This article was last modified on October 16, 2019.


Thomas Chadek of Langlade County: Murder or Suicide?

Thomas Chadek was born October 19, 1848 in Bohemia (specifically Úboč, Domažlice, Plzeňský kraj, Czechia). His parents were Frantisek “Frank” Cadek and Mary Valeckova (or Walacka).

On April 20, 1872, Thomas married 19-year old Mary Seeman in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin. She was the daughter of John David Seeman and Maria Magdalena Goeb. The following year the Chadeks were living in Montpelier, Kewaunee County.

For many years prior to 1885, Chadek ran a blacksmith shop in “Section 29” of Deerbrook (Langlade County).

Mrs. Mary Chadek of Reeve (Deerbrook) along with her husband Thomas, were both shot on the afternoon of November 30, 1885. Dr. J. H. Dawley, Antigo physician, was called to attend Mrs. Chadek, who was badly wounded. Her husband was dead from revolver shots. Mrs. Chadek maintained that her husband shot her and killed himself.

The first news reports came out of Madison on December 1, saying that a .32 revolver was used to shoot Mary’s right hand, left thumb, and right shoulder. He then put the gun “in his mouth and blew out his brains.” The reason was said to be Mary’s “intimacy” with another man. Later reports pivoted and said the wounds on Chadek’s body were not consistent with suicide, and it was now thought Mary’s wounds may have been staged to clear her (or an accomplice) of murder. Specifically, he had a bullet wound to his left arm, which would be an unusual choice for a man trying to kill himself.

Sheriff Hill pointed to Mary’s “gross immorality” and told the press it was an open secret that she was having an affair with Charles “Big Charlie” Sanford. Hill also found, upon further investigation, that Mary had allegedly tried to shoot Chadek in the past and had to have the gun pulled away from her by her two children.

Despite her claims and injuries, Mary was held for murder. Thus, the first murder case brought to the attention of the Langlade County Circuit Court was during the March term of 1886. Being the first murder, and because of Chadek’s political post, a fair amount of media attention was given to the case. An article even appeared in the New York Times. According to the newspapers, Chadek’s brothers went so far as to hire a private attorney, William Kennedy of Appleton, to assist the district attorney of Langlade. From 1885 until 1894, Kennedy served in the Wisconsin State Senate as a Democrat, and had been a former prosecutor in Appleton.

George W. Latta, her attorney, secured a change of venue around March 1886. The case was heard in Milwaukee Circuit Court. District Attorney J. H. Trever was assisted in the prosecution by the aforementioned attorney William Kennedy.

April 1886: Charles Sanford made the news for a forgery arrest, though the details were scant.

The trial final came up December 1886, with the crescendo being December 9. The defense was able to produce multiple witnesses to claim that Chadek had been abusive, in contrast to his public persona. Chadek had also allegedly threatened suicide in the past. The court again heard the story of Mary previously pulling a gun on her husband and the children stepping in to stop it, but the defense’s position was clear: either the death was suicide, or it was the self-defense of an abused wife. Either way, it was not cold-blooded murder.

Mary was acquitted on December 11, 1886 after only twenty minutes of deliberations. The defense had done their job well. Newspapers reported that the county ultimately spent $5,000 prosecuting this losing case.
In 1899, Mary Seeman Chadek was remarried to John O’Neil of Antigo.

William Kennedy was committed to Northern State Hospital for the Insane on Asylum Bay north of Oshkosh in 1907, where he died in 1910.

Mary Chadek O’Neil passed on Jul 23, 1937.

Also try another article under Historical / Biographical
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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