In September of 1912 a fire was discovered at the home of the Charles Pfanschmidt family outside of Quincy, Illinois. The fire completely destroyed the house and when the metal roof was removed, the bodies of three females were discovered lying on a blood soaked mattress in what would have been an upstairs bedroom. The bodies were those of Matilda and Blanche Pfanschmidt and Emma Kaempen. Matilda was the wife of Charles and Blanch was their fourteen-year-old daughter. Ms. Kaempen was a school teacher in Quincy who boarded with the family. All three women had been bludgeoned with an axe while lying in bed. In the cellar of the house was found another body:
Also found in the cellar was an axe head with, what was later identified as human blood, “baked” onto it from the intense heat of the flames. The handle of the axe had been completely burned off.
The Attorney General of Illinois requested help from the Burns Agency and Detective Tobie decided to assign himself to the case. Montgomery County continued to pay Tobie for this investigation in order to see if the two crimes might have been connected. Thomas O’Leary also went to Quincy for the same purpose. Before either detective had arrived, the Adams County sheriff arrested the Pfanschmidt’s son, Ray. Ray had moved out of the family house in August to commence work digging out a location for a train switch on the Burlington (C. B. & Q.) Railroad. He had established a work camp near the location for him and his helper to live at. The main evidence against Ray was a set of buggy tracks leading from the Pfanschmidt barn to this work camp. A set of bloody clothes was found and Ray’s “girlfriend” identified them as belonging to Ray. Charles Pfanschmidt owned considerable amounts of real estate and his wife, Matilda, also owned large shares of land from her father which would, upon her death, pass to the children so Ray stood to gain a large inheritance (over $100,000 today) from the death of his family. In the weeks prior to the murders, Charles’ bank sent a note stating that his account had gone overdraft, twice. The checks had been written by Ray and Charles had supposedly complained to a friend about Ray’s spending.
O’Leary immediately decided Ray Pfanschmidt was guilty of killing his family in order to gain the inheritance and declared the two crimes to be unrelated. Detective Tobie saw things differently. After meeting with the Burns detective, Ray Pfanschmidt hired Tobie as an “expert witness” to testify the murders could have been carried out by a roving axe maniac who had killed twenty-four people in four states. So while Detective C.W. Tobie was being paid by Montgomery County, he was hired by the man he was being paid to investigate who stood to gain financially if acquitted. No conflict there! Ray was tried and convicted of murdering his sister in March of 1913 and scheduled for the gallows in October of that year. He won an appeal by the Illinois Supreme Court in February 1914 on the argument his request for change of venue should have been granted and that certain evidence, including the letter of overdraft from the bank, was not admissible. He was retried for the murder of his sister and found not guilty. He was then put on trial for the murder of his father and found not guilty. The case for the murder of his mother was dismissed and authorities didn’t try to convict him again. He took his inheritance and left Adams County. My opinion; Ray got away with it. But this would not be the last time a Burns detective would throw an investigation off.