Above, the newspaper headline from the San Francisco Call the day after socialite, Mary A. Clute, was killed by handyman Albert Frederick George Vereneseneckockockhoff on the evening December 15, 1898.
Mary A. Clute, popular San Francisco resident, murdered by her handyman at her new apartment on December 15, 1897.
Carpet layer, Joseph Foley and his clients, a Mrs. L.A. Legg and her father-in-law, heard the death screams of Mrs. Clute from the apartment above. Upon investigating, they saw her handyman, Albert Vereneseneckockockhoff, leave the building with his tools in a bag slung over his shoulder. They called out to him but he pretended not to hear them.
Artist depiction of the crime scene inside Mary Clute's apartment at 803 Guerrero Street, which she was in the process of moving into. The Guerrero Street apartment was empty at the time and Mrs. Clute was having work done to get it ready. Her death screams were heard by two three people in the apartment below hers. With additional help from a neighbor, they found Mrs. Clute's body in a back room. Her face was covered in blood from a gaping hole in the back of her head. The murder weapon, a railroad coupling pin, was found nearby.
Also covered in Mrs. Clute's blood, the railroad coupling pin was a perfect match to the wound impressions found on her skull.
The next day, December 16, Albert Hoff turned himself over to police after he said he read about the murder in the newspaper and discovered that he was the prime suspect. He was described by storytellers at the time as a short man, thick bodied, with longer than normal fingers, having no neck, and a long, dirty, scraggily beard that smelled of liquor.
During his interrogation, Hoff denied having anything to do with Mrs. Clute's murder. He swore then and to his death that he was innocent. While being questioned, detectives saw a circular bruise on his left palm. One end of the railroad coupling pin matched in diameter and shape to the wound. He denied the pin was his, but other clients told reporters and the court that they had seen him with it when he did work at their residences.
After Hoff's name and image were published in newspapers in San Francisco and throughout the west, some of his fellow handymen came forward to tell police that he often bragged of how he sexually molested some of the women who employed him to work in their home. One woman came forward to tell her story to police, saying she never reported the crime for fear of embarrassment.
Another portrait of murder victim, Mary A. Clute. Her husband was a traveling salesman for a Pierce's Baking Powder company, and was away at the time.
After he was sentenced to death during his first trial in 1898, Albert Hoff's lawyers appealed and won a new trial based on the trial judge's faulty instructions to the jury. Albert 'Hoff' was again found guilty, but received a life sentence which he served at Folsom and later, San Quentin. After being found guilty, he cursed others in the courtroom and proclaimed his innocence, despite the evidence and witnesses who saw him leave. His second conviction came on December 15, 1900, the three year anniversary of Mary Clute's murder. Notice his clean appearance for his trial. His hair was cut and combed, and his monstrous beard shaved off.
Albert "Hoff's" mug shot from San Quentin State Prison, taken before his second trial where he was given a life sentence. The 1910 US Census reports that he was an inmate at Folsom Prison