The Vengeful Murder of Thais Liliencrantz

Erna Janoschek was only seventeen when she brutally murdered the baby she was hired to care for

Heather Monroe
13 min readJun 1, 2020


Erna’s Janoschek Mugshot, California State Archives; Sacramento, California; San Quentin Mug Book 62413–71409, Photos 1926–1956, Colorization mine

Ernestine “Erna” Mazie Janoschek was born on April 2, 1911, in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, California. Her father was a German immigrant named Edward Janoschek, and her mother, Maria Worthy, hailed from England.

Edward and Marie were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They married during the summer of 1905 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their first child, Grace, was born there in 1905. Shortly after, Edward received a missionary calling, and the family moved to Los Angeles, where Erna was born. The Janoscheks bounced between California and Utah as the church called before settling in Oakland, California, in 1920.

Edward served as a missionary to the western states, but also Sudan and Mexico. As a church elder, he wrote at least one book, The Latter-day Zion, its redemption and chosen instruments. The US Federal Census lists his occupation as a magazine salesman, and Marie as a teacher.

The family valued education greatly, as well as the literary arts. However, Edward was fervently religious almost to the point of fanaticism. He abandoned his family in favor of church work. Edward served as an editor for a pro-polygamy publication, The New Era: A Periodical Dedicated to the Interest of Zion and Her Cause. The church officially excommunicated Edward in 1930.

As a single mother of two girls, Maria did the best she could with what she had. She instructed her daughters to work hard in school to build careers and stable lives. Grace graduated high school in 1923 and attended the University of California, Berkley.

Erna was beautiful, articulate, and inherited her father’s talent for writing. She attended University High School and was well-liked by students and teachers. Later, her teachers would testify to a drastic change in Erna’s personality during the spring of 1928.

Erna had always been extraordinarily outgoing and vibrant but suddenly became withdrawn and sullen. She insisted nothing happened to her and claimed that she preferred her own company for now, instead of friends. Seventeen is, after all, a difficult age…



Heather Monroe

Welcome readers! Heather Monroe is a genealogist and writer who resides in California with her partner and their nine children. •True Crime• History• Memoir•