(by Student #8 AMH 2010 1115)
Having been absent of the day that we were assigned criminals for our casefile, I logged on to melissalaughing.com to scroll through the casefiles available. I wanted to do a woman criminal because I wanted to see what women were being arrested for. I saw a lot of petty theft but didn’t think I would get very far or be very interested in those. That’s when I came over a woman’s case that caught my eye immediately. I read “Erna Mazie Jernoschek- 1st Degree Murder”. From the profile picture depicted on her arrest, she appeared as a normal girl. Looked probably early 20’s to me, with brown eyes and short brown hair cropped right below her ears. I assumed she possibly killed a man, or an ex-boyfriend, who abused her. I knew this case would be an interesting one, so I immediately went to ancestry.com to see who she murdered and why. I came across arrest records, which stated that Erna was a 17 year old high school senior who was arrested for strangling a year old baby. This made me shocked but definitely intrigued me, especially because it was an innocent victim, and not at all who I thought would be murdered.
I expected that maybe she had a history of violence or was deemed insane to commit a murder like this. Wanting to know more about her, I continued my research on ancestry.com. She was born on April 2, 1911 in Los Angeles, California. Her mother’s name was Marie Worthy and was born in England. Her father was born in Germany, but it didn’t have much information on him in ancestry. There were a lot of jail clippings attached to her name when looked up, and it stated the different facilities she was imprisoned in. In 1940 she was in California Institution for Women in Kern, California at the age of 29. It stated that she also was serving a sentence of 10- life. There was another clipping on ancestry.com that a year before she was in California’s Institution for Women, she resided in Tehachapi State Prison for Women.
That’s all ancestry.com really offered me at the time before I gathered more information. I decided to go to newspapers.com and look up her name seeing what else I could find- and boy, did I discover a lot about her committed murder. I searched her name and articles came up from newspapers The San Francisco Examiner and Santa Cruz News. One clipping explained that she was sentenced to life in prison as a senior in highschool, killing a year old baby belonging to the parents of Dr. And Mrs. Liliencrantz in 1928. Erna Janoschek confessed to killing the baby because “it was crying”. The baby’s name was Diana Liliencrantz.
The next newspaper clipping stated that she had made a bid for freedom only after she was imprisoned for eleven years on September 18,1939. There was only a small section in the article saying this, and her bid was denied by the judge.
Going in to further detail about the baby’s death, a clipping underneath that explained that Janoschek strangled the baby with a towel and placed her body between two mattresses, making sure to sit on them to make absolutely sure the baby was dead. This article said she excused the baby’s death because her crying annoyed her and that the mother was not appreciative of the work she did around the house. This also concluded to me that Erna Janoschek was either a babysitter or house keeper for the Liliencrantz.
I saw two articles however that contradicted each other. One stated that when she was first convicted for first degree murder, she was sentenced to San Quentin and then transferred over to Mendocino State Hospital where she was declared insane, then transferred to Tehachapi. The other one stated though that she was under psychiatric supervision while awaiting trial and the jury had deemed her “sane”. Maybe she was deemed sane when her crime was committed but then went insane in prison?
Another article by The San Fransisco Examiner explained that Janoschek was known by prison guards as “the prison bad girl”. This was because of all the fights she would get in with the other inmates and trouble she would start with the guards. They also referred to her as “that girl Hickman”. They said that “she ate and slept well and was not bothered by her crimes”. When she was denied parole in 1938, she was allowed to appeal it and apply for it again two years later. She applied and was granted it after twelve years of serving her life sentence.
At this point, I just really wanted to know more about her relationship with the Liliencrantz family and what kind of relationship specifically with the mother, since that’s who she wanted to get revenge for. I found another clipping from The Examiner which went in to more depth. Beofre the murder happened to baby Diana, the parents had gone away to San Francisco because the father was a doctor intern after graduating medical school. Erna was hired by the parents to basically be a house keeper and babysitter for the children. Before leaving however, Erna and Mrs. Liliencrantz got in to an argument, where Mrs. Liliencrantz scolded Erna on breaking dishes that were being washed and that she didn’t like how she handled playing with her children. This led Erna to feel under appreciated. She was already planning on quitting being the Liliencrantz house keeper in two weeks and was already mad about how much work she was required to do around the house. After breaking the dishes accidentally and being scolded for it, she went and played tea party with the other child, Francora. This child was her favorite. By the end of the night after the parents had left, Erna explained that she had an overwhelming feeling come over her and baby Thias was crying in her crib. Being mad at Mrs. Lilencrantz, she stormed in to the baby’s room and snatched her up, tying a towel around her neck. She went in to detail saying the baby cried for a second and then went silent and plain faced. Erna continued to tighten the towel for another minute and then put the body between mattresses to further suffocate her. After this happened, she left the body there and went and called the police saying “the house keeper killed the baby”. She explained that she went to the police because she knew she would never get away with it, seeing as she didn’t have any money to escape and nowhere to go in the first place. She also explained, “I’d rather deal with the police than Mrs. Lilencrantz.” There were poems and drawings found in her room by investigators that contained evidence that she had an impulse to kill. Erna admitted that with other kids she was babysat, she was also tempted and often thought about killing them as well.
Going on to the next article by the Oakland Tribune, this answered a few questions about the father who was missing. When Erna was convicted of murder, he had left the family eight years prior. He was described as a “religious eccentric who roamed Utah”. This made me question if he was in a cult or not? He had little regard towards his family. His name was Edward Janoschek. After Erna was convicted, he didn’t try and help her at all. Instead he went and bought a type writer with two $20 traveler checks so he couldn’t be traced. Erna’s law firm tried to locate him but couldn’t because of this. After buying the typewriter he told the clerk to “send it to prison. I’m her father.” He then disappeared and couldn’t be found or heard from since. That being said, Erna questioned if her father just cared more about how well she could write than her liberty and freedom itself.
Wanting to see if I could find anything else on Erna Janoschek, I curiously decided to just Google her name and see what popped up. Surprisingly, a blog did under unknownmisandry.blogspot.com. It had all the facts that I had found but also contained an article I had missed by the Santa Cruz News. It stated that when Erna was on trial when she plead innocent due to insanity, Superior Judge Fred V. explained to the news that, “Even though a jury found her sane... her composure while on the witness stand.. Showed she was abnormal.” Erna was laughing and smiling at Dr. And Mrs. Liliencrantz when they were testifying in court and would also smile while ‘pleasantly’ describing every detail of the murder. While she was under psychiatric evaluation before being transferred to prison, guards said that she had a weird habit of washing her face upwards a hundred times a day. I looked to see if there were any comments on this, and a woman had commented saying that she ended up getting parole. Curious, I clicked on her blog, and it was another blog about Erna Mazie Janoschek that contained every detail I had discovered and more information about after when Erna was paroled. Her blog is called criminalgenealogy.blogspot.com.
When Erna Janoschek was granted parole on December 17, 1940, she went and changed her name. This explained why I never found a death certificate or any other information regarding her other than her crime and time in prison. There was an article under “Children Lead in U.S. Crimes” that stated that the author had received a letter from Erna following up. She changed her name when she was released and she began to start her life over and make a living by studying music avocation. Her new name was never released as part of continuing her discretion after parole.
This blog also contained evidence of a newspaper clipping of other weird things about Erna and her family. After strangling the baby with a towel, she put a bathing cap over the baby’s face and then stuffed her between two mattresses. Not only that, but Erna also wrote a death poem and tried to take it with her to jail. Another thing uncovered in this blog was that on Erna’s father’s side of the family, she had an uncle who committed suicide and had a cousin who was put in an asylum and was deemed insane. However, there weren’t any newspaper clippings or evidence backing this up. This made me go back to ancestry.com and try and find out more about the father’s side of the family.
Discovering her father’s name from an article on newspapers.com, I put it in to ancestry and found the marriage certificate of Maria Worthy and Edward Janoschek in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 2, 1904. I found that he died in Kingston, New York at the age of 81 on March 10, 1947. While he was married, they lived in Salt Lake City until 1908 when they moved to San Francisco
, California. While in Utah, I only got vague job titles that he held. He was a manager, a peddle, worked in groceries, a canvasser, and an agent. He and Maria Janoschek had Erna’s older sister, Grace Worthy Janoschek on December 27, 1905. He moved away from San Francisco though without his family and moved to San Diego, his occupation saying “Fur” in 1923. He was divorced by the 1930 census. Looking up newspaper clippings on ancestry.com, I found out that Edward Janoschek died from a short illness. However, I wasn’t able to find the information of an insane cousin or a suicidal uncle. I didn’t find anything on him, but I did find a new article from August 19, 1928 by Star Tribbune Minnesota regarding Erna Janoschek and her mother. It said that her mom always knew Erna had a moodiness to her and that scientists had actually declared Erna as schizophrenic which could eventually develop in to dementia praecox. Her lawyer wanted her to be emitted in to an asylum for the insane because of this, but the defense attorney had demanded that she be tried for the murder charge and let the jury decide if she really was insane or not. The judge agreed with this and this led to the jury convicting Erna as sane and guilty. In a last attempt to find any other information, I came across an interesting article by The Oakland Tribune where Erna explained more about herself. She said that she loved the baby that she killed, but hated the mother even more so that’s why it didn’t bother her. Also, she was explaining that she was never boy crazy and that she’d “be queer to my friends, suddenly, as though I liked them.” While she was under observation scientists said that she was very intelligent and loved to read and write. She also had a love for music.
The information I found was extremely interesting. I think that Erna Janoschek was mentally ill and had something wrong with her. Scientists even deemed it before her trial, so it makes me question if it was fair to conclude that she was sane. Having the impulse to kill also makes me think that she had some form of sociopathy rather than schizophrenia because she said she didn’t feel any remorse. However, if someone is a sociopath then they don’t feel love either. I know that a lot of serial killers had thoughts at a young age of an impulse to kill and never acted on it until about early adulthood. Although I didn’t find any evidence of an insane cousin or suicidal uncle, I wouldn’t be surprised if she did have a history of mental illness in her family, seeing as people found her father strange and “eccentric”. When the San Fransisco Examiner explained that he was a religious eccentric, it made me question if he also had some form of schizophrenia or maybe was a part of a cult? I wish there was more elaboration on this with further explanation. Her changing her name also makes it difficult to know if she even got treatment or did ever develop dementia from her so-called diagnosed schizophrenia. The article also by The Santa Cruz News stating that she “washed her face upwards up to ten times a day” also suggests to me that she had something mentally wrong with her.
With this casefile I learned a lot about Erna Janoschek and her family. It seemed that she had some form of daddy issues since he left them while she was growing up and he also had some form of “strangeness” to him. Her sister was also clearly the golden child as she received scholarships to the University of California and always received good grades and recognition for them. I feel like this is a contributing factor to her mental illnesses, growing up with a form of abandonment and sense of misunderstanding by others. Her often thinking of killing and committing acts of violence could derive from this. However, she was an incredibly smart girl, but also had some strange habits, like washing her face upwards 100 times a day, so that could also conclude that she suffered from maybe a slight autism. Her mother scolded her for being introverted and wanting to be alone. Her mom also expressed she would get fits of anger and would fume, which is also a sign of autism or Asperger's. I do question though whether Erna was actually insane. I believe she was aware of her actions of committing murder, but also that she was mentally ill. That is a tough call to make as the jurors on the case did. I was surprised that she was released after 12 years of serving her life sentence when guards had claimed that she was violent and starting fights in prison. I think when she was first imprisoned, she was violent, but after accepting the consequence of her actions, she straightened up and was released when she was for good behavior, especially after denied parole after ten years of serving. Changing her name after released was the only way she was going to get a clean slate since everyone referred to her as the “17 year old child slayer”. She remained in newspapers for years after her crime, so a name change was the only way she was going to be able to escape it. I hope whoever she ended up to be worked out for her, despite the extremity of her crime. I can’t help but to feel a sense of closeness with her after researching so in depth about her life. After learning so much about Erna Mazie Janoschek, I hope she lived the rest of her life free and unflattered by the ideas of crime.