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Further Observations on Kruschka
 Readers of “The Murder At Asbury Park,” will certainly be aware that Max Kruschka was a highly suspicious character. There has always been the nagging sense that he was somehow involved in the murder of Marie Smith (even if it was simply the possibility of his knowing about it before anyone else). Though it was reported that the Smiths held the work of the detectives in high regard, the family has always kept the opinion that it was Max Kruschka who actually murdered Marie and not Frank Heidemann. Near the end of the story I give a rundown of opinions regarding this issue, ideas which I will not repeat in detail here. I will say, however, that it would suggest the presence of a very strange situation if Heidemann did somehow take the rap for Kruschka. What that situation might be would be completely speculative. That is, we have to go on the information we possess and weigh rumor or bias accordingly (and there was a great deal of negative sentiment -- most of it warranted -- about Kruschka character to begin with).

Nevertheless, after my writing “The Murder At Asbury Park,” I noticed a few extra, interesting occurrences in the story that are worthy of mention in connection with Kruschka’s possible involvement (on some culpatory level). These are as follows:
It has always seemed strange that Marie Smith’s body was not discovered sooner than it was. This fed the suspicion that perhaps she was kept for a while after her disappearance (possibly at Kruschka’s), and that the body was placed in the woods later. The person who discovered the body was William Benson, who like Kruschka was a florist. I wrote:

Benson expressed distrust for Kruschka, a former partner of his in a landscaping business. He claimed he had dishonored an agreement and cheated him out of six hundred dollars. Benson, not well off to begin with, let the issue drop for fear of losing more money in a lawsuit.

There was an award of $200 for the discovery of the body. Could Kruschka have told Benson about its location as partial payment of his debt? Though I think (judging from Benson’s feelings toward Kruschka) that it’s unlikely, it still stimulates thought.

Another interesting note is that Kruschka was definitely in New York City on business on the day Marie disappeared. Kruschka was buying flowers and supplies for his business and also employing a live-in maid. I don’t believe I mentioned it in the story, but it was noted in the reports that Kruschka gave some flowers as a gift to one of the secretaries at the employment agency. Now this is just the kind of thing a person would do if he wanted to be remembered by someone. This would reinforce his alibi. Of course, employing a servant would have been enough to establish his presence in New York, but the flower-giving action stuck in my mind.

Did Heidemann really take the rap for Kruschka? Why would he sacrifice his life for him? There is one fascinating find by Detective T.B. Bowers, on November 30, while investigating Heidemann’s movements in New York before he came to Asbury Park. It is to be remembered that in New York Heidemann sometimes used the alias “Hardenberg.”
T.B. Bowers Reports:
[I] left for Schirmer's Hotel, #262 The Bowery. Here I examined the register from April 15th, 1910, to Oct. 4th, 1910 [the day Heidemann began work for Kruschka in Asbury Park] but could find no record of subject having stopped here. However, on Oct. 9th, 10th and 11th, there was a "Christ Hardenburg", whom inquiry showed was unknown. The register at this hotel is kept by the clerk and all entries are in his handwriting… The dates make it unlikely that this name was evidence of Heidemann, but the name “Christ” would certainly suggest someone who was prone to sacrifice himself.
Of Kruschka’s many bizarre statements the next is one of the oddest and most provocative. This is not a new observation. It was reported by "The Asbury Park Press" after Heidemann confessed. According to Kruschka (it was cited supposedly in his own words) he tried to get Heidemann to confess to him, promising that he would take the secret with him to his grave. Among the many statements he made in this series is the following:

"I gave Frank an axe whose handle was blood-covered and told him to burn it in the furnace. 'Why should I do that, you know how the blood got there and can explain it,' was all he said as he refused.”

On the surface, Kruschka seems to be saying, “If this is the axe you used, I’ll destroy it so no one will find it.” Heidemann’s response is probably meant to be understood as, “You know there’s nothing but animal blood on that axe.” (Possibly from killing chickens, a common practice.)But Kruschka’s statement is just the type one thing someone would say to a newspaper if he wanted to re-arrange the real meaning of something he said in the past just in case its true meaning were later revealed by the other party. But, after all these years, who can say? Even if someone were to claim hearing that Kruschka confessed to the murder on his deathbed, this claim would not be enough to convince a good researcher. Rumors abound, get passed down through generations, become distorted. What the situation was between Kruschka and Heidemann will probably forever remain in the realm of speculation. Still, it’s a haunting issue…