a spring day in 1933 the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department – then located in
the old jail – got a call from someone who said a farmer named Dick Stoever needed
to talk to a deputy. Deputy Jim Flournoy drove out to see him.
said he hadn’t heard from his older brother for a while and was worried about
him. Handing Flournoy a crudely written and poorly spelled letter supposedly from
his brother to his daughter, Stoever said it didn’t read like something his brother
The brother told Flournoy that 58-year-old Henry Stoever had been
living with Mrs. Anton Dach, 36, a recently widowed mother of three. She had hired
him to help her run her farm. Now, the brother continued, Mrs. Dach had a new
worker staying with her.
Flournoy drove to Mrs. Dach’s farm. Alerted by
her dogs, she stood at the barn gate about 60 yards from her house as the deputy
The deputy described her as having “a Slavic rather than Teutonic
cast of countenance, brown eyes and black hair braided and wound round her head,
which was close-cropped to her huge frame.” She weighed at least 200 pounds.
The widow said Stoever had left her employment on Feb. 24 for a better-paying
job in Amarillo. She said Stoever
had shown back up at her farm in early April, telling her the man he had gone
to Amarillo with had beaten
and robbed him of all the money he had earned. He asked for his old job back but
she told him she had already hired someone else. When he left again, she said,
he had threatened to “end it all.”
left the Dach farm and went to Schulenberg,
where he talked to as many people as he could hoping to learn more about Mrs.
Dach and Stoever. He didn’t net much information, but no one in town recognized
the name of the man he had supposedly gone to Amarillo
When Flournoy told Sheriff Will Loessin the story, he agreed that
it didn’t ring true. The following day, Dick Stoever came to the jail with another
letter ostensibly written by his brother. In this letter, dated in January, he
said he thought he had cancer and might die unless he could find a good doctor.
As soon as they could, Flournoy and the sheriff visited Mrs. Dach a second time.
This time, the sheriff interviewed her in German while Flournoy took a look around
One of the things Flournoy noted was the strange location of
a freshly constructed chicken house. While sitting on a high piece of ground,
it appeared to have been elevated with the addition of fresh mounded dirt.
Dach, meanwhile, stuck to her story, but it seemed too far-fetched to the two
Early the following week, the two lawmen, accompanied by someone
hired to do some digging, returned to the Dach farm. In excavating the soft dirt
beneath the chicken house, evidence of murder most foul came to roost: Henry Stoever,
badly burned and with a skull full of buck shot.
Mrs. Dach at first said
she had buried a calf that had died, but finally admitted it was Stoever. Even
so, she insisted that he had taken his own life, worried about money and his health.
The sheriff arrested Mrs. Dach. The next day, following a four-hour interrogation,
the widow confessed to having used the shotgun she kept over the mantle to kill
Stoever as he slept. She then hauled his mattress-wrapped body to a pit she had
earlier had Stoever dig, telling him it was for a flower bed.
Indicted for murder with malice, Mrs. Dach went on trial in La
Grange in May. She said she decided to kill Stoever because he had – in the
more delicate parlance of the day – “criminally assaulted” her the previous December.
But in prosecuting the case, the DA maintained any relations the couple had were
voluntary. While Stoever apparently did abuse her and her children, the state
produced convincing evidence that Mrs. Dach had altered $600 worth of promissory
notes Stoever held to make herself the benefactor.
A 12-man jury found
her guilty on May 25, 1933 and assessed her punishment as death.
before then, Mrs. Stover had virtually stopped eating. She had begun her fast
immediately following her confession, going 13 days without food. When she did
resume eating, she ate only lightly.
By the time of her trial, she had
lost 50 pounds. But she wasn’t starving herself out of vanity or for the health
benefits. What she had in mind, clearly, was just the opposite. Whether the sheriff
or Flournoy picked up on what she was doing, their prisoner was slowly committing
On the other hand, maybe they did realize it. Assuming her conviction
would not have been reversed, she would have been the first woman to die in the
electric chair at Huntsville.
Whatever they understood about it, the two lawmen made no effort to force-feed
their prisoner and she continued to waste away.
Three months after her
conviction, Mrs. Dach died of starvation in the old jail on Aug. 24, 1933. By
then, she had lost more than 100 pounds.
Cox - October 31, 2012 column
Small Town Sagas
| Texas Jails |
Columns | Texas
Town List | Texas |