herself”.
Both Lena’s parents and Mrs. Bernthaler were concerned about the relationship – and neither Carl nor Lena had told anyone their real plans on that fateful Sunday afternoon. Just what they were doing together in Stillman Woods Park that day is not clear. What is clear is that a killer was stalking them.
Lena’s father Frank was a tyrant who had long terrorized all three of his daughters. He had confronted and assaulted several of Lena’s “boyfriends” through the years. Although he had a good alibi for the murder hour, much of the inquest was a litany of his bullying, cruel behavior toward his daughters. Frank had been treated for mental illness when he was younger, and had once told a friend that he’d rather see one of his other daughters dead then married to her then fiancée.
The Cleveland Press headline of March 31, 1908 claimed that the “Ziechmann Girls Lived In Fear For Their Lives.” Indeed, several of Lena’s friends testified she lived in constant fear for her life and was “despondent” in the weeks before her death. Small wonder, considering all the bizarre murder attempts I listed in my previous post.
Frank’s alibi held up, and speaking at the inquest he said, “If I killed them, I would not be here today. I would have killed myself.” Bernthaler’s wife also had a solid alibi for the murder day and hour.
In addition to her psychotically smothering father, Lena was apparently stalked by someone else in the months, perhaps even years, before her death. The coroner had boasted that he knew who the killer was and hinted that the Ziechmann family knew more than they told. Yet the police investigation died out after a few weeks and Pinkerton detectives hired by the Ziechmann’s failed to turn up any new leads.
So who followed the music lovers to their secret rendezvous and gunned them down?