It wasn't a courtroom; it was a theater stage, it was a circus ring, it was the geek tent at the carnival sideshow. It was the 1963 double murder trial of Iva Kroeger and since you couldn't attend in person, you eagerly soaked up every news report describing her daily antics.

Iva was captured by the FBI in September 1962 and the trial would not commence until the following January. She and husband Ralph would be put on trial together and they shared the same defense attorney, Emmet Hagerty of San Francisco.

After Iva had been in jail six weeks - and following Grand Jury indictments and attorney delays (including an effort to move proceedings to Santa Rosa per a theory the murders were committed here) - she pleaded innocent by reason of insanity and Ralph made a plea of simple innocence. The judge appointed three psychiatrists to interview her and a month later, all agreed she was sane at the time of the murders.

The trial potentially would have three phases. Should the jury find Ralph and Iva innocent, proceedings would be over. But if the verdict was guilty, the next phase would consider whether Iva was insane at the time of the murders. And if she was found sane, jurors would decide between the death penalty or another sentence. There were eight women and four men on the final jury.

In the interim before the trial there were several new developments. The Santa Rosa branch of Bank of America had already filed an attachment on the Santa Rosa Ave. motel and the San Francisco house for $5,000 plus attorney fees. She further had loans from Exchange Bank for $1,177 and a Bank of America branch in San Francisco for $3,100 - taken together, the equivalent to $92k today. Another lien on the property was made by John Mazurek of San Francisco, who had one of those Believe-it-or-Not! encounters with Iva the con artist. It seemed she answered his 1961 classified ad to sell a dining room set. Iva didn't pay Mazurek for the furniture, of course, but also borrowed $975 from him (!!) - I swear, that woman's powers of persuasion were supernatural. His lien was for $1275, covering the sale price of the dinette and the loan she didn't pay back.

Gentle Reader might recall from part one that a couple of months after Mildred Arneson's disappearance her family received a mysterious telegram and typewritten letter demanding all of them to "keep your nose out of my affairs." It was so out of character they had no question someone else had written them, but the Sonoma County sheriff's investigator only yawned. But when the department did bother to ask questions about the letter they discovered Iva had borrowed the typewriter from Inez, the Native American woman who lived in Santa Rosa and often acted as Iva's chauffeur. As for it being postmarked from Tijuana, Inez told them Iva was in San Diego at that time (probably attending Rosicrucian Fellowship meetings).

There was also pre-trial chatter about whether Mildred was killed in Santa Rosa or San Francisco, much of the speculation centered on a large steamer trunk that was at the motel. What happened to it? Was it the same trunk that would hold Mildred's body?

The rest of this article can be read at the website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at

- Jeff Elliott


Newer Post Older Post Home