His colorful name—Mandeville Zenge—was memorable, but the lurid horror of his 1935 crime eclipsed all other details in the newspaper articles that eagerly chronicled it. He was the jilted corner of a love triangle, and he exacted revenge on his rival’s manhood ... using a pen-knife.
The victim, Dr. Walter Bauer, wasn’t found until hours later, and he eventually died of his injuries. But the Kirksville College of Osteopathic medicine professor lived long enough to let police know he had a pretty good idea of who’d kidnapped him from his Ann Arbor hotel room, forced him to drive to Chicago, and castrated him ... in a cemetery. (Told you it was lurid.) The assailant left the bleeding man to die in a carpark.
Though he’d never met his attacker, the 38-year-old Bauer was able to tell investigators from his deathbed that his brand-new wife, a 23-year-old nurse named Louise, had broken off an engagement with a ragingly jealous fellow just days before she’d married Walter. That fellow, of course, was Zenge.
Zenge, who was 26, tried to throw the cops off his trail by leaving a suicide note at the crime scene, but it didn’t work, and he was soon arrested. “We are convinced that jealousy was the motive and that the murder was committed by a former suitor of Mr. Bauer’s wife,” the Ann Arbor prosecutor announced. Zenge, it was revealed, had been engaged to Louise for seven years.
At the inquest, conducted before Zenge was captured, Louise answered several pointed questions about her “childhood sweetheart” on the stand, according to the Lawrence Daily Journal-World. Among the revelations were that she’d known Dr. Bauer for five months but had been married to him just three hours before he went missing. She also married the doctor just three days before Zenge was expecting to marry her. (This frustratingly tantalizing bit of info is left dangling: “The nurse was not asked about letters in which Bauer allegedly told one friend ‘my marriage is a hoax.’”)
After Zenge’s arrest, his first hearing attracted a courtroom full of female spectators—and later, a (sorta; there was a cop in the room) private encounter with the newly widowed Louise, who appeared dramatically dressed all in white:
Tonelessly, he murmured, “Hello Louise.” She halted ... she did not speak for several minutes.
Though the meeting, designed to help nudge Zenge toward a confession, yielded nothing other than small talk, the case against him continued apace. “We don’t need his confession,” the state’s attorney said, pointing out that there was plenty of evidence, including eyewitnesses who placed Zenge at the Ann Arbor hotel just before the crime, to convict the killer.
Though Zenge mounted an insanity defense, it didn’t save him from being convicted, and he was found guilty of murder. (Newspaper reports remarked on the composure he maintained throughout his trial; he was said to have eaten “three beef sandwiches” while awaiting the verdict.)
He was, however, spared the electric chair in favor of life in prison. Louise was not present when the verdict was read. No record exists to suggest whether or not they ever made contact again.
Top image: Mandeville Zenge listens to his ex-girlfriend, Mrs. Louise Shaffer Bauer, testify for the state in the trial charging Zenge with the murder of her husband, Dr. Walter Bauer, in Chicago, Ill., Oct. 15, 1935. (AP Photo)