A few weeks ago, I wrote about The Murder of Arnold Gart, in which Gart was stabbed to death in broad daylight with countless witnesses. His murderer, John Bronch, went free, thanks to The Unwritten Law. And I assumed that was the last we’d hear ever hear of him. But no, it seems that Bronch wasn’t finished. His arrogance at getting away with murder appears to have led him to thinking he could do it again.
In the beginning of February, 1924, he was given a preliminary hearing at Hafford and committed to stand trial for attempting to procure the murder of his wife, Augustine Bronch. He was released on $20,000 bail until his trial.
The couple were married in North Dakota 19 years previous, and had 12 children together, although only 10 of them were alive at the time of the preliminary. In April of 1923 they were separated because of spousal abuse. Augustine testified that Bronch had threatened to kill her with a knife, as well as regular ill treatment. (As you may recall from my previous post, that their marriage was not a peaceful or healthy one. It appears Bronch positively sucked as a husband and partner.)
Bronch’s trial began on February 26, 1924 in Battleford before Judge Maclean.
The main evidence in his trial was the testimony of Alex Werezak (also seen spelled Worashak). He told the court that on January 15, 1924, John Bronch had come to his farm and given him an old, obsolete revolver and a flashlight. Bronch told him to go to the house where his wife was staying at Maymont, rap at the door, and when she opened it, shine the flashlight in her eyes and shoot her through the heart. He was then to throw the old revolver away. Bronch paid him $220 and promised another $80 when she was disposed of.
Apparently Bronch was expecting a young widow from the Old Country and wanted his wife out of the way so he could start a new marriage.
On February 28, 1924, the jury announced they were unable to reach a verdict. A new trial was scheduled and began on May 14, 1924 before Judge H. Y. MacDonald in Battleford.
Alex Werezak gave his same testimony, telling the court about being tasked with the murder by Bronch. He admitted he’d spent the money, then his conscience began to eat at him (as well as his fears that his wife was being indiscrete) and he told the police. Augustine Bronch also testified, telling the court about the abuse and cruelty she suffered at the hands of her husband. She stated that while they were well off, he was a poor provider, and she had to work outside the home for two years before the separation. It appears her husband was hell bent on punishing her for her alleged dalliance with Gart.
(Let me just note, that while I don’t condone cheating on a spouse or partner, in instances such as this one where there is a clear, unbalanced power dynamic, with Augustine being at the literal mercy of a man who thought of her as property, I hold no judgement against the subjugated partner for their attempts to find happiness wherever they can.)
The police produced a stocking that had been wrapped around the revolver when Bronch gave it to Werezak. They identified it as belonging to Bronch and testified that the revolver matched the description of a revolver Bronch had inherited from an ancestor, but couldn’t say for certain that it was his.
Bronch, of course, denied everything. His son was called as witness and testified that all the arguments he’d seen between his parents were his mother’s fault. He said he’d never seen his father ill use his mother and stated that his father had tried to get Augustine to return multiple times.
This time, the jury didn’t buy it and on May 16, 1924, they found John Bronch guilty. He was sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. Let’s hope that finally facing some consequences did him some good.
And that is the story of the attempted murder of Augustine Bronch.
*Update: Thanks to the beauty of social media, one of the members of my Facebook group, Historical Saskatchewan True Crime, recognized the name John Bronch (also spelled Bronsch or Brunsch) and did some digging. It turns out, Augusta (as she was known to her family) and John are her husband’s great grandparents! John’s criminal past was kept a secret, with John’s youngest son, Fred, telling a family member on his deathbed. None of the rest of the family were ever made aware of the fact that John had once murdered a man in broad daylight and later tried to have his own wife killed! Augusta was only 17 when she and John were married in North Dakota, he was 34.
Unfortunately, Augusta died in 1927 or 28. She was only 49 or 50. John got out of prison and in 1929 purchased land in North Battleford. He gave his land in Radisson to his sons and moved with his three youngest children and his parents to North Battleford. He died in 1934. She was kind enough to provide the following pictures from the Radisson history book:
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Information for this post came from the following issues of The Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon Star-Phoenix: Feb 2, 1924, Feb 4, 1924, Feb 25, 1924, Feb 27, 1924, Feb 29, 1924, May 15, 1924, May 17, 1924
If you’d like to read more historical true crime from Saskatchewan, give these a try:
The Terrible Acts of John Wowk
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