Monday, March 23, 2020

Killer Dodges Justice for Decades

45 Years Later—Case Solved
Written by Robert A. Waters

On August 9, 1958, the weather in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin was so stifling that fifty-seven-year-old Edna Mauch asked her husband to leave the kitchen door open when they went to bed. Anything to suck in even a slight breeze.

Edna and her husband slept in separate bedrooms directly across from each other. Both Aloysius, 68, and his wife were heavy sleepers and soon they were dead to the world.

Sometime during the night, a shadow crept silently through the open door. The intruder held a weapon, a sock with a brick stuffed into it. He moved into Edna’s room and peered down at the sleeping woman. On a table nearby, he noticed her purse. He quietly opened it and removed $240 in cash, as well as a check for $441.

For several moments, the predator stared down at the woman. Finally, he made his decision. He swung the heavy sock and cracked it against Edna’s head. With his prey disabled, he climbed on top of her and raped her. At some point during the attack, she awoke and fought. But her efforts to defend herself proved futile when the intruder got up and slugged her again and again with the brick, shattering her skull.  Then the shadow-man slowly moved toward the door and disappeared.

Across the hall, Aloysius slept through it all.

At 8:30, he awoke. Checking on his wife, he saw the room painted with blood and Edna with a crushed skull.  He ran onto the porch screaming, “My wife has been murdered.”

Freelance author Ruth Reynolds wrote that Edna “lay in her pink nightgown on a bloodstained bed, skull crushed, arms bruised. A building brick, wrapped in an argyle sock and a tan cloth glove of a type used by construction workers, were on the floor near the bed when detectives began their investigation.”

Immediately, suspicion fell on a paroled rapist who lived nearby. (John J. Watson, 37, should have been in prison when Edna was murdered, having been sentenced to one-to-thirty-five years for the rape of a teenaged girl. Even though the judge strongly recommended that the prisoner should serve his entire sentence, he was released four years later.)
Watson claimed he was in Milwaukee when the murder occurred, but his alibi soon crumbled. The friend who was supposed to vouch for his whereabouts was tracked down and denied Watson was with him. Watson was currently being held for yet another rape charge, so detectives were grateful that at least he wasn’t out committng more crimes.

An FBI examination of the material found in Edna’s room found sperm on the sheets. It turned out to be a very rare Type B blood, possessed by “only one-quarter of one percent of the entire U. S. population.” John J. Watson had this rare blood type. (One of his rape victims became pregnant and carried her baby to term—this baby was tested and had the same rare Type B blood.)

In the ensuing trial, the histrionics of Watson’s defense attorney Charles Beaudry caused a mistrial. While jurors were visiting the murder house, the “scene of the crime,” Beaudry walked into a private room and began banging on the walls to show that sounds carried through the house. As soon as this occurred, the judge shut down the trial.

Despite a heavy backlash from the public, prosecutors refused to go on with a second trial, asserting that they had developed new information that cast doubt on Watson's guilt. This information, however, was never released, causing reporters to question the motives of the lead prosecutor.

His parole revoked, Watson, the only suspect in Edna Mauch’s murder, was placed back in the penitentiary to serve the remainder of his 35 years sentence. Sometime before 1980 he was again released on probation. It didn't take Watson long before he raped two young women, battering each with a hammer. This time, he was once again sentenced to 35 years. 

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Fast-forward 45 years later, to 2003. AP News reported that “Lisa Hudson, a detective in Wauwatosa, reopened the case a year ago after someone told her about it. She later found Mauch’s pajamas, bedding and other evidence still wrapped and sealed in the department’s evidence room.” Semen on one of Mauch’s hairs found on her clothing was tested for genetic material.

The DNA matched the former suspect, John J. Watson, at the time 82 years old.

For several years, prosecutors debated whether to bring Watson to trial for the long-ago murder. On November 12, 2007, the case was put to rest after Watson died at age 86.

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