Former Webster County Citizen publisher Gary Sosniecki will present a program, “Uncovering A Deadly Family Secret,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, at the historic Owen Theatre in downtown Seymour.
Admission is free.
Sosniecki, who owned the Citizen with wife Helen from 1988 to 1999, is the author of “The Potato Masher Murder: Death at the Hands of a Jealous Husband,” a new true-crime book published by The Kent State University Press.
The victim of the horrific 1906 murder was Sosniecki’s great-grandmother, Cecilia Ludwig.
Cecilia’s second husband, Albin Ludwig, had caught his wife with other men several times. After secretly following Cecilia one evening in 1906, Albin was overcome with suspicion.
Albin and Cecilia quarreled that night and again the next day.
Prosecutors later claimed that the final quarrel ended when Albin knocked Cecilia unconscious with a wooden potato masher, doused her with a flammable liquid, lit her on fire and left her to burn to death.
Albin claimed self-defense, but he was convicted of second-degree murder.
Newspaper coverage of the dramatic crime and trial was jarringly explicit and detailed, shocking readers in Indiana, where the crime occurred. Peter Young of the South Bend Times wrote that the murder’s “horrors and its shocking features ... have never before been witnessed in Mishawaka.”
The story was front-page news throughout northern Indiana for much of a year.
For several generations, the families of both Cecilia and Albin would be silent about the crime until Sosniecki uncovered the family’s dark secret.
Sosniecki began researching the murder in 1996 when he and Helen owned the Citizen. He stepped up his research when he was homebound after breaking his ankle shortly after retiring in 2016. When the trial transcript was discovered in early 2017 at the Indiana State Archives, Sosniecki knew he had enough material for a book.
The Owen Theatre program is one of a series of presentations Sosniecki is making, either in person or virtually, in Missouri, Indiana and Illinois. Books will be available at the program, and Sosniecki will sign books sold that evening as well as previously ordered books that attendees bring to the event.
“The Potato Masher Murder: Death at the Hands of a Jealous Husband” also can be ordered from The Kent State University Press or wherever books are sold.
The Sosnieckis live in Lebanon after a 43-year career that also included owning newspapers in Humansville and Vandalia and publishing The Lebanon Daily Record. They were inducted into the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame in 2014.
More on the Sept. 22 book signing will appear in future editions of the Citizen.