Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Arsenic Anna :The True Story of Anna Marie Hahn

A Mysterious Death

On August 1, 1937, doctors at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, Colorado contacted local authorities regarding the sudden and mysterious death of a patient.  The victim, 67-year-old George Obendorfer, had fallen unexplainably ill just days earlier.  Doctors were unable to determine what had made him sick, and their best efforts had not been enough to save him.  After interviewing staff members at the hospital, investigators discovered Obendorfer had been visiting the area, and his primary residence was in Cincinnati, Ohio.   Apparently, the elderly man, along with two unknown companions, checked into the Park Hotel on July 30, 1937.  Colorado authorities found the circumstances intriguing because the owner of the hotel had just filed a report regarding $300 worth of stolen diamonds.  Investigators now wanted to determine whether the two incidents were related.

Shortly after arriving at the Park Hotel, investigators learned that Obendorfer had registered there with a woman named Anna Marie Hahn and her young son, Oskar.  According to the hotel owner, Mrs. Hahn had informed him she lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was in Colorado on vacation.  A quick check of the room revealed no clues and Mrs. Hahn and her son were nowhere to be found.  In an attempt to determine whether the jewels and Mr. Obendorfers premature death were related, investigators began visiting local pawnshops with the hope that the thief might have tried to sell the diamonds.  It was not long before their efforts paid off.  One local shop owner informed them that a woman, who was accompanied by a young boy, had tried to pawn similar jewels but the owner had decided not to purchase them.  His description of the woman matched the hotel owners description of Anna Hahn.

As Colorado authorities broadened their search for Hahn, they learned that a woman fitting her description had tried to withdraw $1,000 from a Denver bank, using a Cincinnati bankbook in the name of George Obendorfer.  Even though the woman claimed to be Mrs. George Obendorfer, the bank manager, sensing something was not right, refused to make the transaction.  Detectives were convinced the woman in question was Anna Hahn.

According to The Cincinnati Crime Book by George Stimson, investigators wasted little time securing an arrest warrant for Hahn for suspicion of grand larceny in the theft of the hotel jewelry.  Suspecting she had fled the area and returned to Ohio, investigators contacted Cincinnati authorities for assistance.  It was soon learned Hahn had returned home and Cincinnati investigators promptly picked her up.  When asked by Colorado investigators what she knew about George Obendorfers death, Anna responded, The man is a perfect stranger to me.  However, when reminded she had signed the hotel registry book for Obendorfer, herself and her son, Anna changed her tune.  I met him (George) on the train from Denver, she said.  He was Swiss.  I felt sorry for him, and was only trying to help him.  Both teams of investigators knew Obendorfer was from Cincinnati, and doubted Annas story. 

Anna Hahn in custody
Anna Hahn in custody (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
Luckily for investigators, several of Georges relatives lived in the area and were able to shed some light on the situation.  Through interviews with his family, investigators learned George had immigrated to Ohio from Russia years earlier.  A retired shoemaker and father of three, George had recently separated from his wife.  Family members were also shocked by his sudden death, stating he had been in excellent health.  Nonetheless, more telling was one family members revelation that Anna had in fact known George and the two had been dating.  The trip was, according to the relative, Annas idea - and George had gone along under the premise they were going to visit a ranch she owned in Colorado Springs.

George Obendorfer's home
George Obendorfer's home (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
Confronted with this new evidence, Anna admitted to detectives that she knew George Obendorfer.  She claimed to have met him weeks before in a local shoe shop, but denied the two had been involved in a recent relationship.  Instead, she reverted back to her original story.  Anna claimed it was by chance she had met George on the train and they were coincidently going on vacation to the same place.  According to Anna, she and George got along well during the trip and ultimately decided to share a room once they got to their mutual destination in Colorado Springs.  However, shortly after arriving and registering at the hotel, George became ill and went to the hospital.  Anna claimed to have had no further contact with him after that.

Investigators continued to doubt Annas claims and decided to look further into her background for answers.

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