As my hunt for the haunted skull of the Kerrobert Courthouse continues, there are certain keywords that are certain to grab my attention as I scroll through the piles of 1930s news articles. Axe murder is definitely one that makes me sit up in my chair. And in the spring of 1934, just over a month apart, there were two.
At approximately 3:00AM on April 23, 1934, Arthur Karl Poets, wielding an axe and a hammer, entered the home of his mother-in-law, Mrs. A Burr. First he struck Mrs. Burr in the forehead with his hammer, then attacked his brother-in-law, Alexander Burr. He then left the home, locked the only door in place and set the house on fire.
Why? His wife, Florence Burr Poets, had left him. She’d taken their two small children and gone to live with her mother after Mr. Poets mistreated her. What kind of mistreatment, the articles didn’t say, but given what happens next, I’ll let you use your imagination.
With the house now on fire, the family opened a downstairs window and crawled out, Florence’s younger brother, fourteen year old George, carrying out the two small children. The whole family managed to escape the blaze, but as Alexander came out of the house he was attacked again and knocked unconscious. This is when Arthur Poets turned his rage on his wife, hitting her multiple times with the axe and causing three deep gashes in her skull. Her mother, Mrs. Burr, ran to nearby Redvers and raised the alarm. Mr. Poets was arrested immediately, but sadly, Florence died within 27 hours of the attack, never regaining consciousness. She was only 23 years old.
The second murder occurred on May 27, 1934, when Togo district farmer Fred Rezanoff stumbled home from the neighbour’s, drunk. According to his adult son, John, Fred got angry and struck his wife, Lena, with his fist. John intervened and took his mother home with him. Not long after, Fred showed up in their yard, axe in hand, and threatened to burn the house down if John didn’t send his mother out.
(Quick sidebar: what is the deal with disgruntled husbands and burning down houses? Dude, therapy.)
John went out to try to calm him, but Fred kept shouting, threatening to chop John’s toes off, so Lena came out and agreed to go home with him. John, more than a little certain that bad things were afoot, went straight to the barn with plans to go and get help.
Unfortunately, he had only just reached the barn when his wife, Annie started screaming for him to come back. Fred Rezanoff had struck his wife twice in the head with the axe. John and his wife tusseled with Fred and managed to overcome him and tied his hands and feet.
Lena Rezanoff lived for several days, long enough for surgeons to operate and remove pieces of bone from her brain, but she never fully regained consciousness and died from her injuries.
Fred was, of course, arrested. He told RCMP that he’d gotten drunk at the neighbour’s and couldn’t remember how he got home or anything leading up to the murder of his wife. He also claimed that for the past fifteen years he’d been experiencing dizzy spells which he cured daily with “fresh butter and honey”, but had recently run low on honey.
Now, I don’t want to be controversial here, but if there’s a possibility your drinking could lead to a blackout induced axe murder, maybe don’t?
The weirdest part of the story is how calm and unbothered Fred Rezanoff reportedly was through his arrest and trial. While his daughter-in-law, Annie, was giving testimony about what he’d done, he was apparently sitting calmly in his chair, playing with his infant grandchild.
Again, not to be controversial, but maybe don’t give the axe murderer a baby?
Surprising no one, Fred Rezanoff was found guilty of manslaughter and given twenty years. The jury, upon reading the verdict, recommended the harshest possible sentence.
Neither axe murder was tried in Kerrobert, Saskatchewan, so the search continues. If you’re interested in more wild and weird tales of murder and mayhem in 1930s Saskatchewan, I highly recommend you also read:
All information about these murders were found in the April 24th, May 8th, 17th and 29th, June 14th and September 27th and 29th editions of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix in 1934. Thanks for reading! Please subscribe and share!