Sunday, August 8, 2021

Blown To Bits In Mason City Iowa

Nick Grba fell in love with his best friend’s wife,
Big Anna. A year later, Big Anna’s husband
was blown to bits after parking his taxi in his
garage. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald.
November 11, 1923)
Nick Grba, a Serbian immigrant, had been carrying on with his best friend’s wife, almost from the day they met. He took a taxi ride with Big Anna (his pet name for her) the day after he moved into the neighborhood, and within a month, they became lovers.

A year later, Anna’s husband, Mike Baldizar, got blown to bits after parking his car in the garage.


Investigators found a wire strung from an electric battery in a patch of nearby woods connected to a dynamite stick under Baldizar’s garage steps. When Baldizar left the garage, the killer detonated the dynamite.


Newspaper accounts said, “Baldizar was a mass of bleeding flesh and bones when picked up.” Doctors amputated his right hand and left leg. But his internal injuries were so severe that doctors said it would be a miracle if he lived.[1]


Baldizar died at the Park Hospital in Mason City, four days later from the injuries he sustained in the explosion.


Suspicion quickly turned to Nick Grba.


Grba admitted buying a sixty-foot roll of copper wire from the Mason City Electric Company, just days before the murder.  He insisted he used it to blow up fish in a pond near the Lehigh Cement Plant.


Witnesses saw him buy four sticks of dynamite at a local sporting goods store. He had first tried to get dynamite sticks and blasting caps at the Lehigh Cement plant where he worked, but employees there refused to sell it to him.

When questioned, Grba stuck to his story that he threw the dynamite into the Lehigh Pond to blow up fish, but that excuse fell apart after authorities drained the pond. They did not find any dynamite, but they did discover a dry cell battery that could have been used to detonate the charge that killed Baldizar.


When asked how he would explode the dynamite, Grba played dumb and said, be believed, “they would go off when they hit the water.”[2]


At first, Grba told police that Rade Vernioz, a relative in Charles City, asked him to get the dynamite so he could blast a rock. When Vernioz said that was not true, Grba changed his story and said he wanted to blast some fish.[3]


The case went to trial in late September 1905.


The defense contended that Charles Smanko, a former admirer of Big Anna, put the dynamite under Baldizar’s steps.


The only witness, Mason Negomier, worked as a machinist for the Mason City Brick and Tile Company. About a week or ten days before Baldizar’s murder, Smanko asked him if he knew where he could get some explosives. Under cross-examination, it came out that Negomier had a police record. He was friends with Nick Grba, so jurors discounted his testimony and wrote it off as unreliable.[4]


Big Anna took the witness stand on September 30.


She did not think her husband knew anything about her relationship with Grba. He remained convinced that Nick Grba was his best friend.


When Grba asked her to elope with him, she did not say yes, or no. After that, Grba went to Chicago to forget her but could not. When he came back, he told me he “couldn’t live without me,” said Big Anna.[5]


Grba took a room down the street with Rode and Rosy Vezmar. They kissed for the first time when Big Anna visited him there. The first time they slept together was at her home. Rosa Vezmar testified that it was not the only time. She said Grba and Anna shared a room in Charles City on at least one occasion.[6]


Big Anna liked Grba, but it seemed as if all he could think about was her money. One time she suggested he should go away. Maybe she would join him later. All Grba said was that she should bring “lots of money.”


When she tried to push Grba away, he became violent.


They met at the B. & O. Drug Store and took a ride in her car. When she let him out at his place, Grba would not go. He clung to the running board and threatened to kill her if she did not run away with him.


“You will be sorry for this,” he said. “I will make you shed tears.”[7]


“Kill me if you want to,” screamed Big Anna, “but I won’t run away with you.”


Not long before her husband died, Grba warned her to “watch out for Gus Radio. He might kill Mike sometime.” As soon as he said it, he was gone.[8]


The jury deliberated for twenty-four hours before they found Grba guilty of murder in the first-degree. The judge sentenced him to life in prison at the Fort Madison Penitentiary, where he worked as a butcher.[9]


The Supreme Court granted Grba a new trial because of the emphasis placed on the bloodhounds' actions the day after the murder. “Bloodhound evidence is not infallible,” said the court.[10]


That was good and bad for Grba. The state made it clear it would seek the death penalty this time around.


“I do not know what my chances for freedom are,” Grba told reporters. All he knew was that he had spent three years in prison for “nothing.”[11]


The prosecution did not introduce any new evidence in the trial. However, it did come out that Big Anna had married Gus Radio—the man Grba warned Anna was out to kill her husband. If that seemed suspicious, neither side made a big deal about it.


The jury in the second trial found Grba guilty of murder and recommended life imprisonment. Grba returned to the Fort Madison Penitentiary and worked as the prison butcher until he died in 1927.[12]

[1] Jefferson Herald. September 1, 1920.

[2] The Gazette. August 24, 1920.

[3] Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican. August 25, 1920.

[4] Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican. October 5, 1920.

[5] Waterloo Evening Courier. September 30, 1905.

[6] Waterloo Times Tribune. September 26, 1905.

[7] Dubuque Telegraph Herald. September 11, 1923.

[8] Waterloo Evening Courier. September 30, 1920.

[9] Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette. October 7, 1920.

[10] Muscatine Journal and News Tribune. September 20, 1923.

[11] Dubuque Telegraph Herald. September 11, 1923.

[12] Washington Evening Journal. November 11, 1927.

No comments:

Post a Comment