Newspaper Articles about the death of the young girl, Alta Braun


Link to Alta's Tombstone photograph

Riverside Cemetery, Akron, Iowa

~Photos and news articles submitted by family descendant, Glenna Rice



Alta Braun, holding her step-sister Verna Margaret Braun (this photo dated approx one year before Alta's death)

LeMars Sentinel
August 24, 1917

Twelve Year Old Girl is Victim of a Brute
The Body is Found in an Alley
Alta Braun was Waylaid, Outraged and Murdered at Lonely Spot When on her
way Home-Authorities Are Following Meager Clue

Alta Braun, the twelve year old daughter of Chris Braun, residing on
Fremont street, was foully outraged and murdered some time on Monday
night. That the murder had been committed was not discovered until
nearly eleven o'clock on Tuesday morning when her dead body was found in
an alley near the Illinois Central railroad tracks between Cedar and
Howard streets. The gruesome find was made by Mrs. Herman Becker, after
Mrs. Porsch, a neighbor, had told her that there was a dummy figure
lying in the alley. Mrs. Becker went out into the alley and was
horrified on seeing a corpse. She immediately notified the police and
sheriff and Coroner Barnett, of Merrill, was quickly summoned. From
appearances the girl had been strangled to death. A black underskirt
had been torn from her waist and wrapped in a roll around her throat
with a tight knot under the chin. The body was prone on its back with
the head towards the north, the arms and legs extended. There were
bruises on her arms and side. Her corset had been torn open. Her limbs
were covered with dust and marks on the ground in the alley showed where
she had struggled with her assailant or assailants. Marks on her throat
indicated where she had been seized in order to silence any outcry for
help. The body was removed to the Beely undertaking parlors and an inquest
held on Tuesday afternoon. W.G. Munro, Lee Maynard and W.M. Barr were
impaneled as a jury. The evidence given before the jury was by Dr. J.M.
Fettes and the father of the child.

Chris Braun, the father of the girl, stated she had left home at 7:30
o'clock that night to go to the home of her grandparents, living in the
west end of town, on High street, and from there proposed to go to the
merry-go-round which was operating on Main and Seventh street in
connection with the Robinson show.

Her father testified he had given her a dime to get two rides on the
merry-go-round and then come home. In the afternoon her mother gave her
a quarter, with which she bought some white stockings, which she was
wearing when she was killed. She had a nickel tied in her handkerchief
when the body was found. Braun said he arrived home himself at a little
before 11 and went to bed, supposing the child was at home, as he said
she had never failed to return at the hour she promised. In the morning
he called her to get breakfast, as her stepmother is an invalid.
Receiving no response, he went to her room and found the bed had not
been occupied. He then telephoned to the homes of his father and his
father-in-law and to the houses of some of her girl friends, and not
learning her whereabouts, informed the police.

Dr. Fettes described the condition of the body. The face was swollen
and of a blueish color and there were black and blue marks on her throat
and arms. He also described the torn condition of her clothes and
stockings. The jury asked as to whether the child had been outraged and
the doctor said a fuller examination would determine that fact. Later
Dr. Fettes and Dr. Larson made a thorough examination and established
the fact that the victim had been ravished.

The coroner's jury returned a verdict that the deceased had come to her
death by strangulation at the hands of some person or persons unknown.
The Yankee Robinson circus was in town on Monday and the sheriff and the
police are working on the theory that the crime was committed by one of
the employees or one of the tough characters usually in the wake of a

Alta Braun was last seen alive between half past nine and ten o'clock on
Monday night. She had been to the merry-go-round which was operating at
the corner of Seventh and Main streets. It is learned from the police
that she went to the Vienna bakery and purchased a five cent sack of
candy and walked in the direction of her home with Mrs. T. Adney, who
lives on Cedar street between Fifth and Fourth streets. The body of the
child was found just two blocks from where she had parted with Mrs.
Adney. The supposition is that she was waylaid on the track and dragged into
the alley which is dark at that point. The streets to the north and
south of the Cedar street crossing are well lighted.

It is stated that S.B. Tingley, who lives near the track on that street,
was awakened by a noise. He and his wife had retired. They thought it
was someone running past the window. They heard no outcry. Spilled
candy was found near the spot, leading to the inference that the girl
tried to run away and escape her pursuer.

The railroad crossing at the end of Cedar street is a lonely
unfrequented spot. It is directly on the way to where the girl lived
several blocks south at the corner of Tremont street.

Sheriff Maxwell made a trip to Cherokee on Tuesday following the Yankee
Robinson show to that place and to Correctionville the following day but
no developments have resulted so far.

A local man reported on Tuesday evening to Mayor McLain, that he had
heard a negro at the merry-go-round make an obscene remark to a
companion that he would "get" that girl before he left town but it is a
question whether his remark applied to the victim. Mayor McLain
furnished the man with funds to go to Cherokee, it being a few minutes
before the time for the evening flyer to leave and told him to hunt up
Sheriff Maxwell, who had gone to Cherokee earlier in the day and
identify the negro.

The man, who had furnished the information, is stated to have said that
he located the negro who made the remark and asked the Cherokee marshal
to arrest him but that the officer refused to hold him unless Sheriff
Maxwell made the request. The local man failed to find Sheriff Maxwell
in Cherokee. The two went to Correctionville on Wednesday but the negro
in question was not to be found.

The local authorities are pushing the case vigorously and outside
assistance will be secured in tracing the crime.
Public indignation runs high over the crime which has been the topic of
conversation since the discovery of the body of the murdered girl. The
city council met last evening to formulate plans for the raising of
money with which to offer a reward for the apprehension of the murderer
and it is thought the county will also offer a reward. Many citizens
have expressed a wish to contribute towards a fund for a reward.
In preparing the body for burial the undertaker found a man's stickpin
in the girl's clothing where it had evidently fallen. It may furnish a

The funeral of the girl was held yesterday afternoon at the home on
Tremont street conducted by Rev. J.E. Benz, of the German Methodist
church and was attended by a large number of people. Many floral
wreaths and flowers were sent by sympathizers of those bereaved by the
tragedy. The body was taken to Akron to be laid beside that of her

Alta Braun made her home with her father, Chris Braun, and her
stepmother, who is an invalid. She also leaves a little stepsister
three years old. Alta Marie Braun was twelve years old on January 18
last, and was born in Colorado Springs, Col. From there they family
moved to Akron where they lived for some years and moved to LeMars about
a year ago. Mr. Braun is employed with the Hamm Petry Implement

Alta Braun was attending school here and was a member of the German
Methodist Sunday school. She was well thought of by her school
companions and a number of girls with whom she associated.

LeMars Sentinel
Tuesday, August 28, 1917

County and City Authorities Are Making Investigations Which It Has Hoped
Will Lead to the Apprehension of Slayer of Alta Braun

Investigations pursued by the sheriff and police force in the murder
case in which twelve year old Alta Braun was strangled to death on the
night of August 20, and whose dead body was found in an alley the
following morning, have not so far produced any results.

Sheriff Maxwell, following the theory that the crime was the deed of a
negro roustabout connected with the Yankee Robinson circus which was in
town the night of the murder, after going to Cherokee on Tuesday, and
rounding up a number of circus employees, went to Correctionville on
Wednesday trailing the outfit.

On Thursday notification was received by the authorities here from the
sheriff of Carroll county that he had arrested a negro at that place and
was holding him for investigation.

Deputy Sheriff Jas. Sickler went to Carroll on Friday and took charge of
the prisoner, taking him to Sioux City where he is held in the Woodbury
county jail.

The negro on examination, said that his name is Edward Nelson, and
readily admitted he had been employed with the Yankee Robinson circus,
but had left the show and said he did not know the name of the town
where he was when he quit the job. He protested his innocence of the
crime. Nelson was found washing his clothes at the river near Carroll
and was arrested by a Northwestern railroad detective. It was stated
the man was washing blood off his overalls but this statement was later
denied by the authorities and the man's statement that he was washing
off vermin from his clothing believed.

Sheriff Maxwell went to Sioux City again on Saturday and the suspect
Nelson was put to a further examination. He told Sheriff Maxwell that
another negro whose name Nelson said he did not know, had left the show
at Cherokee. Nelson said this negro had a hand badly scratched and

E. Pearson, the LeMars man, who is credited with the statement that he
overheard a negro remark on the night of the murder, "that he would get
that girl," failed to identify Nelson as the negro who made the remark.

Nelson is still being held in the Woodbury county jail, owing to his
connection with the circus, and with the idea that he may tell something
about other negro employees.

Contrary to the statements made in the Sioux City papers, Nelson was
never brought to LeMars nor were there any mobs ready to lynch him as
stated in those sheets. He was simply taken from Carroll to Sioux City
for examination, no threats of lynching have been made. A desire has
been frequently expressed that the murderer be caught and suffer the
extreme penalty of the law.

The local authorities are working on other clues on the theory which it
is stated is supported by Chris Braun, the father of the victim, that
the ____ was committed by some one in LeMars familiar with the habits of
the girl and acquainted with the location of the ground where the
dastardly outrage was perpetrated.

Half a dozen theories and numberless purported clues have been furnished
the county attorney by well meaning volunteers.

The people of LeMars are looking to have the murderer brought to justice
but are in no wise criticizing the movements of the authorities, who
have charge of the case.

[....the rest of the column copy is not readable. FYI...this case was NEVER

LeMars Sentinel
Friday, August 31, 1917

Charles Smith, Who is Charged With the Murder of a Woman at Florence,
Nebraska, May Be Slayer of Thirteen Year Old Alta Braun

No tangible clue has yet been found leading to the arrest of the
murderer of thirteen year old Alta Braun, whose dead body was found in
an alley in this city on the morning of August 21. The board of
supervisors and the city council have offered $500 each to assist in the
work of ferreting out the slayer. The authorities are working on clues
but have nothing further to give out at present.

Learning that a negro, Charles Smith, had been arrested for a heinous
crime similar in circumstances to that which ended the life of Alta
Braun, Sheriff Maxwell was in Omaha on Tuesday, where the suspect is in
jail. The sheriff and authorities at Omaha questioned the man and he
admitted that he was in LeMars with the Yankee Robinson show on the day
that Alta Braun was killed. He said he was working as a cook and quite
the show a few days later because he couldn't get any pay. The negro
was not sure of the name of the place where he left the show and was not
sure of the name, LeMars, but remembered the show was in a town on
Sunday where a carnival had closed the previous evening.

E.G. Pearson, who heard a negro make a remark about "getting" some girl
the night of the murder, saw Smith and said he was not the same negro.
The negro who made the remark attributed by Pearson, is said by the
authorities to have left the show at Creston and there trace of him is
lost. The authorities in Omaha think that Smith is guilty of the LeMars
crime as well as a similar crime near Florence, Neb.

Smith is held on charge of outraging and murdering Mrs. C.L. Nethaway,
the wife of a farmer near Florence, on Sunday afternoon. The negro
protests his innocence although he was captured shortly afterwards in
the neighborhood where the crime was committed and had it is said, blood
on his hat brim and shirt sleeves.

The weapon with which Mrs. Nethaway's throat was cut, is a large deer
bunting knife, stolen from the residence of Frank Milgate, whose house
in the suburbs of Omaha was robbed on Saturday afternoon. Mrs. Fred
Bascomb, living near the Milgate residence, has identified Smith as a
negro who threatened her life on Saturday morning if she would not give
him something to eat.

A woman named Mrs. Christine Anderson, aged 74, living in the same
vicinity, was hacked to death with a knife on Saturday night.

Smith is being held pending investigation and microscopic examination of
the blood on his clothing.

LeMars Sentinel
Friday, September 7, 1917


Ed Nelson, a negro, arrested at Carroll about ten days ago, in
connection with the murder of little Alta Braun, 13 years old, in this
city, was released from custody yesterday. Nelson was arrested the
Saturday following the murder and taken to Woodbury county jail in Sioux
City for safe keeping. The authorities have found nothing to
incriminate him in the case. Nelson has been working for the Yankee
Robinson Circus company and left the show at Correctionville two days
after the circus was in LeMars and had wandered down to Carroll where he
was arrested by a detective employed by the Chicago and Northwestern

No evidence has so far been unearthed to shed light on the murder. The
authorities here and detectives are working on the case.