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David Marshall Trial: 1926

Double Confession, Cigars And Hilarity

Defendant: David L. Marshall
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyer: Abraham Wernick
Chief Prosecutor: Charles E. Fox
Judge: Harry S. McDevitt
Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date of Trial: March 8-24, 1926
Verdict: Guilty: second-degree murder
Sentence: 10-20 years

SIGNIFICANCE: Illicit sex, blackmail, and a savage killing all combined to make this one of the most sensational trials in Pennsylvania's history.

When Anna May Dietrich, a milliner who lived in Philadelphia, failed to return home on the evening of January 19, 1926, anxious relatives contacted the police. Two days later her headless remains, expertly dismembered, were found in the nearby suburb of Media. Another 24 hours and the grisly jigsaw puzzle was complete, when the missing head, wrapped in newspapers, was discovered seven miles away. From the way in which the body had been almost totally drained of blood, detectives suspected they were seeking a killer with medical knowledge.

Investigation of Dietrich's social life revealed a fun-loving, liberated woman in her mid-thirties, fond of dancing and socializing. Nor was she encumbered by the rigid social conventions of the day, as it became known that for several years she had been having an affair with a married chiropractor named David Marshall, who, when interviewed, claimed not to have seen Dietrich in over a week.

Evidence soon surfaced which suggested that Marshall was lying and he was arrested. After several hours of what newspapers termed a "severe grilling," Marshall finally broke. He claimed that Dietrich had committed suicide, using poison she found in his surgery, and that he had cut up her body in order to dispose of it. Still the detectives weren't satisfied and another bout of rigorous questioning brought forth a different version of events, leading to Marshall being charged with murder.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940