For over 150 years, Milwaukee has been home to a large community of people of Polish descent. The Milwaukee Polonia Project hopes to show the interweaving, intertwining family trees that resulted in this community. It is hoped that, eventually, all the families can be connected to one another. The Milwaukee Polonia Project is also a means to explore our common history and celebrate our shared heritage.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sin, Confession, and .... Cover-up? (Second Quessing)

Finally, here is the much-delayed conclusion to the story of the death of Sister Janina.  (Sorry to take so long, but I've been on an extended break.)  You may want to go back and re-read the previous installments of Part One and Part Two to refresh your recollection of the facts.

Part of the fun of revisiting true crime stories is second-guessing the authorities.  Did they get the right criminal?  To really do this properly for this story, you really should read Mardi Link's Isadore's Secret. There are many more facts concerning the death in that book than I have been able to present here.  In the meantime, here is my view on the matter.  After you read Isadore's Secret, you can come back and critique my analysis.

First, it seems to me that the case against Stella Lipczynski rests almost entirely on the testimony of Mary Tylicki.  Take away Mary Tylicki's account of Stella's confession, and what do you have. Not much. You have the body of Sister Janina in the basement of the church. You have the fact that Stella did not care very much for the nuns, and Sister Janina in particular.  Everything after that is rather speculative.  There was never any murder weapon found.  In fact, there was conflicting evidence as to the cause of Sister Janina's death, so it was not even clear that Sister Janina was killed by a blow to the head.  There was even conflicting evidence as to whether Stella had time to murder Sister Janina.  Stella's daughter testified that even though her mother was not in the room with her during the time at which Sister Janina supposedly was murdered, she could hear her mother working in the kitchen.  Only in an earlier, out-of-court statement to the prosecution had Mary (Lipyczynski) Fliss stated that she did not know where her mother was during that time period.  She reconciled the two statements by saying that the earlier statement given to the police had been made without the aid of an interpreter, and she did not always understand English correctly.  However, even if you grant the fact that Stella was not in the kitchen during the crucial time, that hardly means she was then in the basement murdering Sister Janina.  In my opinion, without the testimony of Mary Tylicki, there is not enough evidence to convict Stella.

So, is Mary Tylicki's testimony believable?  I think not - because it conflicts with itself regarding Stella's character.  According to Mary Tylicki's testimony, Stella confessed the murder to her after they had shared only three days together in a jail cell.  This would indicate that Stella was terribly naïve.  (And, if she was that naïve, why had she not told of the murder to anyone else in the previous twelve years since the murder?)  On the other hand, Mary Tylicki testified that Stella Lipczynski had planned to escape a murder conviction by faking insanity.  This portrays Stella as being very cunning and wily.  Especially when one considers that Stella had spent most of her life under the German legal system, not the American.  She barely spoke English and the time which she had lived in America had been spent in a back-woods farming community.  Where would she have even learned of an insanity defense?  Personally, I just don't think a person could be both that naïve and that cunning, at the same time.

The other factor which casts doubt on Mary Tylicki's testimony is the stunning implications it has for Father Nowak and Bishop Kozlowski.  According to Mary Tylicki, Stella Lipcyznski had confessed the crime to Father Nowak.  Father Nowak had broken the seal of the confessional by disclosing this confession and Stella's name to Bishop Kozlowski, and Bishop Kozlowski, had compounded that travesty by spreading the contents of the confession to other parties.  Is this believable?  Remember that the rules regarding the seal of the confessional are clear, stringent and long-standing.   The New Advent Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, the Catholic Education Resource Center, and my parish priest (thanks Fr. Joe!) all agree:  breaking the seal of the confessional is one of the biggest "no-no's" a priest can make.  Canon law dictates that "it is a crime for a confessor to in any way betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason."  Yet, according to Mary Tylicki, not only a priest, but also a bishop, violated this stringent law, for no reason at all!  That is another reason why I don't believe Mary Tylicki's testimony.

But, Bishop Kozlowski undoubtedly knew that Sister Janina was buried in the basement of the church.  He also supposedly had made the statement (as remembered by the witness five years later) that a woman had killed Sr. Janina.  So, if he did not hear these facts through a break in the confessional seal, how had he heard them?  Well, he most likely heard them, directly or indirectly, through the person who had buried Sr. Janina under the church, but he may have heard them in such a way that disclosing the conversation would not breach the seal of the confessional.  For example, he could have heard it via a confession, but the penitent could have given permission that the information could be disclosed.  There is no suggestion that Stella Lypczynski gave any such permission, but if someone else had buried Sister Janina under the church, that individual may have given such permission.  Another possible scenario is that Bishop Kozlowski came by the information in way that did not involve a confession.  There again, if this is the case, it would seem to rule out Stella Lypczynski as being a murderer.

Of course, all this raises the interesting question of why, if Bishop Kozlowski was not restricted by the seal of the confessional, he did not tell the police where Sister Janina was buried?  The obvious answer is that he was protecting the Roman Catholic Church from the scandal that would have ensued had it become known that Sister Janina was pregnant.  If this is the case, then it also means that Sister Janina's disappearance and burial were inextricably linked to her pregnancy.  In other words, Bishop Kozlowski could not have explained why Sister Janina was buried in the basement without disclosing the fact that she was pregnant at the time of her death.

The fact that the Church withheld the location of the body from the police due to fear of scandal and not the strictures of the confessional is evidenced by the conversation Father Podlaszewski had with Father Joseph Lempke, the priest for the Felician Motherhouse in Detroit.  Father Podlaszewski had started the conversation describing the new church that he hoped to build in Isadore.  It was then that Father Lempke told Father Podlaszewski about the body in the basement and the need to move it, under cover of darkness, before the new church was started.   Now, if the Church was withholding the location of the body from the police solely because of the seal of the confessional, then did not Father Podlaszewski's plans to build a new church give it a perfect "out"?  In other words, if the Church wanted to disclose the whereabouts of the body but couldn't because of the seal of the confessional, then all it had to do was let Father Podlaszewski build the new church.  He would have discovered the body in a way which did involve unsealing any confession.  The fact that they instead told Father Podlaszewski to move the body so that it would not be discovered indicates the Church was more interested in covering-up the scandal of Sister Janina's pregnancy.

That brings up the last thing I want to discuss.  Under the "official" version of Sister Janina's death, her pregnancy had no part to play.  Really?  You have a pregnant nun in 1907 who turns up dead, and the fact that she was pregnant plays no part in why she died?  Isn't it more reasonable to assume that the psychological pressures put on a pregnant nun (and the father) to remedy the situation were the likely cause of Sister's Janina's disappearance and death.  For example, if we assume that Sr. Janina voluntarily left the convent house, would that not explain why she had left her rosary and prayer book in her room, when she otherwise should have kept them with her?  Also, if we assume that Sr. Janina died somewhere else (perhaps because of a botched abortion) and then, at a later date, the body was moved to the church basement, would that not explain why no one noticed the grave in the basement nor her glasses laying on the basement floor despite numerous searches right after the disappearance?
Anyway, this is my theory.  Stella Lypczynski did not kill Sr. Janina.  Sr. Janina left the convent voluntarily either to run away with the father or to attempt an abortion.  She died offsite, possibly through an abortion gone wrong.  Those involved wanted her to be buried on holy ground, so at a later date, they moved her body to the church basement.  Father Bieniawski (Sr. Janina's parish priest) either was the father, or at sometime found out about Sr. Janina's pregnancy.  It was most likely through him that the location of the body was delivered to other members in the Church.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Status Update - February, 2015

New Family Names Added Since Last Update:


Profiles Added Since Last Update: 140

New Intra-Connections  (Lucht to Fons):

312)  ….Thomas Jagodzinski > daughter, Anna (Jagodzinski) Piotrowski > husband, John Piotrowski > mother, Josephine (Jagodzinski) Piotrowski > sister, Antonette (Jagodzinski) Wojtowicz > son, John Martin Wojtowicz > wife, Irene (Borucki) Wojtowicz > sister, Elizabeth (Betty) (Borucki) [Wozniak] Wayer > first husband, Joseph E. Wozniak > brother, John E. Wozniak > wife, Helen (Czechorski) Wozniak > mother, Rose (Olbinski) Czechorski....

313)  ….Anna Paulina (Domachowski) Myszkowski > son, Teodore Myszkowski > wife, Angeline (Tobolski) [Myszkowski] Borucki > second husband, Roman Borucki > daughter (with first wife) Irene (Borucki) Wojtowicz....

314)  ….Frances (Domachowski) [Grosz] Jagodzinski > sister, Rose (Domachowski) Boncel > daughter, Wanda (Boncel) Slawny > husband, Leon Slawny > second wife, Johanna (Lipinski) [Koss] Slawny > mother, Frances (Placzek) Lipinski > sister, Stella (Placzek) Rosinski > husband, Lawrence Rosinski > half-sister, Lottie (Rosinski) Mudlaff > husband, Joseph Mudlaff > sister, Anna (Mudlaff) Knapinski > husband, Jacob Knapinski > brother, Anton Knapinski > wife, Mary (Gazinski) Knapinski > brother, Andrew Gazinski....

PCN:  8.33
(For an explanation of the PCN - "Project Completeness Number") see Status Update - February, 2012 and Status Update - March, 2012)
Historical PCN Data:
February, 2015
December, 2014: 1.08
November, 2014:  2.58
October, 2014:  2.58
September, 2014: 3.00
August. 2014:  2.29
July, 2014:  3.00
June, 2014:  2.44
May, 2014: 4.5
April, 2014:  4.67
March, 2014:  3.0
February, 2014:  10.5
January, 2014:  2.9
December, 2013:  4.11
November, 2013:  3.89
October, 2013:  2.14
September 2013:  2.9
August, 2013: 2.71           
July, 2013: 4.28
June, 2013:  3.01
May, 2013: 6.33
April, 2013: 3.33
March, 2013:  8.2
February, 2013: 2.1
January, 2013:  8.0
December, 2012: 3.29
November, 2012: 6.0
October, 2012:  12.25
September, 2012:  6.4
August, 2012: 3.89
July, 2012:  4.57
June, 2012:  7.75
May, 2012:  9.33
April, 2012:  16.67
March, 2012:  16
February, 2012:  12.8
January, 2012:  19
Newly Discovered Changed Names:
Wojtowicz to Woods
Corrected Names:
Putjak to Antczak
New Alternate Spellings:
Antczak Putjak
Borucki Boruski Boreski
Broda Bruda
Domachowski Donachowski
Frycienski Fryeienski
Klupp Klaupp
Linkowski Linkovski
Moczynski Moezyuski
Myszkowski Myzhowski
Stanislawa Stanislawski
Turna Durna
Walcz Walsh
Wozniak Wogniak