Ottilie “Tillie” <I>Gburek</I> Klimek

Ottilie “Tillie” Gburek Klimek

Death 30 Nov 1936 (aged 59–60)
Joliet, Will County, Illinois, USA
Burial Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Memorial ID 101602851 · View Source
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Serial Killer. Born Otillie Gburek in Poland. Shortly after her birth, her parents emigrated to the United States, specifically Chicago. Then, as is today; Chicago had the second largest Polish population next to Warsaw. Her family moved to an area referred to as "Little Poland." Research does not give detail to Tillie's life as a child. All of Little Poland relished young Tillie's cooking as the
best they ever had eaten; especially her now infamous
"Stew." This was to become one of the reasons for Tillie's
fame. Tillie also proclaimed herself to be a psychic. Tillie's neighbors seemed to be impressed by this "gift." Tillie said her visions and predictions came to her in the dead of night in her dreams. Tillie began with death predictions involving anybody or thing (dog) that angered her, neighbors, (at least4) children & pets. Her predictions were worthless unless she made the death come true. She seemed to be able to tell when old Fido would drop dead. Tillie fed the neighbours dog arsenic because she didn’t like it barking. Tillie's first marriage came at the tender age of fourteen. In 1890, she wed John Mitkiewicz. They were married for 26 years. John died in 1919 of what medical science of the day considered to be a heart attack. All four husbands bodies where exumed
and each had enough arsenic to kill 4 people. Police &
Forensic Scientists now believe that first husband John was
her first murder from arsenic in her “stew”. A prediction Tillie had made stating she would find him dead in a few weeks. Tillie purchased black fabric 2 weeks for John’s death and told the Shop Keeper that it was for her mourning gown. The keeper asked when her husband had died and she stated “in two weeks”. By now Tillie was forty-three, which was considered old for the day regarding courting and re-marriage, but that didn't stop Tillie from continuing to look for love. Tillie NEVER loved a man. She despised them. She married for money (she collected insurance money on all the husbands she MURDERED) & convenience. Like all grieving
widows, Tillie remarried after she cashed in John's $1,000
insurance policy. The whole time; Tillie made predictions
regarding another husband, and later, a boyfriend by the
name of Meyers. Tillie had married five times. Husband # 2
Joseph Guszkowski lasted quite a few years longer than that
of previous husbands. Tillie’s last husband Anton Joseph Kilmet was rescued by his brother from being Murdered by Tillie. He was taken to hospital for arsnec tests. Tillie was arrested on the same day. Things started to nosedive when one of Tillie's neighbors, Rose Chudzinsky, became increasingly suspicious about Tillie's "Gift" and her tragic luck with the men in her life. Tillie got wind of the talk of Little Poland and Tillie proclaimed Rose's death. The highly superstitious Poles in the community began to avoid Tillie so their own deaths would not be predicted. Ignoring the warnings of friends and family, Anton Klimek, wed Tillie in 1921. Anton would become Tillie's last husband. Once his life insurance policy was in place and the couple had signed a last will and testament making each other sole beneficiaries, Anton's health seemed to decline overnight. Anton's family became increasingly concerned when Tillie did not take Anton to a hospital to seek medical advice; so, Anton's family took him to a local hospital themselves. When the doctors examined him they suspected that he had been poisoned. Anton's stomach was pumped (pumping stomachs doesn’t remove Heavy Metal poisons). Its contents were sent to a lab for analysis. All suspicions were confirmed. Anton had been poisoned by Arsenic. Tillie's last prediction did not come true. The hospital immediately notified police and Tillie (was arrested when Joe’s brother collected him to be taken to hospital. Stew on the stove & the bowl of stew that Tillie was force feeding Joe from) was arrested. Rather than risk the exhumation of her other husbands, she confessed to poisoning Anton. Tillie Gburek went on trial at the Cook County Courthouse. She was convicted of the poisoning and sentenced to life in prison. In March 1923, Tillie was found guilty of the murder of her third husband, Frank Kupzsyk. Tillie was once again sentenced to life in prison, the harshest sentence that had ever been handed down against a woman in Cook County at that time. Nellie was believed to have helped Tillie Murder people. Tillie’s Cousin was later acquitted after spending a year in prison during her drawn-out trial. Tillie died in prison on November 20, 1936. The total of her dreaded acts: Four husbands and nine others with six people surviving. (9 known murder victims with 20 more suspected MURDER Victims. Tillie NEVER admitted to poisoning/Murdering anyone. a single person Tillie remains, to this day, the most prolific female serial killer in Chicago history.

Cause of Death: Heart attack. Tillie is laid to rest in
an unmarked grave.

Tillie's Alleged Victims:
1. Jospeh Mitkiewicz, first husband (arsenic found in body, had $1000 insurance policy, died 1914). Lived on Lubeck St (now Dickens Ave).
2. Joseph Ruskowski, second husband. (arsenic found; left about 2k in cash/insurance, died 1914).
3. Frank Kupszyk, third husband (arsenic found - this is the murder for which she was convicted). Died 1921, had 1k in insurance.
4. Joseph Grantkowski, ex boyfriend, died in 1914 after "jilting" her.
5. Mrs. Rose Chudzinski, cousin. Died 1919 after attedning Tillie and Frank's wedding party.
6. Helen Zakrzewski, cousin. Died 1915, age 15.
7. Stanley Zakzewski, cousin. Died 1912, age 16.
8. Stelle Zakrzewski, cousin, died 1913 at 23.
(Tillie tended to the above three when they were ill)
9. "Meyers," a husband or sweetheart (missing as of March, 1923)
10. Wojek Strummer, first husband of Nellie Koulik, died 1918, arsenic found (Nellie was a cousin of Tillie who was tried along with her).
11. Dorothy Spera, granddaughter of Mrs. Koulik. Died age 2.
12. Sophie Sturmer - daughter of Mrs. Koulik, died 1917.
13. Ben Sturmer - twin brother of Sophie, died a month after his sister.
14. Joseph Klimek - husband of Tillie, poisoned but recovered.
15. John Sturmer - son of Mrs. Koulic. Recovered when sick after father died in 1918, thought his mother poisoned him.
16. Mrs. Rose Splitt - says Tillie gave her poison candy after Joseph Klimek talked to her.
17. Miss Stelle Grantowski, sister of former boyfriend of Tillie. Got sick after eating candy given to her by Tillie after a fight.
18. Nick Micko, cousin, got sick of arsenic but recovered.
19. Mrs. Bessie Kupcyzk, sister in law of Frank K. Ill after eating at Tillie's; recovered.
20. Miss Lillian Sturmer, 15, daughter of Mrs. Koulik. Lived at Mrs. Klimek's home for a year at age 13; deathly sick from the food and still suffered heart trouble.

(source: Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1923)

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  • Created by: Iris Watts
  • Added: 2 Dec 2012
  • Find a Grave Memorial 101602851
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Ottilie “Tillie” Gburek Klimek (1876–30 Nov 1936), Find a Grave Memorial no. 101602851, citing Bohemian National Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Iris Watts (contributor 46932726) .