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Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Mail Order Bride Murder

C.A. Asbrey 

 Caroll Rablen, a veteran from WW1, was deaf in one ear from an exploding shell in the trenches. When he returned home t the USA, he married briefly, but the marriage lasted less than a year due to his wife's disagreements with Rablen's domineering father. Still keen to find a wife, he started placing advertisements to seek out a Mail Order Bride.

Amongst those who replied was Eva Young, also known as Brandon, who had also been married before and had an 11 year old son. If Carroll had looked more closely, he might have noticed the immature tone in Eva’s letters.  If he’d taken the time to scrutinize her words he might have been able to recognize a flaw in her thinking.  According to the July 14, 1929 edition of the Ogden, Utah newspaper the Ogden Standard-Examiner, one of Eva’s first correspondences demonstrated that not only did she seem much younger than thirty-three years old, but she also had a dark side.  “Mr. Rablen, Dear Friend,” the letter began. “You wrote about a son I have. He has had no father since he was a month old. The father left me. I haven’t seen him.  If a man leaves me I don’t want to see them. And I’ll make sure I can’t.”

Eva left Texas for California in late April 1929 and they were married the evening of April 29, 1929.  The dance that followed the nuptials at the Tuttletown school house was well attended by Carroll’s friends and neighbors.  Most were happy he had found someone to share his life, but Carroll's father did not approve, finding her too flighty and flirtatious. On the night of the wedding Eva twirled around the room dancing with anyone who wanted to join her.  She was elated with her situation. Carroll on the other hand chose to wait outside for his new bride in the car. According to the Ogden Standard Examiner, Carroll was slightly deaf and despondent over the other physical ailments that kept him from fully enjoying the festivities. His bride clearly had no such limitations.

When Carroll’s father, Stephen Rablen began regaling guests with his rendition of  “Turkey in the Straw” on his fiddle, Eva excused herself and went outside to visit with her husband. She took a tray of sandwiches and coffee to him. On the way out she bumped into a woman called Alice Shea and spilled coffee on her dress. The new husband smiled proudly at her and commented on how thoughtful it was for her to bring him some refreshments. Carroll helped himself to a cup of coffee, blew across the top of it to cool it down then took a sip.  He made a bit of a face as if the coffee lacked something. He took another drink to determine what it needed.

Shortly after Carroll swallowed the brew a third time, he dropped the cup and began to scream. Wedding guests were soon alerted and poured out of the building to see what was wrong.  Carroll’s father pushed through the crowd to get to his son. “Papa. Papa,” Carroll repeated, reaching out for Stephen’s hand. “The coffee was bitter…so bitter.”

Emergency services were called to the scene but by the time they arrived Carroll had slipped into an unconscious state. Attendees at the reception told reporters for the local newspaper that Eva simply stood back and watched the action play out around her.  She wore no expression at all; no worry, concern, anxiety, nothing. An ambulance transported Carroll to the hospital and Eva road along quietly in the vehicle with her husband. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Because Carroll’s illness came on so suddenly doctors suspected foul-play.  An autopsy was performed but the contents in Carroll’s stomach revealed the no presence of poison. There was no other evidence to charge her with the murder. Eventually the prosecution would call upon a man named Heinrich who was known as The Wizard of Berkeley. He examined the corpse and found traces of strychnine in his stomach. However the coffee cup was also analyzed and traces of poison were found there. In a pivotal find he also tested the coffee stain on Alice Shea's dress. That also tested positively for strychnine.

On May 1, 1929, the day of Carroll’s funeral, the Sheriff of Tuolumne County returned to the spot where the groom died.  In a patch of grass only a few spots where Rablen’s automobile was parked, a bottle of strychnine was found. The bottle was traced to a drugstore in near Tuttletown.  The register showing the purchase of the item had been signed for by Mrs. Joe Williams. The description of Mrs. Williams given by the clerk at the drugstore suggested Eva Brandon Rablen bought the item.

 Dr. Edward O. Heinrich

The sheriff asked Carroll’s widow to accompany him to the drugstore where without hesitation the clerk identified her as the purchaser of the poison.  

Authorities escorted Eva to the police station and she immediately claimed her husband had poisoned himself because he was brokenhearted over his health problems.  Stephen arrived at the station soon afterwards and told police that he suspected his daughter-in-law killed his son over a $3,500 insurance policy. He accused Eva of finding her victims through mail-order bride advertisements and suggested she killed her last husband, a mail-order groom named Hubert Brandon. Stephen demanded Eva be arrested for murder.

Eva was arrested for the crime, but not on her father-in-law’s orders.  A handwriting expert had compared the signature on a drugstore’s registry with one Eva provided authorities with at the station.  The two were a match. Eva was charged with premeditated murder.

Newspaper articles about the homicide referred to Eva as “Borgia of the Sierras.”  The public was ravenous for specifics about the killing and the trial was so popular it was held outdoors to accommodate the crowds. “Quarrels, quarrels, I was sick of and tired of them,” Eva told a judge about her marriage.  “We talked things over. It was decided we should both commit suicide. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Finally I decided to poison him. It was the best way out, I thought.  Now they want to hang me? I could only put him out of the way because I felt it was the only way to get my freedom.”

Eva was sentenced to life in prison at San Quentin for murder.  The day the authorities escorted her to the ferry that would take her to the penitentiary she was all smiles.  Reporters and inquisitive spectators on hand at the dock asked Eva why she killed Carroll. She politely told them she couldn’t give them the information they wanted.  “I can’t tell you why. I can’t tell you why I confessed to putting strychnine in my husband’s coffee. I told the court all and I want to tell all.”

Eva was helped onto the ferry that would transport her to San Quentin.  Sheriff Jack Dambacher of Sonora County and his wife decided to travel with Eva to prison.  “I feel fine,” she told her traveling companions, “not a bit tired. I’m not at all downhearted or discouraged.”  Eva’s eleven year-old son, Albert Lee waited at the dock with his aunt and uncle to say goodbye to his mother. Eva showed little emotion as she held her child close to her.  “I will be all right,” she told him. “I’m going to study Spanish. I’ve always been crazy to learn Spanish. Then if I get along well with that I can take on other subjects.”  Eva’s sister assured her that she would take very good care of her boy and promised her that those who lived in the Sonora area would help with Albert as well. “He will not suffer for what wasn’t his fault.  We will see he wants for nothing.”

Eva's confession eliminated the need for a trial.She was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole or commutation. Her defense attorneys focused on Eva’s supposedly arrested mental development in an attempt to gain her release. As one expert told the media: “The response of the ductless glands to situations varies with their congenital capacity and acquired susceptibility. In the ability of one endocrine system to inhibit another we have the germ of the unconscious. Hence the modus operandi of the repressions and the supressions, compensations and dissociations, which may unite to integrate, or refuse to integrate, and so disintegrate and deteriorate a personality.”

This is not something modern science would agree with, however her limited mental capacity undoubtedly saved her from the death penalty.

INNOCENT AS SIN (The Innocents Mystery Series) (Volume 2) by C. A. Asbrey

Nat Quinn and Jake Conroy are just doing their job—robbing a bank! But when Nat sees Pinkerton agent Abigail MacKay is already there, he knows something isn’t right. Is she on the trail of The Innocents again, or has she turned up in Everlasting, Wyoming, by coincidence?
Abi can’t believe her bad luck! Nat and Jake are about to make her true identity known, and botch the undercover job she has carefully prepared for—a job she’s been working on for months. When Jake discovers she’s cooperating with a sadistic bounty hunter who never brings in his prisoners alive, he suspects Nat might be the next target. How could Abi betray them like this?
On top of everything else, someone has dumped a frozen corpse after disguising it as a tramp. The town is snowed in and the killer isn’t going anywhere, but can Abigail’s forensic skills solve the murder before anyone else is killed? Abi and Nat manage to admit their feelings for one another, but will that be enough to overcome the fact that they’re on opposite sides of the law?  
The Innocents and Abigail MacKay must work together to solve the murder case, but they’re still best enemies. It’s an emotional standoff, and they’re all INNOCENT AS SIN…


     It took another half-hour before Jake saw her neat, feminine figure approaching, her light blue dress standing out against the sun-parched dust of the streets. By this time, his breath came in rapid, shallow pants until his fingers prickled and his head spun. The everyday sounds of the town swamped his senses until they crashed around his skull in an echoing cacophony. Her voice reverberated, unusually strident and harsh, echoing between the screaming and shouting from years ago in his head.
     "Jake?" Abigail's eyes darted around drinking in the surroundings, looking for danger. Why greet her openly in the street, near her gate? His glazed eyes sparkled and the pupils looked enormous, but he didn’t seem drunk.
     "Abi, come with me. It's urgent."



  1. That's quite a tale. Wow. Thanks for sharing, C.A.

  2. Thank you. It shows how many people must have got away with murder in the past a the work done on this was revolutionary at the time.

  3. That woman gives me the creeps! That combination of child-like behavior and lack of empathy is chilling. Your book looks amazing. Good luck!

    1. Yes, it made me wonder how much was an affectation put on for the defense, but she didn't seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.

  4. I've always loved crime/mystery shows and books way back to Perry Mason. Am hooked on Forensic Files and other investigative shows on tv. I also liked the investigation part of Criminal Minds but the crimes themselves were downright scary. These Eva really must have been a bit unbalanced to poison her husband at their wedding party. I so want to read your book as I liked the excerpt. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. Yes. It seemed so casual. It made wonder if she'd done anything like that before.

  5. Love the infirmation and tge story about EVA. WOW, but my mind was firming a story the whole time I was reading it. Thanks