Getting Away With MURDER

David A. Lossos, updated March 30, 2008




A natural outgrowth of genealogy is researching the history of stories related to a family of interest. It’s even better if that family is yours, as is the case here.

I’ve been “working” a murder case that took place in April of 1928, just outside of the city limits of St. Louis. Since the victim actually died in St. Anthony’s Hospital at Grand and Chippewa, the death officially took place in the City.

For those of you that have already read my story entitled “The Hidden Life of Helen Tappeiner” , you are already aware of the fact that my mother did not have much of a relationship with her father, Conrad Tappeiner. It’s ironic that in 1928, when this crime took place, she was a boarding senior at St. Elizabeth’s Academy, not far from the hospital were her father died. There is certainly evidence that the relationship she never had might well have been developed at that time had it not been for this murder. I might have come to know this man that I never got a chance to meet.

This St. Louis Globe-Democrat morning newspaper account appeared Monday, April 16, 1928, the day after the shooting, and gives a small glimpse as to what took place...

"REFUSED ADMITTANCE, MAN SHOOTS 2 OTHERS"

"Conrad Tappiner (sp), 50, who operates what is known as “Connie’s” at Grant and Pardee roads, St. Louis County, and George Michaeli, 24, of 5109 Dresden avenue, were shot and seriously wounded shortly before midnight last night by one of four men, who with two girls, drove up to Tappiner’s (sp) home and sought admission.
Tappiner (sp), with nine slugs in this right side and hip, and Michaeli, with two slugs in his right arm, were rushed to St. Anthony’s Hospital where physicians said their condition is serious.
Tappinger (sp) told county authorities he refused to admit the men and women, and when he went outside one of the men produced a sawed-off shotgun from beneath his coat and began firing. The men and women made their escape."
The next day, April 19, 1928, the following testimonies took place in the St. Louis City Coroner's office. The event was presided over by William Dever, Deputy Coroner and .J. J. Lemen, Assistant Circuit Attorney.
Testimony of Officer John J. Fitzgerald (2nd District, St. Louis Police Dept.)
• “Well, we got a call to go down to St. Anthony's Hospital on South Grand avenue that there were two men shot, and when we got there we found Teuppeimer (sp) and Michaeli, they were both shot, Teuppeimer in the side and the other fellow in the right arm. 1 asked them how it happened and they said they were at Vergere's home and that they were coming up out of the cellar, these two men, and some fellow stepped from the roadway into the yard and walked up to about 20 feet of them and pointed a shotgun at them and told then to throw up their hands and fired either two or three shots. I asked them if they knew who it was and they said no, they had never seen him before”.
• “What information have you on this man sitting here, Lawrence "XXXXXXXXX"?”
• “I haven't any”.
• “Do you know whether he has been identified by any of these witnesses as the man who did the shooting?”
• “They named Dietz as the man that did the shooting.”
• “Do you know who made the investigation in the county”
• “Officer Pfeiffer”


Testimony of Constable Jacob Pfeiffer (Constable of St. Louis County - Carondelet.) (home address 112 Etta Avenue)
• “I was called to the Vergere hone and when I got there he had been taken to St. Anthony' Hospital. Got a statement from one witness, O'Toole. He says he was in the yard when this fellow come back and he said it was a man by the name of Dietz.”
• Question from Mr. Lemen: “Well, somewhere around half past ten Dietz had an argument - What kind of a place is this they were running?”
• “A homebrew joint in the basement, in a private home.”
• “They said there was a man come there about half past ten, Dietz, and the fellow ordered him out of his place, Conrad Tappeiner then about an hour and a half later they come back. O'Toole is the only one identified Dietz, who seen him get out of the car with a rifle and started to shooting.”
• “This man "XXXXXXXXX" had been there earlier in the evening?”
• “Yes.”
• “And had been in an argument with this man?”
• “Yes sir and he ordered him out.”
• “Has Dietz been apprehended?”
• “That's the one that's supposed to be here.”
• “"XXXXXXXXX"?”
• “Well, that's what they call him, Dietz.”
• “Just one man, then, is that it, not "XXXXXXXXX" and Dietz?”
• “Oh, no, Dietz and "XXXXXXXXX" is the same man.”


Testimony of Oliver O'Toole 4111 Terrace Ave., Occupation: Hoisting engineer
• “Well we had a party out at Vegere's house and about 11 o'clock I was down the basement and I heard some noise upstairs and 1 run upstairs to see that there were three fellows. When they saw me come in the door they left. So we went outside to see where they were going. Cooney wanted to put them out of the yard. One of them got away and the other one jumped in the Chevrolet sedan with these two women and he wasn't going to drive out of the yard at all, and so finally Michaeli made him get out, and when he did he jumped out of the car and made a pass at Michaeli and Michaeli hit him, and when he did I pulled him off, and so this one fellow says “Well, we're going to get our gang and come back and get you all,” and so they drove out of the yard.”
• “So we were all ready to leave there about twenty minutes to twelve and I went outside to get my mother's car started, and when 1 did there was a great big yellow car come up and Dietz says “Don't run, O'Toole, I'm going to kill you anyhow.” and I run alongside the house and jumped through the cellar window, and when I did I saw Cooney out there and I went out the front way and I saw them beating it, I saw them do the shooting and get back in the car, and then I run the back again and picked up Cooney, he was laying in the doorway of the cellar.”
• “Was there anybody else shot?”
• “George Michaeli was shot. He got shot when he was coming out of the basement.”
• “How many shots did you hear”.
• “I heard four shoots”.
• “I saw the man that done the shooting”.
• “Is that the man sitting there (dft)?”
• “That's him. He had a handkerchief on his mouth; he had a light overcoat on and a light cap.
• “What's his name”
• “Dietz is all I know him by”
• “You are positive that's the man.”
• “That's the man”.
• “How many men got out of the car?”
• “Three of them”
• “How long have you known Dietz?”
• “About three or four weeks”
• “During the time it was going on, when Cooney come out he come out of his cellar and he was going around to come up on his back porch, I don't know if he was going in his house, I don't know what he was going to do, but that when he shot him, when he was up there on the porch. He was trying to get away from them.”


Testimony of George Michaeli 5109 Dresden Ave. Occupation: Chauffeur
• “On the 16th of this month about 1:30 in the morning where were you at Conrad's house.”
• “Yes”
• “And that's on the Rock Hill Road”
• “Yes”
• “I was standing there talking to this man and a man come there on the sidewalk on the side of the house and said “Holdup” had a handkerchief over this face and he was about 10 feet away from us and after he took a couple of steps I guess he was about five feet away, and he just started shooting, and he was right on top of us.”
• “Well, about what time did you get there”
• “About 8:30"
• “One fellow and two girls”
• “What's the fellow's name?”
• “Aloy Lake”
• “Did he remain there all evening with you?”
• “Yes sir”


Testimony of Lawrence "XXXXXXXXX" - 515 Poepping Str. Occupation: Boilermaker's helper
Mr. "XXXXXXXXX" made no statement. (Dietz: 22 years 5" 10" 190 lbs reside in neighborhood of Broadway and Cherokee)


The following is a list of witnesses and/or bystanders:
• Oliver O'Toole 31 yrs, born in city, married, engineer, residing 4111 Terrace Ave
• Henry Kinkier 21 yrs, born city , single, battery man, residing 5163 Dresden
• Fred J. Wehle 21 yrs, born city, single roofer, residing 5134 Cologne Ave
• Aloy L. Lake 25 yrs, born city, single, no occupation, residing 4172 Concordia Ave
• Marion Reynolds 55 yrs, born Kentucky, single, quarryman, residing Webster Groves
• Coleman Hiestan, 22 yrs, born city, single, plumber res 4364 Delmar Blvd.
• Delvine Somers, 20yrs, born Missouri, married, housework, residing 1424a No. 14th
• Dolly Tiemann 18 yrs, born city, single, no occupation, residing 1424 a No 14th
• Allen Vergere 33 yrs. born in this city, cement worker, residing Rural Route #6 Webster Groves

After the shooting Tappeiner and Marchaeli were conveyed by the above named Allen Vergere in Tappeiner's automobile to St. Anthony's Hospital. All of the above accompanied Tappeiner and Marchaeli to the above mentioned hospital in several automobiles. Once there, Vergere and the above mentioned people were arrested by the officers and brought to the City of St. Louis Police Station where they were held for St. Louis County authorities, suspected of an Affray and later turned over to Constable Jacob Pfeiffer of Carondelet Township. Tappiner (sp) and Marchaeli were not held prisoners at St. Anthony’s Hospital as they stated to Constable Pfeiffer that they would not prosecute the man known as “Dietz” who is supposed to have fired the shots at the time.

Based on information contained in court documents pertaining to Conrad Tappeiner’s personal property at the time of his death, Conrad owned only two items of any value: an Overland-Whippet Sedan (see photo for similar vehicle) and a Ford Truck. According to testimony, Allan Vergiere drove Conrad to St. Anthony’s hospital in Conrad’s sedan.

Oliver O'Toole stated to the officers that about an hour previous to the shooting, Dietz and three other unknown men and two women came into Tappeiner's home and later left in an angry mood as Tappiner (sp) refused to sell any drinks.

The medical reports from St. Anthony’s Hospital provided more detail than I really needed to hear.

“Progress Record - Mr. Conrad Tappeiner, age 42 (should be 47) years, Rock Hill road, St. Louis County 4/16/28 - 1:20pm - This patient admitted to Hospital complaining of gunshot wounds of right hip abdomen and right forearm, and right thumb. There was profuse bleeding. There was a fracture of the right radius in middle 1/3 compound comminuted. At time of entrance there was no abdominal pain, tenderness, or rigidity. The wounds were cleansed with iodine preparation solution and alcohol glycerin packs applied. 4/16/28 - 8:30 am There is definite tenderness and some rigidity in lower right abdomen. Probably due to perforation of intestine in lower right quadrant. Taken to operating room. See cooperative record. 4/17/28 2:20am Patient expired due to gas gangrene infection signed: cursive - Dr. H. S. McKay, Surgeon in chief



St. Anthony's operation room record was even more detailed.

Mr. Conrad Teippeiner (sp) - 4/16/28
no address listed - Room 404 - Referred by Dr. Mackay -Preparation: routine - Condition prior to operation GOOD pulse 100- Condition at close of operation GOOD -Pulse 140 - analestgesua began 11:30am - stopped 12:30pm - operation began 11:35 am - operation ended 12:30pm. Nature of operation - technique Abdomen opened in lower slid line bladder found full of urine catherized - full blood in abdominal cavity. A loop of illiem found with 3 perforations about one inch apart. This piece of illiem reserted and end to end anostoao done, abdomen explored no more perforation found. PATHOLOGICAL CONDITION FOUND: abdomen closed in layer rubber, dom drain, gun shot wound of arm, x-ray shows ?. Arm cleaned up opened over sight of fracture, one shot removed from arm. Arm wound wrapped with sudenform gauze and iodine in wound, wound left open. (also a shot removed from ? of illiem)
SUTURE MATERIAL USED: Cat gut ? silk, rubber drain one, can't read all surgical team - end of that form.


Another “cooperative record” dated 4/17/28 referred by Dr. Mackay:

“Preparation was routine and condition prior to operation was good. Pulse 116. Cond at close of operation was poor in shock pulse 160. Ana used ethylene operation began 1:55pm and finished at 2:20 pm. Circular amputation of arm was done at junction of upper and middle 1/3 large vessels legated, because of poor circulation of patient. No further surgery could be done - put back to bed with wound wide open and hemostats on stump gas escapes from all wound. Gas Bocillus infection of arm. Post Op diag. Gas bocillus infection of arm following gun shot wound. Cat gut used names of surg team unreadable.”


Following a murder, an autopsy was automatically performed.

“Post mortem examination, age: 45?, white, male, 5' 10", 170lbs, gray hair and eyes. External appearance: multiple gunshot wounds. FINDINGS; 1- gunshot of abdomen perforating intestine loop and?. 2- multiple wounds of right hip (18) 3- mult wounds of right arm (6). 4- labor pneumonia, 5- sepsis. RIGOR MORTIS present. BRAIN: cortical hemorrhage size of a silver dollar over right rolandic area. LUNGS; BOTH LOWER LOBES OF A SEMI SOLID NATURE, BLOOD FLUID OOZES OUT ON SECTION, BARELY FLOATS. Congestion in upper lobes. Showed diagram of where multiple gunshot wound were in arm and hip. HEART: acute inflammatory process over entire endocardium lining of aorta. ARTERIES: inflamed aortic lining evidently septic. ABDOMINAL CAVITY: distended, some free gas. PERITONEUM: some evidences of peritonisis beginning to manifest. INTESTINES: one loop of intestine perforated. KIDNEY: pus in each pelvis - otherwise negative. REMARKS: right arm was amputated above elbow. Stump showed infected area. The exact # of bullet wound could not be ascertained on account of multiple incisions. CAUSE OF DEATH: GENERAL SEPSIS FOLLOWING MULTIPLE GUNSHOT WOUNDS. SWORN AND SUBSCRIBED 4/18/1928"



The Coroner’s Office, in the person of Deputy Coroner J. W. Kerner, issued the following statement:

“DECEASED CAME TO HIS DEATH AT 2:20PM ON THE 18" OF APRIL 1928 AT ST. ANTHONY'S HOSPITAL FROM GENERAL SEPSIS, FOLLOWING MULTIPLE GUNSHOT WOUNDS CAUSED BY BULLETS FIRED FROM A GUN IN THE HANDS OF ONE LAWRENCE "XXXXXXXXX", AT GRANT AND ROCK HILL ROADS, ST. LOUIS COUNTY ON 16TH OF APRIL ABOUT 1:OOAM - HOMICIDE.”


At this time an order for Dietz's arrest was given.

Department of Police, City of St. Louis
April 18, 1928
Subject: Arrest suspect of Murder in St. L. County
Col. Jos. A. Gerk, Chief of Police

Sir:

About 10:30 this pm Lieutenant John Brandenberger and Sgt. Charles Welsch of this district took into custody at this station, Lawrence "XXXXXXXXX", 22 years, single, born in MO, a boiler maker helper, residing at 515 W. Poepping St. He was placed on the holdover at the station, suspected of murder in St. Louis County, and held for Constable William H. Golzheuser.

Respectfully, Captain Commanding District
R. M. Hamma
I had hoped to get additional information about what happened next from the Police Department of Webster Groves, but they had absolutely nothing.


Based on the testimonies given by the numerous witnesses, this appeared to be an “open and shut” case. However, I was unable to discern the outcome of a trial, if indeed the case had ever gone to trial.

In 1982 I was finally able to make contact with someone that was actually at the scene of the crime.

It turns out that after my grandparents divorced in December of 1909, Conrad remarried Anna B. Mueller (nee Klein). Although they did not have any children of their own, they did adopt Anna’s sister’s son, Oscar, after his parents died in 1922.

Although Oscar was only nine years old at the time of the murder, he remembers that night. He was asleep in the house at the time. He was also able to explain why the case never went to trial. Apparently Lawrence “Dietz” "XXXXXXXXX" was able to threaten the witnesses into not testifying against him, and his lawyer, Sigmund Bass, was able to have the case dismissed for lack of evidence.

More detail is provided in the news story that appeared in the St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat on Tuesday morning, March 12, 1929:

STAR WITNESS GONE, MURDER CASE ENDS
Charge Against Lawrence "XXXXXXXXX", 22, Dismissed at Clayton
A first degree murder charges were dismissed by Judge Mulloy in the Circuit Court at Clayton yesterday because the state lacked its star witness... The case dismissed was that of Lawrence "XXXXXXXXX", 22, of 5115 West Popping street who was charged with slaying Conrad Tappenier (sp), a carpenter Grand (sp) and Rock Hill roads, St. Louis County, on the night or April 16, 1928. It was announced the chief witness for the prosecution, Oliver O'Toole, had left the state and that it would be useless to carry the case further.

Tappenier (sp) was visiting at a neighbor’s house when some men and women drove up and demanded entrance, which was refused. An hour later the car re-appeared and one of the number fired upon Tappenier (sp) with a shotgun. He died at a hospital shortly after.

And that is where the case ends.

Almost.

In 1997 I had a renewed interest in this murder. I started looking at census records, and city directories, trying to get an idea of whatever happened to Lawrence "XXXXXXXXX". In other words, I started to do his genealogy. Did he continue to commit cold-blooded murder? Did he continue to get away with it?

Turns out that 22 year old Lawrence was living at home with his parents and a number of siblings in St. Louis at the time of the murder . Living with Lawrence at the West Poepping address was his father, Henry, a fireman, who died in 1935 leaving Lawrence’s mother, Mary, a widow. Also living with Lawrence was his sister Adele (a seamstress), brother Walter (a carpenter, like Conrad), brother Leo (a boilermaker) and his wife Helen, and another brother, Ollie (a carpenter) and his wife Minnie.

In addition, Lawrence had other siblings that had already moved out. The one that struck me the most was a Lieutenant Edgar E. "XXXXXXXXX" on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department!

Tracing Lawrence "XXXXXXXXX"’s genealogy was relatively easy. I had detail on him and his family. I even knew when each of his three sons were born. His first was born less than three years after the murder. Turns out he died in 1996. It suddenly dawned on me that it wouldn’t be too much longer and there wouldn’t be a soul alive that had any knowledge of the murder.

I decided to call Lawrence’s next oldest son. This was 1997. I had hoped that he knew of his father’s past. I hoped that he had confessed to his sons. I had hoped, at the least, that he perhaps made a death-bed confession, to cleanse his soul.

Sadly, he knew nothing of the murder of Conrad Tappeiner, and the sworn testimony that proclaimed his father as the killer. He even mentioned that at one time his father was a motorcycle policeman!

I concluded the call by telling him I’d send the information that I had gathered. I never did.

However, in 2005, using appropriate channels, I officially asked from the St. Louis Police Department for confirmation of both Edgar and Lawrence’s service.

I was dumbfounded when I got the official reply...



At first I was confused between the confirmation of an Edward Edgar being a Sergeant, and no record at all of a Lawrence or an Edgar Edward, the two names I had expected to find. Turns out the Edward Edgar is Edgar Edward’s son. Of course that still didn’t explain why the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department had no records for the two individuals that I had been led to believe were policemen. Besides the city directories listing Edgar Edward "XXXXXXXXX" as a police officer, I also had his death certificate stating the same thing. This still remains a mystery.





I guess you could say this is still an ongoing investigation.

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