Lonely Hearts Killer

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This is Harry F. Powers, he changed his name to Herman Drenth as an adult.
Herman lured his victims to their deaths through personal ads; the man had a way with words, and the ladies loved him. It was later discovered that Herman would sometimes receive 20 responses to an ad in a single day! Herman met his legal wife, Luella Strother, through the want ads; she had been well off, a farm and grocery store owner, but that wasn’t enough. Herman continued to write his ads using a false name, he was searching for widows with decent sized nest eggs.

Mugshot from 1920

Asta Eicher had been raising three children alone in Park Ridge, Illinois. The love of her life had succumbed to cancer 8 years earlier, and those around her had urged the young mother to move on with her life. Asta made one mistake: she replied to one of Herman’s ads.

Asta and her children: 14 year old Greta, 12 year old Harry, and Annabel was 9.

Herman visited Asta on June 23rd of 1931, and he promised to wed her; after this it’s said that Asta had gone someplace with her new fiancee. A relative named Elizabeth Abernathy had been left in charge of Asta’s children during this time; a few days later Herman showed up at Elizabeth’s doorstep with a letter from Asta saying that he was to pick up the children. After Herman had them in his care, he took them to Asta’s bank; one of the children were sent inside with a check in order to withdraw a large sum of cash. He was quite upset when the child returned without the money; the bank had recognized the signature on said check to have been a forgery. Herman took the kids back to Asta’s home, and he told the neighbors that they were all going on a long trip to Europe. Neither Asta nor her babies were ever heard from again, but Herman did return. He attempted to sell all of his victim’s earthly belongings, all of her furniture, everything she’d owned. This didn’t sit right with the neighbors; police were summoned, Herman was arrested, but the law had no good reason to hold their suspect as they couldn’t prove that a crime had occurred.

An ad by Herman: Civil Engineer-College Grad worth $150,000 or more, income $400-$3,000 month.
“My business enterprises prevent me from making many social contacts. I am therefore unable to make the acquaintance of the right kind of women.” “As my properties are located through the middle west, I believe I will settle there when married. Am an Elk and Mason. Own a beautiful 10 room home completely furnished. My wife would have her own car and plenty of spending money.
Cornelius O. Pierson
Box 277
Clarksburg, W.V.

Next, Herman met Dorothy Pressler Lemke from Northboro, Massachusetts. He took her to Iowa and sweet talked her into withdrawing $4,000 from her bank account. Big surprise, Dorothy was never seen again, either.

After not hearing from Asta and the kids for a period of time, investigators began to look into their disappearance. Within her belongings they found the lonely hearts ads correspondence between Asta and Herman, and this was how they tracked down the killer’s address.

Somehow during interrogation Herman “Fell down the stairs”. His wounds were extensive.
They really did a number on him!

On August 26th of 1931 the corpses of Dorothy, Asta, and the three children were discovered in Herman’s back yard. Beneath the home, in several rooms below the garage, lay the crime scene.

Herman had constructed a soundproof basement and garage before the murders, this was nothing short of a torture chamber. He had locked Asta’s children inside a cage, and forced them to witness their mama’s violent murder. He had starved the children during this time, and eventually killed them as well. Asta and her girls had been strangled, but the boy had been beaten to death with a hammer. As far as Dorothy, the belt used to strangle her had still been wrapped around her throat when her corpse was unearthed.

The crime scene where 5 victims were discovered.

Once in custody Herman did soon confess, after the falling mishap. When asked how many he killed, he told police “You’ve got me on 5. What good would 50 more do?”. And that is believed to be his true body count, around 50. Herman has been connected to the 1928 disappearance of Dudley C Wade, and the murder of an unknown woman in Morris, Illinois.

On March 18th of 1932 this killer was was hanged.
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