Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Arsenic Anna :The True Story of Anna Marie Hahn

Presenting Evidence

During a search of Annas home, investigators found a promissory note for $2,000.   Money she had apparently borrowed from someone named Albert Palmer.   During a follow up investigation on the note, investigators learned that Albert Palmer was a 72-year-old resident of 2416 Central Parkway.   However, upon paying a visit to Palmers home, they were informed by relatives he had died on March 27, 1936, after having been ill for an extended period of time.   It was also revealed that Anna Hahn had been caring for the man before his death.   In addition, relatives also informed investigators that at least $4,000 was missing from Palmers estate. 

Ohio authorities were getting more than they had bargained for and their suspicions turned to allegations when the results of Jacob Wagners autopsy came back.   While they found no trace of croton oil in his system, they did discover large quantities of arsenic, an all too common poison used by murderers then and now. 

Investigators decided to question Annas son, Oskar, in hopes that he might be able to provide them with some answers.   While the young boy knew nothing of his mothers patients, he did tell them that, contrary to his mothers statements they had met George Obendorfer by chance at the train station; she had in fact purchased his ticket at Union Terminal in Cincinnati.   Oskar also informed them that his mother had served Obendorfer several drinks on the train and that the man began feeling ill prior to their arrival in Colorado. 

Deciding to move on Anna before her extradition to Colorado, Ohio authorities arrested her on August 10, 1937 and charged her with the murder of Jacob Wagner.   Hamilton County Prosecutors Dudley Outcalt, Loyal Martin and Simon Leis were given the duty of presenting the states case.   For her defense, Anna was granted two attorneys, Joseph H. Hoodin and Hiram Bosinger, Sr. 

Hamilton County Courthouse
Hamilton County Courthouse (Author)
Anna Hahns trial began on October 11, 1937.   Common Pleas Court Judge Charles S. Bell presided and a jury, consisting of 11 women and one man, were selected to hear the case. From the start the prosecutors insisted that Anna had killed Jacob Wagner out of greed, pointing out that his money and estate was motive for the murder.   A barrage of witnesses were then called forth, starting with hospital employees, who recounted Wagners last agonizing days.   According to The Cincinnati Inquirer, a chemist testified that the victim had enough arsenic in him to Kill four men.   A handwriting expert was then called forward and told the court that Wagners will was a forgery and the handwriting was identical to Anna Hahns.   In an unusual move, Judge Bell allowed the state to introduce evidence relating to the other poisoning cases, in order to show a pattern of homicidal behavior.  George Heis, presumably the only surviving victim, was also called forward to discuss his encounters with Hahn and his subsequent illness.   As the states case wound down, they presented the court with several exhibits, which oddly enough, included Jacob Wagner and Albert Palmers internal organs.   The prosecution rested its case on October 29, 1937.

On Monday, November 1, 1937, the defense began its presentation.   With little evidence of their own to refute the states claims, the defense was left only with the defendant.   Once on the stand Anna denied any wrongdoing and during cross-examination could not be slipped up.   This however amounted to little in comparison to the states mountain of evidence and witnesses.   With little else to do, the defense decided to hold their cards for closing arguments and rested their case on November 4, 1937.

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