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Ernestena Funk Sentenced, 1928


Posted By: Judy Moyna (email)
Date: 4/25/2011 at 00:09:52

In Response To: Ernestina Funk sentenced, 1928 (Sharyl Ferrall)

Mrs. Ben Funk Sentenced by Judge W. L. Eichendorf

The final chapter of the John Buchheim murder case was written here late Friday afternoon last week when Judge W. L. Eichendorf of McGregor, in a special session of the district court sentenced Mrs. Ben Funk, 32, self-confessed slayer, to serve twenty-five years in the women’s reformatory at Rockwell City.

This case has established several records for this county. In the first place Mrs. Funk is the first woman ever sent from this county to any of the penal institutions on the charge of murder. Secondly, this case was disposed of in less time than any case of a similar nature; just nine days elapsed from the time of the crime until sentence had been passed.

The case created a great deal of interest in this immediate vicinity because of the fact that it was the first murder case near Elkader in many years. When the body of Buchheim was first found it was supposed that he had fallen from his wagon on to a pitchfork. Buchheim had driven to his field after a load of straw. The only witness was Mrs. Albert Brietsprecher, who lives a quarter mile distant from the Buchheim field. This lady was weeding her strawberry patch, when she heard someone yell, “Whoa.” Looking up in the direction from which the yell came she saw the body of Buchheim lying on the ground and saw another person, apparently a man, running back and forth between the stack and the body. She supposed that Buchheim had been kicked by one of his team of mules and went into the house to inform Mr. Brietsprecher. When the two came out of the house just a moment later the second party near the stack had disappeared.

Further examination of the body a bit later revealed that Buchheim had been shot, the bullet entering the left forearm, passing through the left lung, through the heart and lodging in the right lung. There the bullet was discovered by Dr. W. J. McGrath of this place, in the presence of County Coroner, W. J. Beerman and Sheriff C. P. Larson. The bullet was a 32 calibre and from all indications had been shot from a revolver.

Authorities immediately began to trace several clews (sic) and at once dismissed two of them. Footprints, leading up a hollow, north from the field, were followed Thursday afternoon, April 26, the day of the murder and this gave another clew (sic) to work on. Friday afternoon the county officials were joined by H. M. Stoner, state agent, but no further evidence was uncovered, so far as they were willing to divulge. However, shortly after nine o’clock Friday evening, Ben Funk, a farmer of Read township, residing not very far from Clayton Center, came to Elkader and reported to the authorities that his wife, aged thirty-two, had fired the shot that killed Buchheim.

Rumor has it that the confession on the part of Mr. Funk was the result of fright.

The county authorities then went to the Funk home, where they took the statements of Mr. Funk, Harold Lieb, brother-in-law of Mrs. Funk and the defendant. However, at this time the latter did not confess her guilt. Her confession, it has been learned was made Saturday forenoon. In her confession, however, Mrs. Funk did not divulge the motive for the crime, other than that Buchheim had been attentive to her for two or three years. She did confess to firing the fatal shot, in which she bore out the statement of her husband and her brother-in-law.

Thursday morning, the day of the crime, Mrs. Funk left her home with a package under her arm, telling her husband, that if she did not get back in time to prepare his own dinner, preliminary arrangements for which she had made. But a short time after she returned dressed in men’s attire and carrying a revolver. Just as she returned Harold Lieb drove up to the Funk home with the news of Buchheim’s death and it was at this time that Mrs. Funk said that she had killed him. Mr. Funk took the revolver from her and hid it under a manger in the barn, where it was later found by authorities. It was evident from the action of the county authorities that they had Mr. Funk under suspicion for a time but when they were certain that he was not guilty of the crime his wife was arrested and brought to the county jail late Saturday afternoon.

D. D. Murphy and Son, local law firm, were engaged by the defendant as counsel, but no further action was taken in the case until Friday afternoon, when Judge Eichendorf came over from McGregor for a special session of the court. Mrs. Funk was prepared to plead guilty and waive preliminary hearing, but three witnesses were examined before the Court so that the latter might have a better understanding of the crime and pass sentence accordingly.

Dr. W. J. McGrath, who has been Mrs. Funk’s physician and who attended her Saturday after the crime was the first witness called to the stand. He testified to finding the bullet in the dead man’s body and that the course that the bullet traveled death must have been almost instantaneous. He further testified that Mrs. Funk admitted in his presence that she had fired the shot which killed Buchheim. Dr. McGrath was followed by Sheriff C. P. Larson, who identified the bullet and the revolver from which the shot was fired and offered some other testimony connected with the details of his office. The last witness was Ben Funk, husband of the defendant. His testimony was largely a repetition of facts already published in the daily press and now set forth in this article.

The climax to this case came about quietly Friday afternoon, when less than twenty persons, including attorneys and court officials, gathered at the court room here. To avoid undue publicity and to dispose of the case before curiosity-seekers could jam the court room this method of procedure had been decided upon. The necessary testimony to establish guilt and determine the degree of penalty took up less than an hour’s time and the defendant was back in jail before it was generally known that sentence had been passed.

Mrs. Funk was taken to Rockwell City Monday morning by Sheriff Larson and accompanied by her husband and Mrs. D. M. Delzell. Here she must remain at least five years before she can petition the board of parole or if she does not to this but does take advantage of good behavior credits she can complete her sentence in about fifteen years, according to officials.

The victim of this crime is survived by his widow, a son, Allison, and a daughter, Mrs. Elmer Seeland, all of Clayton Center and the slayer is the mother of an eleven year old daughter.

~The Clayton County Register, Elkader, Iowa, Thursday, May 10, 1928, p. 1 and p. 4.

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