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Blonde Borgia: the end of the line

When Anna Marie Hahn stepped from the train at the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad depot in Colorado Springs, Colorado, July 30, 1937, she might have been a German tourist traveling the West.Instead, she was a serial murderer in the process of killing her final victim, George Obendoerfer, who had accompanied her on the trip to the Springs. Obendoerfer was so sick from the arsenic Hahn had given him over the past 10 days that he had to be helped as he exited the train.Obendoerfer was like most of Hahn’s victims: elderly, prosperous and a European immigrant. They met in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Obendoerfer, a cobbler, father of three and recently separated from his wife, owned a shoe repair shop. Hahn asked him to repair a shoe with a broken heel, and then she turned on the charm. He quickly became infatuated, even talking of a honeymoon. (He was 67; she had just turned 31.)Hahn talked about her Colorado ranch, where they could spend the rest of their days. He gave Hahn $350 to pay for their train tickets ñ- three in all, as Hahn’s 12-year-old son, Oskar, would accompany them. She deposited $250 in her bank account.To look younger, Obendoerfer shaved off his mustache. He packed a satchel, and arrived at Hahn’s house for a home-cooked dinner July 20, prior to their trip. The next day, he needed help getting into the cab for the ride to the train station.They traveled to Chicago, where Obendoerfer stayed at a 25-cents-a-night flophouse, while Hahn splurged on a night at The Stevens Hotel on Michigan Avenue ó with its 28 stories, 3,000 rooms, elegant shops, cavernous ballrooms and a mini-golf course on the roof.Arriving in Denver July 23, Obendoerfer was terribly ill. They stayed at the Oxford Hotel, where Hahn penned a letter on hotel stationery, asking Obendoerfer’s bank to close his account. Later, police would learn that a woman looking like Hahn, claiming to be Mrs. Obendoerfer and carrying his Cincinnati bank book tried to withdraw $1,000 from his account at a Denver bank. Sensing something was wrong, the bank manager refused.On July 25, a porter’s interest in Obendoerfer’s condition prompted the trio to move to the Midland Hotel. However, the Midland staff demanded Hahn take Obendoerfer to the hospital. Instead, she got Obendoerfer on the train to Colorado Springs.Now in Colorado Springs, the three struggled across the street and booked lodging at the Park Hotel, owned by Pell and Rosie Turner.The next day, Hahn and her son played in the snow atop Pikes Peak, while Obendoerfer writhed in his bed. When mother and son returned, Obendoerfer was in such bad shape that Hahn called a cab and had him transported to the Beth-El Hospital (today’s Memorial Hospital). She checked him in as an indigent, claiming he was merely someone she had met on the train.Obendoerfer died Aug. 1, and his body was taken to a mortuary. The next day, Hahn checked Obendoerfer’s satchel at the railroad depot. Later, found inside his satchel were Obendoerfer’s clothes, a pipe and a salt shaker containing 82 percent of arsenic trioxide.When Hahn and her son boarded the train for Denver, she took with her two diamond rings worth $300 she had stolen from Park Hotel owner, Rosie Turner. The theft would be Hahn’s undoing.In Denver, Hahn pawned the two rings for $7.50. Then, mother and son boarded the Burlington Zephyr for Cincinnati.While Hahn and her son traveled, Rosie Turner noticed her two rings were missing, and contacted Colorado Springs police. They issued an arrest warrant for grand larceny that the Cincinnati police executed soon after Hahn’s arrival there on Aug. 9. And there was also the curious matter of Obendoerfer’s autopsy results: arsenic poisoning.When Cincinnati police first confronted Hahn with Obendoerfer’s death, Hahn again claimed he was a stranger she had met on the train. When Obendoerfer’s relatives told police the two had been dating, Hahn changed her story; and said they had known each other but just happened to be traveling on the same train to Colorado.But another of Hahnís victims would seal her fate as a convicted murderer.Jacob Wagner had left his entire estate to Hahn.Perhaps knowing Wagnerís death certificate had listed ìheart diseaseî as his demise emboldened Hahn to divulge to the police that she had cared for Wagner until his death two months earlier.But while Hahn was traveling with Obendoerfer, a suspicious friend of Wagner had badgered the police into exhuming Wagner’s body for an autopsy. Soon, the results were known: Large quantities of arsenic had killed Wagner.It seems that after several business failures and fraudulent fire insurance claims netting $2,300, Hahn had discovered a winning formula: Finding well-off, elderly men; ìnursingî them and reaping the rewards. The scam included others: Ernst Koch, her first fatality, who died and left Hahn his house; Albert Parker, who loaned Hahn $1,000 before his death; and George Gsellman, who had given Hahn $15,000 by the time he died.Hahn’s trial for killing Jacob Wagner began Oct. 11, 1937. Ninety-five witnesses testified against her. Included in the evidence were Parker’s brain and some of Wagner’s internal organs, as well as Oskar’s statement that his mother had purchased Obendoerfer’s ticket at Union Terminal in Cincinnati, that she had served him several drinks on the train and that he had begun feeling ill prior to their arrival in Colorado.A jury of 11 women and one man took two hours to find Hahn guilty, despite her protestations of innocence. On Nov. 10, Judge Charles Bell sentenced her to death.By then, Hahn was known as ìThe Blonde Borgia.î She had been born in Bavaria, Germany, in 1906, the youngest of 12 children; and claimed that Oskar’s father was a Viennese physician. Her scandalized family sent her to the United States to live with relatives in Cincinnati in 1929. She met and married Philip Hahn, also a German immigrant, in 1930 ñ- the same year she returned to Germany to get Oskar.Hahn was executed Dec. 6, 1938 ñ- the first woman to die by electrocution in the state of Ohio.After the execution, the Cincinnati Enquirer printed four letters written by Hahn shortly before her death. In them, Hahn confessed that she had become crazy with fear that she and her son would starve. ìI wanted to make some money for my boy,î she wrote.

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