Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Waltraud Gruseck: The False Soprano

Mystery Solved—Almost

The mystery of what had happened to Mr. Hilss was solved partially, but not completely. The police forensic experts could not determine to what extent, if any, Waltraud might have been involved with Mr. Hilss' death. Did he die a natural death due to his heart problems? Did Waltraud watch him die without seeking medical attention that could have saved him? Or did Waltraud out-and-out murder him?

The only living witness was Waltraud herself, who obviously could not be trusted to tell the truth. She admitted that she had concealed the death of her husband only after investigators searched her house. But she claimed that he had died from natural causes.

Given the lack of conclusive evidence to establish the circumstances in which Mr. Hilss had died, prosecutors had no other choice but to accept a lesser charge than murder or even non-assistance of a person in danger.

Waltraud was tried and convicted of fraud and forgery and received a suspended sentence with probation of less than a year. Under German property and marriage laws, Waltraud also retained ownership of the house, which was also in her name. Set free from jail after the verdict, she returned to the house where she had burned and mutilated her husband's body and continued to live there.

When contacted by telephone to see if she would like to comment for this story, Waltraud simply replied "Nein," in a silky and seductive voice, and hung up.

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