|Special Agent Charles Appel - December 1933|
Harrington Fitzgerald, Jr., a mental patient in a Pennsylvania veterans’ hospital more than one
hundred miles away from his nearest relatives, opened and quickly sampled the box of chocolates
from “Bertha.” Perhaps he thought the November 1933 delivery was an early Christmas present; if so,
it was the last one he received. Fitzgerald died soon after eating the first poisoned treat. As the crime
occurred on federal property, agents of the U.S. Bureau of Investigation [the FBI’s predecessor]
investigated. Mr. Fitgerald’s sister, Sarah Hobart, quickly became the primary suspect and so agents
solicited samples of her handwriting. These samples along with the package’s wrapper and card
were sent to Headquarters for analysis in the Bureau’s new Technical Laboratory.
There, Special Agent Charles Appel, a balding, meticulous investigator, received the evidence and
began to compare the handwriting samples to the note card. He reported that the note from
“Bertha” and the Hobart samples revealed no match. More analysis could be done, he suggested,
if the investigating agents would obtain samples from Hobart’s husband and track down the
family’s typewriter. Diligent detective work led Philadelphia agents to a typewriter Mrs. Hobart had
conveniently sent in for repair at a local shop. Using samples of type from the Hobart machine,
Appel quickly determined that it was the machine on which the mailing label on package of
poisoned candy was typed. Confronted with the evidence, Sarah Hobart confessed.
At the time Special Agent Appel solved this case, he was the Bureau’s only scientist even though
its Technical Crime Laboratory had been in operation for little more than a year. But by the
summer of 1934 Appel had two additional colleagues in the lab, and the FBI began expanding
its laboratory with the tools and capabilities necessary for solving federal crimes.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Monday, December 11, 1933
Rode to school with Nadine. Had a test in Latin and one in English. Daddy came after us. Stayed all night at Mrs. Raifert's.