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Bernard J. Lotka and Tillie Michalski Trials: 1943

Child Of A Secret Relationship, Baby's Body Found At Motor Court, Both Parents Face Death Penalty

Defendants: Bernard Joseph Lotka, Tillie Michalski
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Lotka: George A. Codding, 0. H. Bengtson; Michalski: Otto J. Frohnmayer
Chief Prosecutors: George W. Neilson, Allison Moulton
Judge: H. K. Hanna
Place: Medford, Oregon
Date of Trials: Lotka: May 17-20, 1943 Michalski: May 24-28, 1943
Verdicts: Lotka: guilty of second-degree murder; Michalski: not guilty
Sentence: Life imprisonment

SIGNIFICANCE: These trials of an unmarried couple for the murder of their baby shocked a small Oregon town during World War II.

After the United States entered World War II in 1941, a number of camps were set up across the country where soldiers trained for war. One of these, Camp White, was located on the Agate Desert in Jackson County, Oregon. Some 30,000 men and officers resided in this temporary city of 1,300 buildings that included barracks, theaters, post offices, a radio station, a small prison, and a hospital.

Camp White had a significant impact on the nearby civilian communities.

For example, the largest city in Jackson County, Medford, was seven miles away, had a population of only 11,500, and gladly welcomed the soldiers to visit and spend their money in a variety of ways. However, the men not only brought their cash to Medford, but their personal problems as well. That led, in 1943, to the murder of a nine-week-old child that scandalized the army and the residents of southern Oregon.

The baby's parents, Bernard Joseph Lotka, 23, and Tillie Michalski, 22, were an unmarried couple from Cleveland, Ohio. Lotka was an army sergeant assigned as a surgical technician to the 79th General Hospital in Camp White, where he had been stationed since October 1, 1942. Michalski arrived in Medford shortly thereafter and, on October 5 they rented a cabin at Merrick's Motor Home under the name of Mr. and Mrs. B. Lotka.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953