Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Otto Sanhuber: The Man in the Attic Case

Woman Meets Boy

Dolly and Fred Oesterreich (AP/Wide World)
Dolly and Fred Oesterreich
(AP/Wide World)
In 1903, Walburga Dolly Oesterreich and Fred Oesterreich (pronounced Acestrike) had been married for 15 years. The couple resided in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Both were primarily of German descent, like many others in that city, and enjoyed good beer and hearty German foods. Both were blond and tended toward plumpness. By most accounts, they were only a few years apart in age, she 36 to his 40, but for all they had in common, possessed quite different temperaments. Fred was a skinflint with an iron will. He owned a factory in which about 60 women worked at manufacturing clothes, primarily aprons. He often went through the factory, demanding that each worker work faster and better. Dolly, as forelady, would frequently follow behind him to soothe the wounded egos of the criticized and anxious employees.

Apparently, the Oesterreichs had marital problems of a decidedly personal nature. Dolly appeared to crave sex quite a bit more frequently than Fred did. Thus, she began to seek to have her physical needs met in extramarital affairs. They didnt last very long until she met a man who would be special to her for decades.

One day Dolly was at the factory, observing the labor of the employees, when a sewing machine broke down. Notified of the problem, the Singer Sewing Machine Company sent a repairman to the Oesterreich factory. He was Otto Sanhuber, a blue-eyed, short and slightly built teenager. Even Sanhuber himself did not know exactly how old he was. He believed he was either 16 or 17 years old. He thought he was of German Jewish extraction and had been an orphan. His birth name was likely Weir but he was adopted into the Sanhuber family.

There are two quite different versions of how the relationship between the teenaged repairman and the middle-aged Dolly began. In one, the Oesterreichs only child, a teenager named Raymond, had recently died when Dolly first saw Otto.

She was immediately attracted to the soft, shy boy-man, at least in part because he reminded her of the dead son for whom she still deeply grieved. Maternal feelings may have mixed with her sexual desire for Otto, heightening both.

So not long afterward, she requested that the Singer Sewing Machine Company send Otto to her house to fix the sewing machine in her bedroom. It was a pleasant autumn day when Otto arrived at the Oesterrichs dark yellow frame house. Dolly Oesterreich opened the door, heavily perfumed and wearing a silk robe, stockings and slippers. She led the teenaged repairman to the bed where she watched, sitting on her bed, as he worked on the machine.

Whenever Otto looked up from his work, it seemed that Dolly. Oesterreichs bathrobe had come open a bit more and he could see that she was wearing nothing beneath her robe. This aroused mixed feelings in Otto. He had never been a hit with girls and was a virgin at the time. The sight of so much exposed female flesh embarrassed him even as it aroused him.

At a certain point, Dolly Oesterreich was lying back, with much flesh showing and a broad, seductive smile on her long-nosed, pretty face. Otto understood. He left his work to take the older woman in his arms and the two of them enjoyed an afternoon of passion.

Another version of this story gives a far more gradual build-up to the affair. In that version, Otto went to the Oesterreich home to fix Dollys broken sewing machine but she did not seduce him at that time. Instead, he met and made friends with a very much alive young Raymond. He started visiting their home, and Raymond, regularly.

Then Raymond suddenly took ill and died. Dolly plunged into a terrible grief. Otto came around often to comfort her in her mourning. The two grew closer until romantic and sexual passion blazed.

For the next three years, factory forelady and repairman carried on their secret love affair. Sometimes Dolly met Otto at his boarding room and on other occasions they frequented a hotel. Usually, Otto visited Dolly when she stayed home from the factory, pretending to be ill, or her husband was out for the night at a lodge meeting. Despite their affluence, the Oesterreichs had no servants and that made it easier for the clandestine lovers.

Dolly Oesterreich and Otto Sanhuber made a lively pair. Otto claimed that the two once made love no less than eight times in a single, ecstasy-filled day.

However, things could not go on as they were indefinitely. A neighbor began noticing the frequency of young Ottos comings and goings and mentioned them to Fred Oesterreich. A suspicious Fred confronted Dolly. As Alan Hynd wrote in The Attic Lover, she calmly replied that a book salesman had been pestering her but that she had put a stop to the fellows visits. The apron manufacturer seemed to be satisfied.



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