Edward Kanieski

Wood County, Wisconsin
Date of Crime:  June 29, 1952

Edward Frank Kanieski was convicted of murdering tavern owner Clara Bates. Bates, 76, was found strangled and bludgeoned to death in her living quarters at her bar in Wisconsin Rapids. Kanieski, then 33, was one of two men who found Bates two days after she was last seen alive. Kanieski had been been an irregular customer at her bar. He had once told Bates a false story about being an aviator. When Bates expressed interest in going to Iowa some months in the future, Kanieski had offered to fly her there. Later he had a fall outside a funeral home, for which his head was bandaged. Using the bandage as evidence, he told Bates he had a plane accident and could no longer take her. Kanieski initially lied about being at Bates's bar the night of her murder. While Kanieski was there, she left other patrons to speak with him for about 15 minutes. Kanieski left before closing. Bates subsequently closed her bar early for some unspecified reason, possibly because she planned to meet with her murderer. Exiting patrons reportedly saw Kanieski's car by the side of the road and he admitted he was parked by the side of the road.

Medical opinion was that Bates was murdered within 15 hours of the closing. Bates had once managed the Club Forest, a house of prostitution just across the county line (in Portage County), until it was sold in the mid-forties. She was found wearing just shoes and stockings, which was reportedly the style of how prostitutes dressed when the saw their clients. On a table at the murder scene was a near empty bottle of brandy and two glasses, one containing a small amount of beer. Bates's dress and under clothes were folded neatly on a chair. The evidence suggests Bates drank liquor with a paramour or client shortly before her murder and that she had willingly undressed for him. This paramour/client then presumably murdered her. The likelihood of Kanieski being the paramour/client is discounted somewhat by the age difference between the 76-year-old Bates and the 33-year-old Kanieski. Bates presumably knew many older men from her days as a madam. Kanieski had no apparent motive for killing Bates.

Kanieski's arms were scratched after the murder. He reportedly had given two different explanations as to why they were scratched. Hair, fiber, and insulation material found on the trousers Kanieski was wearing the night of the murder were reportedly consistent with hair, fiber, and insulation material found at the murder scene. The expert witness who did the examination stated the material on Kanieski's trousers and that at the crime scene could have come from a common source. The day prior to the murder, Kanieski bought new soles for his shoes. He then resoled his shoes within a day of the murder. It was a Sunday, and he presumably would not have resoled his shoes on a work day. No shoeprints were reported as being left at the murder scene. Despite Kanieski's alleged carefulness in replacing the soles of his shoes, he for some reason had not washed the trousers. After Kanieski was taken into custody, his wife told investigators that while ironing she had scorched the shirt he was wearing the night of the murder. She then said she burned the shirt because her husband would be mad if he saw that it was scorched.

Kanieski, who always maintained his innocence, served nearly 20 years in prison before the Wisconsin Supreme Court vacated his conviction on the grounds that he had been convicted on insufficient evidence. Kanieski died in 1975. The trial prosecutor, John Potter, later wrote a 1993 book about the case entitled The Tangled Web. Potter named the book from the saying, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive.” Though Potter maintains he is convinced of Kanieski's guilt, all of the evidence he presents merely raises suspicion that Kanieski could have committed the crime. Besides Potter, Kanieski's daughter-in-law, Colleen Kohler Kanieski wrote a 1995 book about the case entitled Please Pass the Roses. This book is purportedly more about the impact of Kanieski's conviction on his family than it is about the case.  [10/08]


Reference:  The Tangled Web

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Wisconsin Cases, Insufficient Evidence