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Rae Anderman Krauss

It has been a long time since Blackford County has seen a crime of this nature, but this turn of the century crime rivals any of the great murder mystery novels.

In August of 1904, Hartford City citizens were shocked to read of the death of 18 year-old Crystal Krauss in the “Evening News.” Krauss was a popular young lady and lived with her father W.R. Krauss, a prominent druggist, and her new step-mother Rae Anderman Krauss.

Crystal was being treated for an upset stomach when her condition suddenly worsened. Several doctors were called in but could not save the young lady. The doctors immediately recognized the signs that Crystal had been poisoned. How could this have happened and why? The doctors, coroner and even the mortician searched her room for clues with no luck.

Crystal’s father had forbidden her from seeing a young man that she was fond of. Signs pointed to suicide, but this seemed out of character for Crystal who was usually happy and carefree. Two scrawled notes signed “Crystal” were found that indicated she was going to take her own life because of the failed romance. This puzzled the investigators as the notes were found in places they had thoroughly searched only a short time ago. 

The next day Mrs. Riley Sumerville came to the coroner’s office with some interesting information. Mrs. Krauss had sent her young son, Lloyd, on an errand the day before Crystal’s death. She had asked Lloyd to go to a drugstore not owned by her husband to buy some strychnine in order to kill some mice. A neighbor’s name had been signed to the note given to the boy. Both this note, and the suicide notes were determined to be forgeries. Lloyd could positively identify Rae Anderman Krauss as the woman he delivered the poison to. The case against her was quite clear.

An affidavit for her arrest was prepared and the Sheriff arrived at the Krauss home to arrest her the night before Crystal’s funeral. Amid grieving relatives she denied her guilt as she accompanied the Sheriff to the Blackford County jail. The story was all over newspapers from here to Chicago. The stepmother maintained that she was innocent until finally confessing on October 27. 

The following day, she was sentenced to life imprisonment and taken to the Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. In April of 1914, she was given a two-week pardon to visit her ailing father in Pennville. Instead of prison garb, it was reported that she was dressed in “all the elaborate finery of the day.”

She was denied permanent parole twice, but in 1925, she was pardoned by Indiana’s Governor to allow her to go to New York to care for her dying father. She later changed her name and remarried. The only motive anyone could ever come up with for her crime was an intense jealousy of the popular young girl.

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