Joseph Marek (born 1899)
The Very Black Sheep of our Marek Family

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On October 20, 1915, 16-year-old Joseph Marek, aided by 16-year-old mentally retarded Charles McWitham, viciously and brutally murdered 78-year-old Joseph Osborne in an invasion of his home. Joseph Marek was convicted in 1916 and sentenced to 14 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary. Apparently as soon as he was out, he committed a crime in Indiana, since in the 1930 Census, he shows as an inmate at the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City.

X = Murder Site: 7816 Chauncey Ave (now Avalon)
E2 = Emil & Joseph Marek 1915: 7436 De Soto Ave (now Kimbark)
E1 = Emil & Joseph Marek 1900 & 1910: 7624 Greenwood
Jn1 = John Marek & Anna (Marek) Landa 1900: 7629 Greenwood
Jn2 = John Marek 1906: 7822 Drexel
K = Katerina (Marek) Koutecky: 7800 Drexel & 7151 Drexel
Js = Joseph Marek: 7754 & 7809 Maryland (Jackson prior to 1909)

Murderer Joseph Marek Map
Crime and Residence Locations
Click on image for full size view.

Josef (c 1826) and Marie (Wolf, c 1826) Marek (see more here) followed one daughter and two sons and brought the rest of their family from Central Bohemia to Chicago in 1880. By 1883-1885, the children had begun to settle in the town of Brookline, later called Grand Crossing. At the time, it was a suburb, south of Chicago. But the city rapidly expanded, so that Grand Crossing became a neighborhood of Chicago in 1889.

By 1900, nearly all of the Marek siblings and their families lived within the area bounded by 79th Street on the south, Cottage Grove on the West, 76th Street on the north, and the Illinois Central railorad tracks just east of Greenwood Avenue on the east.

In 1900, Emil Marek and his young wife Jennie Cerny and their infant son Joseph, born 26 Jul 1899 at 7744 Greenwood, lived at 7624 Greenwood, just across the street from Emil's brother John Marek at 7629, where their widowed sister Anna (Marek) Landa also lived. Emil's family were still at 7624 Greenwood in 1910, but by 1906, John had moved to 7822 Drexel, just a few doors away from sister Katerina (Marek) Koutecky and brother Josef Marek. So Emil's family had become slightly isolated from the cluster of siblings at 78th and Drexel/Maryland. This isolation apparently increased by 1915, when the Chicago Tribune reported that Emil lived at 7436 De Soto (now Kimbark).

Emil and Jennie had at least three other children: Emma (c 1901), Emil Jr. (c 1904), and Ella L. (c 1907). After the murder, they moved to Hammond, Indiana.


Joseph was sent to the Illinois State Penitentiary for his crime. A penitentiary was originally conceived of as a place where people could be penitent and repent for what they had done. And in Joseph's case, this seems to be what happened. In the 1920 census, he was an inmate in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet. In 1930, he was a machine operator in the shirt shop of the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City. This was apparently a transfer and not a new conviction, since he was eventually released from prison and married and had two children before he died in Hammond, Indiana, 10 Feb 1943.

Sources about the Murder and Trial

Chicago Tribune newspaper articles - Click here for the 6 following pages in a PDF file.
-- October 21, 1915 - page 1 - photo of Joseph Osborne house and start of article "Hermit Slain after Torture for his Hoard"
-- October 21, 1915 - page 8 - photo of Joseph Osborne cart and rest of article "Recluse Slain after Torture for his Hoard"
-- October 31, 1915 - page 1 - article "Asserts Hermit Died a Stoic, under Torture"
-- November 3, 1915 - page 16 - very brief article in column 4 "Boys Balk at Hermit Inquest"
-- March 28, 1916 - page 1 - bottom of column 7, very brief article "Murder Defense Begins Today"
-- March 31, 1916 - page 7 - left column, article "Boys Guilty of Murder"

Chicago Daily News photographs - These are much better quality than the Tribune images.
-- Witness Otto Gomper by Murder House
-- Witness Otto Gomper by Murder House
-- Murder Victim Joseph Osborne's Covered Wagon
-- Murder Victim Joseph Osborne's Covered Wagon
-- Murder Victim Joseph Osborne's House
-- Murder Victim Joseph Osborne's House

Trial information in the Northwestern University Chicago Homicide Database

Index entry in the Illinois Secretary of State's Chicago Police Homicide Database

Modern Google Maps view of the location of the murder - None of the houses there now were there at the time of the murder.
[I am very surprised to see that Sears is still there and that the location on 79th Street immediately west of the tracks is still a lumber company -- though no longer G's as it was in the 1950's and 1960's. And the steep area immediately east of the tracks on the south side of 79th, where we used to go sledding in winter, is still not built up, though it now is covered in trees. But there is now some sort of overpass above the tracks which was not there then.]

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Wesley Johnston
1865 Herndon Avenue, Suite K-187
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(559) 299-3406

Copyright © 2011 by Wesley Johnston
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Last updated December 22, 2011 - Added redemption section with new findings

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