October 19, 1920: Private detective jailed as Duluth woman is exonerated of murder charges

On this day in Duluth in 1920, private detective Roy E. Hays was jailed for falsely arresting 23-year-old Blanch Krawczyk on the charge of murdering Roy D. Harth in Knoxville, Tennessee, more than a year earlier. Hayes, who suspected Krawczyk was actually a woman named Maude Moore, was after a $500 reward for Moore’s capture. Moore had been convicted of Harth’s murder and sentenced to 21 years in prison, but she had been granted a second trial—and then skipped town. Krawczyk denied any knowledge of the murder and said she had never even been to Knoxville. At the time of the murder in Knoxville, she was living in Duluth with her husband, who was then a Duluth police officer (he had since reenlisted in the Army). While staying in the St. Louis County Jail, Krawczyk told reporters about its unsanitary conditions and instances of guards “taking liberties with the women prisoners. Sheriff Frank Magie told the Duluth News Tribune that “Mrs. Krawczyk is untruthful and disreputable and one of the toughest characters that has been in the jail for some time”—and then denied ever saying such a thing. An official with the health department, however, said that “Mrs. Krawczyk’s story is entirely correct.” Once officials determined that Hays had the wrong  woman, she was exonerated, and he was placed in jail charged with operating as a private detective without a state license. She sued him for $25,000, but as Hays had no money, she accepted his offer of a 60-acre farm in Tennessee, all that he owned. But it turned out the farm was worthless: Hays heavily mortgaged the property and owed more on it than it was worth.

This image of Blanch Krawczyk appeared in the October 20, 1920, edition of the Duluth News Tribune. (Image: Zenith City Press)