A Newspaper Article by Luetgert


While awaiting his second trial on charges of murder, Adolph Louis Luetgert wrote an article that the St. Louis Republic published on October 24, 1897. It is the only known article written by Luetgert himself. Excerpts follow:

Adolph L. Luetgert
Tells of His Life in America
Before He Was Charged
With Killing His Wife.

I have lost my liberty. I have lost my reputation. I have lost my property. I have lost my wife. Can it be possible that I will lose my life?

With slight changes, this is what my counsel stated to the jury in his closing address. I answer most emphatically, "No!"…

I fully appreciate that even if my wife returned to-day, it would never be possible for me to entirely regain my good name, and that I have been injured beyond reparation. I am confident that I will be acquitted, but I know that as long as I live I will be pointed out as the sausagemaker who killed his wife, even if she should come to the jail and take me out this afternoon, and we should live together until we both reached old age.

This is one of the hardest things to bear…

I was born in Germany and raised as most boys are raised in small German villages. I came to this country when I was 24 years of age, ignorant of the ways of the world, allured from my peaceful German village by tales of the riches to be acquired, reputations established and happiness to be secured in this "land of the free and home of the brave."

I worked early and late. I saved my money. I was ambitious to be a man among men, to accumulate property and to give my children a better start in life than I had had; and I hoped to leave behind me not only riches but a reputation in which my children would all take pride.

I started in the sausage business in a very modest way, but I devoted all of my time and energies to it. I succeeded in devising processes by which I could manufacture sausages in summer as well as in winter ¾ something that all other sausage manufacturers in the world are unable to do. This gave me prestige and brought me wealth.

It was said that I was proud, haughty and arrogant because I did not associate much with my neighbors and because I did not hang around beer saloons and put in my time as many others of my nationality do; but the truth is, I was so hard at work building up my business that I had no time for such diversions.

If I had my life to do over again, I think I would pay more attention to the social side of life and make an attempt to cultivate more friends, because, God knows, I now appreciate how much a man can need friends and how few friends there are who will stand by you in the hour of trouble.

I can’t say that my arrest came to me as a surprise. The newspapers had published the fact that I was suspected of murdering my wife, but so ignorant was I of the methods of the police, the conduct of proceedings in court and how those charge with crime are treated that I feel I have lived a hundred years in the last five months. I had never given courts, lawyers or police any especial thought, and I never had any business with them…

I have learned that in this boasted land of liberty a man charged with a crime is treated as I have read they are treated in Russia. I have realized that the presumption that a man is innocent until he is proven guilty is bosh and nonsense. I realize that something is wrong with society and a system of court procedure which causes a man to be confined in a cell, inaccessible to his friends, except in the presence of others, so that it is impossible for him to go out and hunt up testimony and prepare for trial, while an unprincipled wolfish police force strives with all its might and main to terrorize and intimidate those who might have testified for me, and who bring about … a state of terror…

People have said to me many times, and, in fact, the newspapers have expressed surprise, that I have seemed so confident that I would be acquitted in the end. In spite of all I have endured, I believe that the God in the heavens will ultimately bring about my release. The newspapers of Chicago have been notoriously unfair in their treatment of me. If I was pale, they said it was a sign of guilt; if I retained my usual complexion and countenance, they said it was brazen; if I smiled, they said I was hysterical; if I seemed despondent, they said I was breaking down.

They have published pictures of my eyes, my nose, my ears, my mouth, my teeth and my hair, all so horribly distorted that those who have not seen me, and who do not know me, must have suspected sometimes that I was a monster in appearance. In fact, everything that a man says or does when he is charged with crime is said to be an evidence of guilt.

The newspapers have published day after day that I was breaking down, that I could not stand it, that I would finally, in desperation, confess.

These articles were written by reporters, some of whom probably received $10 a week, and were written while they were seated at a comfortable desk with an electric fan, playing upon their faces, while I was sitting in a noisome cell, poorly ventilated, with the thermometer registering between 90 and 100 degrees. Nothing but a conviction of innocence and an abiding faith in my ultimate vindication could have sustained me in such weather, in such confinement, under such persecution.

Some of the papers have spoken of my indifference at the time the bones were introduced in evidence, and have commented upon the fact that I examined them, broke them and smelled them. They were cruel and unkind enough to construe this as evidence of my guilt. Do you suppose for one moment that the most hardened wretch that ever lived could treat this wife’s bones in this manner? I knew they were not the bones of my wife. I knew that an effort was made to manufacture evidence against me by calling hog and sheep bones human bones; I knew those bones were hog and sheep bones; why should I not examine them with indifference and with considerable amusement?

They are the kind of bones that I have used for years in the manufacture of sausage, and a hog or sheep bone has as distinct an identity to my eye as one human being has from another…

From the time of my arrest up to the present I have gone to bed at night and slept as quietly, peacefully and innocently as a child. This has been used as an argument against me, and it has been printed with glaring headlines…

It is true that I had been able to do so. But why should I worry? I had done nothing that I was ashamed of or which I was afraid of. I suppose the police would have complained still more if I had not been able to sleep; if I had walked the floor in my sleep at night they would have pointed that out as a sign of guilt, just as they have pointed out my restful slumbers.

It has been said that experience teaches. Indeed it does. After I have been acquitted I shall never believe a newspaper account of a criminal proceeding, and, I for one, will always believe the man is innocent until he is convicted, and I will not feel certain that all convictions are just and righteous.

During my experience in jail I have learned of instances of persecution, of what innocent men have suffered, that are enough to make one to doubt the honesty of all who are connected with the detection or punishment of so-called crimes…

It has been said that I am a changed man. Yes, I have changed wonderfully, but I have changed because I have learned. No one can appreciate the transition from manufacturing sausage to being the most conspicuous person charged with crime in the nation until he has undergone it.

I always shunned publicity and avoided notoriety. At one sudden bound I jumped from obscurity to an unenviable notoriety and found the eyes of the world upon me… If I had not been an innocent man I would have gone crazy. If I had been a guilty man I would have confessed in sheer desperation to avoid the curious eyes which seemed to devour me day after day in court as my innocent acts were painted black, and as the false, perjured and manufactured testimony was given against me.

If it had not been for an English swindler named Robert Davey, who has been repeatedly exposed by Mr. Labouchere in the London Truth as a swindler, blackmailer and confidence man, I would not be in my present predicament. He misled, robbed and deceived me, but I indignantly resent the imputation that he not only robbed me of my property, but also of my wife. No man dare tell me to my face that she is now living with him. She was not that kind of a woman.

Some of the jurors have said that my failure to go upon the witness stand was considered by them as a strong circumstances [sic] against me. This is about as fair and honest as the other charges against me. I wanted to go upon the witness stand; I demanded my right to do so, but Judge Vincent was as immovable as Gibraltar. He said if I did so he would withdraw from the case… I yielded to his judgment, against my wishes, but am now satisfied he was right…

You ask me how it feels to be in the shadow of the gallows? I reply I do not know. I never was in the shadow of the gallows and I never will be. I never have contemplated the possibility of conviction, because I cannot believe it possible that police persecution, manufactured evidence, distorted facts, bribery, perjury or anything else can hang an innocent man…

Why, even when the jury was out deliberating on the verdict I slept as quietly as I had before; but I was convinced there would be only one result, and that a verdict of "not guilty."

When I learned that the jury had disagreed I was greatly disappointed and I was surprised to learn that the prosecuting officers through a man must be bribed who had the temerity to believe that a person was innocent who was charged with crime by them.

The State has announced that it intends to try me at once … I have no fears as to the result, and am confident that it is only a question of time until I resume the manufacture of sausage.

As to my poor wife, God only knows where she is. I am afraid she is wandering about in a distracted condition, in utter ignorance of the fact that her disappearance has caused me to lose all of which she was once so proud.

I trust that a just God and a kind Providence will enable me to confuse my tormentors by her presence in a very few days, and I believe as firmly as I live that it is only a question of time until she returns.