Rosa Wurtzer
Born ca. 1862
Tyrol, Austrian Empire
Penalty Found to be insane
Imprisoned at Eastern State Hospital
Spouse(s) Joseph Wurtzer
Attack information
Date February 23, 1901
~5:30 p.m.
Location(s) Uniontown, Washington, United States
Target(s) Family
Killed 6
Weapon(s) Bare hands

Rosa Wurtzer (also given as Rosa Wurzer) was an Austrian who killed her six children in Uniontown, Washington, United States on February 23, 1901. She was arrested and found to be insane.[1][2]


Wurtzer was born in Tyrol, Austrian Empire, worked as a governess in a royal family, and was married to Joseph Wurtzer, a mason. Around 1888 the couple emigrated to the United States, where they lived in Kansas City for two years, before moving to Uniontown. There she was regarded as somewhat strange among her neighbours, and her condition apparently deteriorated when her husband died in 1899, as she began to show weird and erratic behaviour. Shortly before his death Wurtzer's husband Joseph told a fellow traveller that she was without a doubt crazy, and the day prior to the murders she threw away a bucket of skimmed milk she had been given by a neighbour, thinking that it was poisoned.

After her husband's death Wurtzer and her children lived in poverty. She tried to make a living via dressmaking and other jobs, and was supported by the county with $15 a month since June 1899, as well as the charity of her neighbours. The financial difficulties obviously preyed on her mind and she feared that her family would end as white slaves.[3][4]


According to Wurtzer's court testimony the idea of murdering her children came to her on the evening of February 23, having been inspired by a book she had been reading. Around 5:30 p.m. that day she threw her son George down a thirty feet deep well near her home, followed by the twins Joseph and Mary. Henry Hagerman, the town marshal, who passed by after she had thrown down the first two children, did not notice anything unusual at the time. Wurtzer's daughter Rosa was last seen alive at 6:30 p.m. when she went to the home of the neighbouring marshal and asked for a bucket of water.

When five of her children were in the well the 38-year-old herself jumped down and then persuaded her eldest daughter Rosa to follow them, by telling her that they should leave this wicked world and join their father in heaven. According to Wurtzer all the children were still alive at that time and pleaded for their lives, when she proceeded to drown them, though the coroner came to the conclusion that the children had been strangled before they were thrown down the well and that the necks of five of them were broken.

After killing her children Wurtzer attempted to drown herself by standing on her head, and when failing to do so unsuccessfully tried to hang herself with the well rope. She was discovered by Hagerman at 1 p.m. the following afternoon when she called out for him, whereupon she and the dead children were recovered from the well. She was then confined in a room in her house until the arrival of the coroner.

At 9 p.m. the same night Wurtzer asked her guards to leave her alone, so she could sleep. In the minutes of the guards' absence she escaped through a window and went to the home of Peter Jacobs, where she broke a window and scared the occupants. Afterwards she went to the residence of the Koester family, where she asked to be let in, and grappled with Mrs. Koester as soon as she opened the door. Wurtzer was forthwith overpowered by Mr. Koester and his brother and escorted back to her home.[3][5][6]


  • Rosa Wurtzer, 11, her daughter
  • Louisa Wurtzer, 10, her daughter
  • Anna Wurtzer, 7, her daughter
  • Joseph Wurtzer, 6, her son
  • Mary Wurtzer, 6, her daughter
  • George Wurtzer, 4, her son


Wurtzer was summoned before the superior court on February 25, where she confessed and stated that she was not sorry for the murders, because her children were "now in heaven, safe out of this wicked world." Two physicians who examined her came to the conclusion that she was insane and suffered from religious melancholia. She was sent to the Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake the same afternoon.[3]


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