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Continuing in my series on the victims I'll write a bit more on Pauline Showman. As readers may know, when the murder of the Showman family was discovered, investigators immediately settled on the motive being revenge against Pauline for...something. For small, Midwestern town sheriffs and night marshals this would be a natural conclusion to make. Mrs. Showman was mistreated after she was killed and was the only victim in the house which received any postmortem attack. See here for comparison. Pauline was born in Kansas to John and Theressia Kratky in Dec of 1885 and was one of the younger of many Kratky children. John and Theressia had emigrated to the United States around 1878, right after their daughter, Wilhelmina, or Willie, had been born in their native country, Czechoslovakia, which was sometimes referred to as Bohemia. John farmed mostly but his children pitched in to help the family where they could. At the age of 14, Pauline took the job of a live-in house keeper for another family in the county. In 1904 Pauline would meet and marry a local chauffeur named Will Showman. I am only speculating but it is likely that he was working for the same family that Polly was keeping house for.
As backgrounds go, Pauline's is pretty boring. She and Will would have three children, attended church regularly and generally be well liked in the community. The little house they lived in was on the outskirts of town and quite isolated except for the railroad tracks that ran literally yards from the Showman's front door. The proximity of the tracks likely brought the family into contact with the occasional hobo looking for a meal or itinerant worker just passing through but really, there was very little about the house that screamed "rob me." In fact I would wager that a hobo looking for a meal might have just walked on by the little two room prairie house and sought a more promising location. However, Pauline and the Showman family would have a brush with the criminal element. You see, Pauline's older sister, Willie, now going by the more grown-up name of Minnie, had married a man that turned out to be...crooked. I have talked about Charles Marzyck a number of places so I won't rehash except to say he proved to have a pretty tight alibi. The bigger question when developing a victimology is "could Marzyck have introduced a criminal element to the family?" Certainly. Marzyck had spent about four years in prison for stealing wheat and had been released in Spring of 1910. In prison he would have been in contact with many criminals Charles was pretty peeved about the whole thing when he was convicted so he may have been spouting off about the little town of Ellsworth to other, more hardened inmates and inadvertently put the idea in a delusional head about visiting the town. But I think it is more likely the family came into contact with the killer, without their knowledge, on the night of the murders. The killer's original target area was farther north in town. This is where he found the axe and then attempted to break into the house of Morris Merritt, Ellsworth town marshal. Failing to find suitably asleep victims there he headed south until he came upon the little house by the tracks. Then he waited in the bushes for his opportunity.