Authorities are convinced that Alfred Leonard Cline got away with murder many times. He was often called the Buttermilk Bluebeard because of the five wives, three female companions and two male friends who bought the farm while in Cline's tender care, more than several of whom had accepted his offer of a tasty glass of the dairy product. "It's good for you," Cline would say. Actually, it was good for Cline, for some victims remembered him kindly in their wills. If they did not, Cline stole their money and valuables, anyway.
"Buttermilk, It's good for you." Alfred Leonard Cline
This strange fellow was born in 1891, the son of a wealthy St. Louis merchant, and his early life was exemplary. He lived on a farm near Lyons, Kan., until, at 30, he married Sarah Slenz. They had two children. Cline was an insurance broker. He sang in the church choir.
It was after the Cline family moved to Fort Collins, Colorado., that Alfred went bad. In a short time, he abandoned Sarah and brood for Anna Belle O'Laughlin, a tempting 18. Not much is known about Anna Belle, except that she died within a few months of her seduction. Sarah's death, in 1925, also is shrouded in mystery.
Cline moved to Denver with his children and he soon ran afoul of the law. He served a year for forgery. In his car at the time, lawmen found a will purportedly signed by one Charity A. Enyart, a widow of Crowley, Colo., bequeathing Cline $3 million. Enyart said indignantly she had no intention of dying and would not leave Cline her money when she did. Still, she declined to prosecute the suave, soft-spoken man with twinkling blue eyes.
Out of stir, Cline, in 1930, met Laura Cummings, 75, in Victoria, B.C. Cummings, of Winthrop, Mass., was rushed from her hotel room to a hospital, where she was told her stomach pains were caused by poison. Her attorneys convinced her to destroy a recent will, in which she left $60,000 too Cline.
A SWEET MAN
"I hate to do this," she sighed. "He's such a sweet man.”
In September 1931 Cline married Carrie Mae Porter, 73, who died three months later in a Reno, Nev., hotel, leaving him $20,000. In Bakersfield, Calif., the Rev Ernest F. Jones, a retired English evangelist, bequeathed his estate of S11,000 to his traveling companion, Cline, in June 1932. Jones died two days later. The next year Cline was living in Glendale, Calif, with his fourth wife, Bessie Van Sickle. Her brother, Lucas MeCreery, died March 26, 1933, after drinking a glass of buttermilk Cline had given him. McCreery left $1,200 to Bessie. Bessie went the but- buttermilk route six months later and willed Cline $26,000, including Lucas $1,200.
NOT ONLY WOMEN
In November 1933, Cline fed a glass of buttermilk to Martin Frame, 60, a Los Angeles businessman. But Frame did not die. He accused Cline of drugging and robbing him. On Jan. 7, 1934. Cline was sentenced to 10 years in Folsom prison for robbery. He served nine. But once out, Cline continued his predations on the elderly.
Posing as a doctor, a professor, a banker or a distributor of religious pamphlets. Cline, now silver-haired and wearing rimless glasses, proved relentless. Less than a year out of Folsom, Cline proposed marriage to twittering Elizabeth Hunt Lewis, 65, an Oakland, Calif., widow. He persuaded her to sell her house before their marriage. She did and turned over the proceeds and her bank account to Cline.
They went to Florida to honeymoon. In Jacksonville, Elizabeth grew sick. On Nov. 3, 1933, Cline called Dr. C.W. Johnston, explained his wife had headaches and did not like doctors. The doc prescribed medicine and called back several days later. He sawt he medicine untonched..
"She won't take it," Cline said.
The new Mrs. Cline died Nov. 8. They attributed her death to heart dilation. The body was cremated. Several days later, Cline met Alice Carpenter, a 66-year-old widow, in St. Peters- burg, Fla., and wooed her ardently. He offered her $250 a month to manage a beautiful California apartment house, and he hinted at marriage.
SAME OLD LINE
On Feb. 12, 1944, they left St. Petersburg by car. On Feb. 17 an F.A Klein registered at a Macon: Ga.. hotel with Aima Carter. assertedly Klein's aunt. Carter "got sick, bad heart, you know, "she doesn't like doctors," etc.
The next day Carter (Carpenter) died. No autopsy. Cremation. Carpenter's Florida bank accounts were cleaned out. Next on Cline's hit list was Delora Krebs, wealthy widow of a Chicago furniture manufacturer. Krebs, 73, wed Cline that May 26 and promptly placed $165,000 worth of stock jointly in her name and his. She also authorized Cline to draw on her $25,000 bank account.
At this point the Cline saga becomes complicated. On Oct 18,1944, he registered at both Scott Hotel in Dallas with an "Alice Carpenter." This woman sickened in the now familiar pattern and died Oct. 17. Again, no autopsy, followed by cremation.
Since Oet. 13 was the ap- proximate date Krebs stopped writing her family members, they became convinced this "Alice Carpenter was Krebs. But this was in retrospect For an entire year Cline wrote Krebs relatives, offering a stream of excuses why she could not write herself. Lawmen later established that during this time, until Oct. 17, 1945, Cline lived in hotels alone. No woman was with him.
Then on Nov. 17, 1945, Cline induced Isabelle Van Natta, 73, of San Francisco, to leave with him for Portland, Ore. There he registered at a hotel as "Alfred and Delora Krebs Cline". And when Van Natta turned up dead, Cline notified the Krebses that "Aunt Delora" had passed on.. But he made a big mistake. He wrote he was burying her ashes in a San Francisco cemetery.
The Krebs knew that Delora's fondest wish was to be buried in a cemetery in her native Powhatan, Ohio, one on which she had lavished much money and thought. The family called the police. Authorities in several states proved that identities of victims were changed and ashes shifted. For example "Alice Carpenter," who purportedly died in Dallas, had a full set of false teeth. But the victim there had her own teeth- as did Krebs.
Also, eyewitnesses at various hotels painted different pictures of the women who Cline said died there. With all the obfuscation and the cremations, officials could not bring a murder case against Cline. But he was tried in San Francisco in April 1946 for forgery and grand theft. District Attorney Edmund Brown called Cline "a shrewd, merciless killer, a modern Bluebeard who put his knowledge of poison and the law to good use."
DIED IN PRISON
The jury convicted Cline on nine counts of fraud and tossed the grand theft charge. Judge Herbert Kaufman, calling Cline "One Man Crime Inc.," sentenced him to 14 years on each count, to run consecutively. Total 126 years. But Justice sets its own terms. Cline died in Folsom Prison two years later. He was 57.
Milk And Murder (The Daily News, 29 May, 1194)