Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Waltraud Gruseck: The False Soprano

The Odd Couple

 

The local townspeople of the tightly knit community of Kappel-Grafenhausen began to take notice of Mr. Hilss and Waltraud when the two began living together, and especially, when they married in 2005. Before then, Hilss lived his quiet life fishing, tending to his hatchery, and taking tourists on boat rides.

Herman Hilss (left) and Waltraud Gruseck
Herman Hilss (left) and Waltraud Gruseck
Waltraud had also led a discreet existence until she moved in with Hilss. She would leave the village in the morning and return at the end of the day, although police and the townspeople would later learn that she was leading a double life.

She would gladly tell anybody who asked that she was a soprano and was a performing artist. She also portrayed herself as an artistic type of person, dressing flamboyantly by the standards of the quiet village. But aside from her slightly out-of-the-ordinary demeanor, Waltraud never did anything that might have caused the villagers to take that much notice of her.

What first struck the townspeople about the couple was their age difference. Mr. Hilss was in his sixties, more than two decades older than Gruseck. He was certainly not a dashing young bachelor, either: He looked the part of a tough fisherman with his large 220-pound frame and the waders he often wore, even before and after work.

The two had actually known each other before they became a couple. Mr. Hilss lived just a few houses down from Gruseck's childhood home. When and how they became romantically involved remains unclear.

After they were married, the couple definitely began turning villagers' heads. Mr. Hilss would pick Waltraud up at the train station at the end of the day and drive her home in his green Jeep Cherokee, Waltraud wearing very large wigs and sunglasses as if she were a diva and Mr. Hilss her chauffeur. An older man marrying a younger woman that had grown up in the village but whom hardly anyone knew was enough to stir up gossip. But during the next few years after their marriage, things got much, much stranger.

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