This week on Horrible History Rachel heads to Lubeck, Germany to tell us the tale of Germany’s Revenge Mother, Marianne Bachmeier, and her vengeance murder of Klaus Grabowski. Then, Emily goes to Salt Lake City, UT to talk about three devious men – a pervy governor, a criminal and a grave robber.
Story 1 – Marianne Bachmeier & Klaus Grabowski
Let’s go back to March 6, 1981. Marianne Bachmeier, a single mom and pub-waitress from Lubeck, (which was still known as being in West Germany), walked into a crowded courthouse and open fired on a man named Klaus Grabowski. Klaus was a 35-year-old sex offender standing trial for murdering Marianne’s daughter, Anna. The grieving mother shot Klaus 6 times.
Let’s back up. Marianne Bachmeir was born on June 3, 1950 in Sarstedt, (Needer-Zach-zen) Niedersachsen, Germany. She was born to East-Prussian Refugees, as her father had been in the Nazi military in WWII. As you might expect, Daddy Dearest was an authoritarian parent as well as an alcoholic and Marianne was brought up in an unstable, yet strictly religious home.
Marianne clashed with her authoritarian upbringing. She was a free-spirit and challenged her parents’ worldviews often. Things seemed to improve at home after Marianne’s father left their family, but her mother remarried and her stepfather was also not awesome. Marianne’s mother blamed Marianne for the conflict in the home, and she was kicked out as a teenager.
At 16, Marianne got pregnant, and made the heart-wrenching decision to give up this baby for adoption. She continued on with high school and even had a pretty stable relationship with her boyfriend, but at 18-years-old, instability struck again, as she found out she was pregnant a second time. Marianne debated whether or not to keep this child, but, one night when she was out at a disco (and very pregnant), she was sexually assaulted. After this traumatic incident, she decided to give her second child up for adoption as well.
This woman has been through the ringer. She was able to finish high school and began working as a waitress at a pub called Tipasa in Old Town. At 22-years-old, Marianne started an on-again-off-again relationship with her manager, Christian Berthold, and she got pregnant again. At this point, she did not want to give up another child and she felt as though she was in a more stable place. Christian on the other hand didn’t want to raise a child, so Marianne committed to raising Anna on her own.
Anna was born on November 14, 1972, after which Marianne decided to become sterilized – I’m not sure if that means hysterectomy or tubes tied, but either way she was done having babies.
Girl, I relate. As I like to lovingly say about my children, having kids can fuck up your life plan. The vibrant, life-of-the-party Marianne began to dote on her daughter. Of course, as a single mom, Marianne needed to continue to work to support Anna, so she would often bring this little bundle of joy to work with her.
By the time Anna was 7-years-old, people described her as being happy and free-spirited. Marianne did the best she could with what she had, but she struggled to provide safety and nurturing for Anna, and Anna spent a lot of time fending for herself. Patrons often remember Anna falling asleep at the bar while Marianne partied after her shift ended. Anna was well-known in the community. She would hang out in the cobblestone streets outside of the bar, talk with the patrons and pet their dogs, which I kind of love. Also, Anna and Marianne lived in an apartment above Tipasa, so Anna knew this neighborhood especially well.
On May 5, 1980, Anna and Marianne got into an argument. Anna, using the logic that all of us had when we’re 7, decided not to go to school to piss off her mom. She walked over to a friend’s house to play, but of course, her friend was at school. So Anna did her usual thing, hanging out on the cobblestone streets, talking to people, playing with their pets, and being a sweet, spunky little girl.
Marianne was out for the day, thinking Anna was at school. She drove a Volkswagen Van that was covered in paintings, and a reporter asked to do a public-interest piece on Marianne and her car. When she came home looking for Anna, there was no sign of her. By the time it got dark Marianne was incredibly worried – she called the police and reported Anna missing. Trying to stay calm, Marianne hoped that Anna was just hiding out at a friend’s house, still reeling from the argument they had had earlier, but none of Anna’s friends had seen her.
Klaus Grabowski was Marianne’s and Anna’s neighbor. He was a local butcher with a criminal record for child molestation, which is already not awesome. Anna knew Klaus in the same way she knew all of the other neighbors – she talked with him often and played with his cat. Whether by force or coercion, Klaus brought Anna to his home, in which he – trigger warning – kept her for hours and then strangled the child with pantyhose. It is unknown whether or not Anna was sexually assaulted before she was murdered. He put Anna’s body into a cardboard box and left it on the bank of a canal.
This guy must have not only been the worst person ever, but the worst criminal ever, because he was arrested the same day. Klaus had a fiancé, to whom he confessed that he had murdered Anna. To police, Klaus confessed to the murder but denied sexually assaulting Anna.
This asshole claimed that he had to strangle the 7-year-old, because she was trying to blackmail him. He said that she seduced him and then threatened to tell her mom that Klaus molested her if he didn’t pay her not to.
First of all, no 7-year-old is capable of seducing an adult. Period. Second of all, I saw a picture of this guy and I will post it – he has a punchable face.
I can’t imagine the heartbreak Marianne faced upon learning what happened to Anna. And of course, this trial was sensationalized, so she was hearing about it all over the news. And Klaus’s attorneys were trying to get him off with a lighter sentence, as attorneys are known to do, by claiming that Klaus hadn’t murdered a little girl because he is a horrible person.
You see, Emily, he had a hormonal imbalance because of his previous hormone therapy.
Here’s a twist that I didn’t see coming – apparently, in 1970s-1980s Germany, sex offenders were often castrated to keep them from reoffending. And Klaus Grabowski was VOLUNTARILY CASTRATED years before killing Anna. So, he had hormone therapy, and apparently those hormones turned him into a murderer, according to his lawyers.
For Klaus, the procedure happened in 1976, when he was in a psychological treatment facility due to sexually assaulting 2 other little girls. He was chemically castrated, meaning he was given estrogen injections to lower his testosterone. He may also have been given an anti-psychotic that was used to reduce sexual urges. Chemical castration is reversible, but there isn’t a ton of evidence that it works to reduce sexual urges – just keeps people from reproducing. And, it sounds like it had been going on as a sex-offender treatment for decades. But I’ve never heard of anyone else turning into a murderer because of it.
Anywho, when I said “voluntarily” castrated, I meant that Klaus was essentially told either do this procedure or stay in this institution indefinitely. After he was released, he was not required to do any sort of follow-up treatment. However, in 1978, Klaus went to a urologist and asked to have his chemical castration reversed. He was engaged now, and the pair wanted to start a family. The court system was all, “SEE, WE TOLD YOU IT WOULD WORK,” and approved the procedure.
So when Anna was murdered in 1980, Klaus was not still under the effects of the chemical castration. He was, however, taking hormones at home to help his boys start swimming again. He was supposed to undergo mental health treatments as well, but spoiler alert: He wasn’t. Also important: at the time of the murder, Klaus had the exact same amount of testosterone that he had before he was chemically castrated.
After Klaus confessed to the police, officers found her body in the cardboard box, right as he said it would be. This is graphic – her body was hog-tied, and she had been strangled. Police contacted Marianne to come to the morgue and identify Anna – and she refused. She fell silent, not speaking to police. They thought it was weird, I of course think it was a trauma response –and numbness or shutting out feelings is a pretty normal one. She felt guilty – they had fought, she didn’t know she wasn’t at school, all the what-ifs playing in her brain.
Marianne moved through her grief the only way one can – one day at a time. She threw a funeral for Anna, embracing her inner defiant teenager and blasting Pink Floyd throughout the church. Marianne tried to cope. People would report seeing her have public meltdowns. Her support system at the pub tried to be there for her, but there is truly no way to console someone who loses a child.
As we would expect in a murder trial, it went on for multiple days, and Marianne sat in the front row. She spoke out, at one point yelling “Say something you pig” at Klaus. By the third day of the trial, I’m guessing that Marianne was at her wits end. She had heard Klaus graphically describe her daughter’s last moments. Here is a terrible quote from him, that I believe was day 1 of the trial: “I heard something come out of her nose, I was fixated, then I could not stand the sight of her body any longer.”
In the middle of the courtroom, Marianne stood up, pulled out a .22-caliber pistol from her purse, and pulled the trigger 8 times. As I mentioned at the top of the story, Klaus Grabowski was hit with 6 of those bullets. He fell to the courtroom floor and died.
After shooting Klaus, many witnesses allege that Marianne incriminated herself. Judge Guenther Kroeger spoke with Marianne after she fired and stated that Marianne said “I wanted to kill him.” As well as, “He killed my daughter… I wanted to shoot him in the face but I shot him in the back… I hope he’s dead.” Two police officers also allege to hearing Marianne call Klaus a “pig” again after shooting him.
Of course, an already huge trial turns into another huge trial, as Marianne Bachmeier was then tried for murder. She stated that she was in a dream-like state when shooting Klaus, and she had been seeing visions of her daughter in the courtroom. I can definitely understand that, and, let’s remember she had a pistol in her purse, so I’m not sure we can prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was no precontemplation.
Also sus? A doctor who examined Marianne testified that when he asked her for a handwriting sample, she wrote “I did it for you, Anna,” along with 7 little hearts on the paper.
Marianne claimed that she shot Klaus because she heard that he wanted to make a statement. She did not want Klaus to drag Anna’s character after murdering her by claiming that she was trying to blackmail him. Marianne stated, “I thought, now comes the next lie about this victim who was my child.”
Marianne sold her story to a German Magazine, Stern, for about $158,000 to cover her legal fees, so the German public knew a lot about her, and they were divided on how to feel. Was she overwhelmed by grief after losing her daughter or was she a vigilante sociopath who was secretly a murderer herself.
Listen, she’s not fucking Batman.
I’ve said it before on this podcast and I stand by it – I can think of nothing more horrible than losing a child. And if someone murdered my child and I had the opportunity to take a shot at them, I can’t say what I’d do.
Ultimately, Marianne was convicted of premeditated manslaughter. In 1983, she was sentenced to 6 years in prison. She was released in June of 1985. She left Germany and moved to Nigeria. There, she got married, however she ended up divorced in the ‘90s and moved to Sicily. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, at which point she moved home to Germany.
Marianne Bachmeier died on September 17, 1996 and was buried next to Anna.
And that is the crazy-ass story of Germany’s Revenge Mother, Marianne Bachmeier. What does everyone think? Grieving mother or Cold-blooded killer?
Story 2 – John Dawson, Moroni Clawson, and Jean Baptiste
The story starts with a little history about the governor of Utah that had the actual shortest tenure possible – a whopping 3 weeks. That’s even shorter than William Henry Harrison!
This governors name was John W. Dawson and he had a…contentious relationship with the Mormons. Which, is not a great start when you live in Utah during the time of Brigham Young, aka the president of the Mormon church, aka the successor to Joseph Smith the FOUNDER of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You may have heard of him.
And P.S. Brigham Young was no joke. For years after his death in 1877 historians referred to him as the “American Moses.” He helped settle more than 350 communities in parts of Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming. He established a broad range of industries and businesses to develop local resources and benefit the area’s residents, including sugar, textiles, livestock, a bank, a branch railroad and America’s first department store, Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution.
Nonetheless, John Dawson decided that he was going to pick a fight with Mr. Young. He did probably think that he had a good chance at winning that fight. You see, Governor Dawson was actually not even from Utah. He was an Indianan and was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to be Utah Territory’s third governor.
So, with Honest Abe’s support, he arrived at Salt Lake City on Dec. 7, 1861 .He took the oath of office Dec. 10. Almost immediately upon arriving, the Gov. asked the Mormons for $40,000 in tax support for the Civil War. We know how much religious organizations like paying taxes. Also, Brigham Young thought that paying for the war would result in eventually being asked to participate in the war and he didn’t want to send any of his disciples to that fate.
He did a couple other political things that were shitty, but he really rocked the boat most when he started thinking with his dick. Apparently, he attended a Mormon event and while there he met a woman named Albina Williams. Albina was the widow of a member of the church who had been murdered recently. Apparently the Governor started pursuing the widow but she was not having it. She chased him out of her house with a fireplace shovel because he made a “lewd and vulgar proposal” – and that’s a quote.
THEN, he dug himself deeper into the hole by threatening to shoot the editor of the paper if he published anything about the fact that he was horny for Tom’s wife. And he offered to pay her $3000 not to tell.
On December 31, just three weeks after arriving in Salt Lake, he prepared to board a stagecoach. Unfortunately, the driver of said stagecoach had been related to the widow and had gathered a group of thugs to help him deliver a beat down. There were probably a half dozen men who beat Governor Dawson to a pulp.
So the police of course had to apprehend these men. You can’t deliver an epic beatdown to the Governor and not get in trouble. Most of the group was easily apprehended, but three dudes – Lot Huntington, Moroni Clawson and an unnamed third party, eluded law officers and headed out of town… rode into the sunset!
Of course, this is Utah in the 1800s… a literal POSSE caught up with them and Huntington was shot and killed by law officer O. Porter Rockwell. The other two were arrested but they again broke away and they were shot dead in the middle of the street on Jan. 17, 1862.
As I previously mentioned, the other man that we know of was named Moroni Clawson. Now, at first, no one showed up to claim his body. At this point a city policeman named Henry Heath decided that even though he was a criminal, he still deserved a proper burial. So Henry himself personally purchased some burial clothing for Moroni.
This generosity, ironically, led to an amazing sequel to this story.
Eventually, you see, Moroni Clawson’s family did hear about his untimely demise and came to claim his body. They had a family plot in Draper, Utah and wanted to exhume Moroni and take him home. So, they called up the exhumator dude and dug up the coffin. But when they opened it up they found that not only was Moroni Clawson buried face down, but he was straight up nude. Both of these things were seen as completely humiliating and Moroni’s brother was super upset!
So the brother called up Officer Heath to demand to know why his brother was buried like this, so disrespectfully. Of course, Officer Heath was like “I know FOR SURE this is not how he was buried because I personally purchased his burial clothes!” So together the two decided to look into this and figure out what the hell happened.
So they went to chit chat with a man named Jean Baptiste, the gravedigger.
Let’s put a pin in the story and talk about Mr. Baptiste.
The 1860 Census lists him as being born in 1813 in Ireland. However, people who knew him in Australia said he could not speak English very well and had come from Venice, Italy. Some of those who knew him in Salt Lake thought he was a Frenchman. What we know is that he was in Castlemaine, Australia until 1855, when he emigrated to the US on board the LDS Emigration ship the Tarquinia. The Tarquinia departed Melbourne on the 27th of April 1855 and arrived in Honolulu on July 5th, 1855. Baptiste made his way to San Francisco in February 1856 and stayed in California for a few years.
By 1859, Jean Baptiste was living in Salt Lake City, having built a small house near the city cemetery, and married a woman by the name of Dorothy Jennison. It’s also said that he was the choir leader for the ward. This poor woman was not married to him long before Henry Heath came knocking on their door.
When they arrived, they found that Jean was not home – only Dorothy was. So they asked her where he was? She said that her husband was at work, in the cemetery. While asking about her husband’s whereabouts Officer Heath scanned the room and that’s when he noticed it… boxes, stacked in the corner, with bits of soiled looking cloth sticking out of them. Upon examination, they realized that these boxes contained the clothing of the dead.
These boxes were full of clothes. We are not just talking about the clothes from Moroni, but clothes from multiple individuals… people of all ages and all genders.
Of course, this immediately leveled Officer Heath who had just buried his daughter Sarah – a 9 year old girl – nine months earlier. Scenes flashed before his eyes of what possibly could have been done to his little girl after she was buried.
Heath basically dropped everything and rushed to the cemetery where he found Baptiste digging a grave. He rolled in like a tornado, slinging accusations at Jean Baptiste, calling him a creep and a grave robber, and Jean essentially dropped immediately to his knees and begged for his life.
Heath started pointing to graves and asking Baptiste if he robbed this one or that and on all of them Baptiste answered yes. Eventually got to the grave of his beloved daughter Sarah and asked if Baptiste had opened this grave as well.
Heath held his breath and thought that the next word that Baptiste said would determine his fate. If he had robbed Sarah’s grave… Henry was planning to take out his pistol and shoot him on the spot.
But.. Jean answered no and so Officer Heath took him to the jail before the townspeople got wind of what was going on and got THEIR hands on him.
After Baptiste was taken to jail, the Salt Lake City police went back to his house and packed up all of the boxes they had seen. They were full of clothes, shoes, and other items taken from over 300 graves.
They weren’t sure what to do with all of these items, so they finally laid out all of the pieces on display at the Salt Lake City courthouse and people came through to view them and claim them if they could identify them as belonging to a deceased family member. What wasn’t picked up was later buried in a mass grave in the city cemetery.
The people were obviously in an uproar, demanding that Jean Baptiste be brought to justice. Mobs gathered at the jail, threatening to lynch the grave robber. Hundreds visited the city courthouse during his trial and prisoners were getting geared up with excitement that they were going to annihilate him when he got to prison.
Interestingly enough… not much is known at this point about what happened to Jean as far as court proceedings. Brigham Young did give a sermon about Jean Baptiste and said that he thought it would be “too easy of a punishment” to hang or shoot the man. He also thought prison was a boring option apparently and instead suggested that the best option was to exile Baptiste to a small island that sat in the Great Salt Lake.
And, of course, Mr. Young had some pull in the community so… that’s what happened. In the Spring of 1862, Jean Baptiste was taken by wagon to Antelope Island and then by boat to a smaller island called Fremont Island. They dropped him off and told him that someone would be back in three weeks to check on him.
Those “someones” were brothers from the Miller family. They used the island to graze cattle, so they went over to the island regularly to check their herd. They also had a shack on the island where they kept some supplies and food, so they had it when they were over there.
Three weeks after leaving Baptiste on the island the brothers told authorities they had been out to the island and while they did not directly interact with Baptiste, they saw him on the island and noted he had helped himself to most of the food they had in their shack on the island.
Six weeks after Baptiste’s banishment the brothers returned to the island to find that Jean Baptiste was nowhere to be found. On top of that, the shack had been partly dismantled and the carcass of a two-year-old heifer was laying nearby with part of its hide cut into strips. People thought that Jean must have used the leather from the heifer and the pieces of wood from the shack to make a raft and float over to the mainland.
Of course… in 1890, a group of hunters found a human skull near the mouth of the river that is at the south end of the Salt Lake, which is nowhere near Fremont Island. Then, a few years later, in 1893, a partial skeleton was found, missing its head, with a ball and chain around its leg. Immediately newspapers declared that John Baptiste had been found at last. This got some people talking. Was Jean really placed freely on the island to live in exile? Or was he shackled? Beheaded?
Henry Heath made it very clear that Baptiste was not shackled or chained in any way. He also stated that he heard from a good source that Baptiste had made his way to a mining camp in Montana and had been talking about his experience in Salt Lake City, and his escape from Fremont island. Sounds like a convenient and unprovable answer.
And those are the horrible and interesting stories of the Governor John Dawson, the perv. Moroni Clawson, the outlaw. And Jean Baptiste, the grave robber.