Murderer Sentenced to Hang Walks Away a Free Man

Frank L. Dinsmore mug shot

Frank L. Dinsmore mug shot

Frank L. Dinsmore spent only 19 years in the Nebraska State Penitentiary after being found guilty for the murder of his wife and his roommate.

Apart from murder, this case includes adultery, claims of hypnotic powers, a failed attempt on Dinsmore’s own life, a commuted death sentence and then the whole case being pardoned by the Governor and Dinsmore walking away a free man once again.

Dinsmore worked for the Omaha Elevator company, a job that required frequent travel, therefore he didn’t own his own home.  He and his wife, Lillian, boarded with the Laue family in Odessa, Nebraska.

On the night of December 4, 1899 Frank Dinsmore made a frantically got in touch with the local doctor requesting him to come right away to his home.  Dinsmore claimed that he was awoken by the sound of a gunshot and found his wife and Mr. Laue dead.  He then ran next door to B.F. Tussing’s home to wait for police to arrive.

Mrs. Dinsmore’s body was found on the kitchen floor.  In the Laue’s bedroom, Fred Laue’s body was found in his bed with a gun under his hand.  Mrs. Laue supported Dinsmore’s story saying that her husband had awoken her to say a final goodbye and then shot himself in the head.

The police became curious when they concluded that Mr. Laue and Mrs. Dinsmore had already been deceased for two or three hours and Mrs. Dinsmore had no visible signs of injury.  An autopsy found that she had chemical burns on her mouth and tongue from being poisoned by an acidic substance.  With this evidence police arrested Dinsmore and talk around town was that Mrs. Laue may be taken into custody next.

Mrs. Laue became nervous and confessed that Dinsmore was responsible for everything.  Her story was that Dinsmore became unhappy in his marriage and obsessed over her.  She claimed that she could not resist the ‘hypnotic power’ that Dinsmore had over her and they began having a sexual affair.  He threatened her and used his ‘powers’ to make her agree to a plan of killing Mrs. Dinsmore and her own husband so that they could run away and be together.  She said that Mr. Dinsmore came downstairs from his bedroom and told her he had killed his wife and that it was time to finish the job by killing Mr. Laue.  After the two were dead Dinsmore arranged the bodies to make it look like a murder/suicide.

When word got out of Mrs. Laue’s story there were locals who wanted to avenge the crime and take Dinsmore’s life.  One of those people was B.F. Tussing, Dinsmore’s former neighbor.  Tussing got drunk one night and decided to walk to the jail with his pistol.  Tussing was stopped by the sheriff and placed in a jail cell near Dinsmore’s.  He later pled guilty to disorderly conduct and paid $15.30 in court costs.

During the trail new evidence was brought forward including business cards with Dinsmore’s name with the title of ‘Professional Hypnotist’, which made Mrs. Laue’s story a little more believable.  In Dinsmore’s old office desk at work a receipt was found for prussic acid, which could have very well been what killed his wife.

The doctor whom was called by Mr. Dinsmore that night testified that with the position of the gunshot wound and the way Mr. Laue was found laying that it was not possible that he had shot himself.  Mrs. Laue and her daughter, Gracie, both testified that Mr. Laue did not own a gun of any kind.

The jury found Dinsmore guilty of first degree murder and Dinsmore’s court appointed attorneys immediately filed a motion for a new trail.  The judge overruled the motion and sentence Dinsmore to be hanged on July 20, 1900, which fittingly would have been he and his wife’s first anniversary.  The day before he was to be hanged his lawyers filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

In March of 1901 the Supreme Court agreed with the district court’s decision and Dinsmore was once again sentenced to death.  His lawyers still didn’t give up and asked for executive clemency and presented Governor Dietrich with letters from people who were against the death penalty.  One of these letters were written by the original district court judge that sentenced Dinsmore to death in the first place.  Due to all the circumstantial evidence in the case the Governor commuted the death sentence to life in prison.

Dinsmore taught classes in prison and was put in charge of the prison hospital and pharmacy by the warden.  It was rumored that he even saved the life of that warden when he was injured in a prison riot, which earned him the nickname ‘Doc’.  A prison worker confessed to selling drugs to Dinsmore who then sold to inmates at a profit.  Apparently these claims were not believed because Dinsmore remained in good standing with the warden.  Or maybe the warden really did owe his life to Dinsmore so he just looked the other way.

In 1919 Dinsmore got lucky again when another act of executive clemency was awarded to him by Governor McKelvey and he was able to walk away a free man at the age of 53.  After prison Dinsmore boarded with another couple while he worked at a paper factory.

Mrs. Laue and her three children moved to Chicago where they were unknown to live out the rest of their lives quietly.

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