Mary Lambert, 89, and her daughter, Marion Mueller, 69, lived in Leisure Village, a retirement community 50 miles outside of Chicago until August 3, 1980. Marion’s daughter, Virginia and her husband Charles Albanese were constant companions to the retired pair. The couple frequently invited them to their Spring Grove home. That August evening, a Sunday dinner at the Albanese home went very wrong for Mary.
She began vomiting and died suddenly. But at age 89, death isn’t unusual. Twelve days later, Marion also died from the same symptoms. Though no one suspected foul play, the community residents at Leisure Village and Charles Albanese rallied for further investigation. All were satisfied with the news that the deaths seemed a terrible coincidence.
It was nine months later that a coroner found evidence of arsenic in blood serum from Mike Albanese, Sr., 69, Charles’ father. He had died abruptly while his namesake, Mike Jr. had been ill as well, but was alive and confined to a wheelchair. Arsenic was also in Jr.’s blood.
The family-owned business, Allied Die Casting Corporation was checked. The company didn’t use arsenic. With his father dead and his brother in a wheelchair, Charles Albanese had free rein at the company. Virginia consented to the exhumation of her mother and grandmother. Their bodies contained 370 times the normal amount of arsenic!
Many of the medical staff that attended the women were questioned. They stated Virginia and Charles were frequent visitors and often brought cookies and donuts.
Police turned their attention to Charles Albanese. He had been married three times. His two previous unions ended in divorce. He was a devoted family man with a sprawling home. Though never convicted of a serious crime, he did have a record.
In 1965, while employed as a car salesman, he was arrested for armed robbery. He had stolen $160 from a suburban home. When he joined the family business, he changed his ways. With his father gone, he split the company’s profits with his mother and brother. He had even talked Mary into changing her will to leave everything to Marion, cutting off her son, Francis. Since both women were dead, everything went to Virginia. He acquired $150,000 in cash and a $95,000 home from their deaths. He had sold their house.
Nine months after the deaths of Virginia’s mother and grandmother, the Albanese men shared a coffee break. After the men ate the cookies and donuts, father and son became violently ill. After a few more coffee breaks, Mike Sr. died May 16, 1981. His brother ended up in the hospital, unable to walk. Mike Sr. had an estate worth half a million dollars.
With both of them out of the way, Charles Albanese would get everything; the estates, their personal fortunes and the family business. Police questioned the company’s suppliers and customers, looking for any way that Charles would come in contact with arsenic. They knew they had their man.
The company sold scrap zinc to a firm in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Joe Reichel, the manager, told investigators Charles Albanese complained of pests around his home. Reichel suggested arsenic. Charles bought two pounds. They now had their proof. Charles, back home, was planning a Jamaican getaway with his wife and mother. Police believed he was going to kill his mother on the trip. Fortunately, they made it in time. He was charged with three counts of murder and one of attempted murder.
In May 1982, Charles Albanese stood trial for the murders of his father and his wife’s grandmother. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. In November 1982, he was found guilty of his mother-in-law’s murder and was sentenced to death again.
Charles Albanese was executed by lethal injection in Illinois on September 20, 1995.