Sunday, February 7, 2016

Anne-Marie Boeglin, 17-Year-Old Serial Killer – 1838, Alsace, France

FULL TEXT: A horrible case of parricide and double fratricide, has occurred in Stetten, a small village in the department of the upper Rhine. The murderess is a daughter and sister! – her name is Anne Marie Beglin, a young girl of very attractive appearance, of less than 18 years of age. It seems this unnatural monster has been addicted to intoxicating drinks from childhood, and availed herself of every opportunity, even by theft, to procure liquor. Her father was weak enough to suffer her to go unpunished, until her conduct became so outrageous he besought his eldest son to confine her occasionally to her room. This brother was her first victim. The second undertook the unpleasant charge, and he suddenly sickened and died. The old man was then compelled, too late to restrain her, and was speedily taken ill; and suspicion being now awakened, it was found he had been poisoned with arsenic. He died in a few hours, and upon disinterment of the bodies of the  sons, it was found they had perished from the same cause. She had been condemned to the awful death prescribed by the law for the parricide.

[Untitled, The North American (Philadelphia, Pa.), Nov. 23, 1839, p. 2]


Father, 46
Jacques, brother, 21
Joseph, brother, 23


01 septembre 1839; Anne-Marie Boeglin; Colmar; PARRICIDE, 17 ans. A Stetten, en 1838, empoisonne à l'arsenic blanc son père, 46 ans, adjoint au maire, et ses frères, Jacques, 21 ans, et Joseph, 23 ans. Ivrogne et voleuse, Anne-Marie était punie physiquement par son père à chaque récidive, et à sa mort, ses fils avaient été "chargés" d'assurer les châtiments de leur soeur. – Arrêt cassé, acquittée à Strasbourg le 16 février 1840.


Case is featured in the book: Serge Janouin Beranti, Les empoisonneurs: 13 Affaires Criminelles, 2011, Bout de la Rue



More cases: Serial Killer Girls


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Karoline Kieper, Suspected German Serial Killer - 1912

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Frau Karoline Kieper, a widow, 50 years of age, was placed on trial at Graudenz (Germany) on a charge of poisoning her 73-year-old mother, her 80-year-old father, and her husband. The indictment also suggests that she poisoned her first husband in 1889, but as more than 20 years have elapsed she cannot be prosecuted on that charge.

[“Widow On Trial.” The Clutha Leader (Balclutha, N. Z.), Apr. 23, 1912, p. 8]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): The German public (says the Berlin cor respondent of the London “Daily Telegraph”) are following with intense interest the trial of Karoline Kieper, a woman, aged 50, at Grauden [sic], in East Prussia, on the accusation of having poisoned no fewer than four persons. According to the Crown prosecutor, she is a veritable Borgia. Her third husband died from a mysterious disease, and an examination revealed the presence of arsenic in the body. It was then remembered that Kieper’s parents and her first husband had also died suddenly, and the bodies were exhumed, when traces of arsenic were again found.

The woman declares that her first husband poisoned himself to escape from the suffering consequent on a painful disease, and that her third husband poisoned her parents and then himself in despair. The second husband, who is still living, apparently escaped in untimely death by divorcing the woman. She stated that she had never been in a police court before, except when fined £5 for beating her last husband. The prisoner appeared in widow’s weeds.

[“Alleged Female Poisoner,” The Saturday Express (Adelaide, S. A., Australia), Masr. 30, 1912, p. 4]


Friday, February 5, 2016

Letitia Page, New Hampshire Serial Killer - 1849

Also known as “Letitia S. Blaisdell”; 25.


VICTIMS: 2 deaths & 2 victims rescued from death.

Ca. Feb. 1, 1849 – mother of Benjamin Blaisdell
Feb. 18, 1849 – Benjamin E. Blaisdell son, 2.
Feb. 19 [?] – Benjamin & Mrs. Blaisdell – posisoned, barely survived through physician’s intervention.

Poison: morphine (“adminitered”; also placed in tea).


EXCERPT (Article 1 of 3): Benjamin F. Blaisdell moved from the easterly part of Goffstown to New Boston Village, purchasing the farm now owned by Charles Shedd, and engaged in mercantile pursuits. His family consisted of himself, wife, and four children, also his mother, Mrs. Sally Foster Blaisdell, widow of the late Henry Blaisdell.

On the 13th of January, 1849, Letitia S. Blaisdell, an adopted daughter of the late Henry and Sally Foster Blaisdell, came to New Boston to visit in the family. At her own request, the night after her arrival, she slept with her adopted mother. The next morning the old lady was taken sick, soon became insensible, lingered through the day and the next night, and died on the morning of the 15th. New Boston history has the following in regard to the affair:

After the death of Mrs. Blaisdell, Letitia went to Wentworth, spent four weeks and returned February 16. The next day after her return, Benjamin E., a boy two years and a half old, was taken sick and after twelve hours of suffering died, the physicians affirming that the child must have been poisoned.

"Soon after the burial of the child Mr. Blaisdell and his wife were taken sick with every symptom of poison, but by timely aid were relieved. Suspicions now began to rest on Letitia, and she soon confessed; admitted that she had administered morphine to the aged mother and the child, and put the same in the tea which Mr. and Mrs. Blaisdell drank, and that she had provided herself with strychnine if the morphine failed. She held a forged note against Mr. Blaisdell and intended to destroy the whole family. This was undertaken from no ill will towards any member of the family, but evidently with the impression she could gain possession of the property. To this crime she affirmed she had been impelled by the assistance of another person."

She was arrested and indicted for murder, and Franklin Pierce, afterwards President of the United States, and David Steele were assigned as counsel.

April 24,1849, was the day set for the trial. The house was filled with interested spectators; the indictment was read, and in an audible voice she pleaded guilty, and she was sentenced to be hung on the 30th of August, 1849, but this sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life, and in 1861 she was pardoned by Governor.

Goodwin, and subsequently married a man who had likewise served in the same prison. The person whom she charged with impelling her in this nefarious crime was never afterwards held in very high esteem by the people of Goffstown.

Soon after this Mr. Blaisdell returned to Goffstown, purchasing what was known as the Dr. Gove place in Goffstown Village, where Dr. Charles F. George resided at the time of his decease. Here he continued to reside during the remainder of his life, engaged in trade and manufacturing.

[Excerpt from Chapter XLV; Crimes; George Plummer Hadley, History of the Town of Goffstown 1733-1920, In Two Volumes; Narrative, Volume One; Published by the Town Copyright, 1922, George P. Hadley, Goffstown, N.H., The Rumford Press, Concord, N.H.]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): One of the most unaccountable attempts we ever heard to destroy a whole family, occurred a few weeks since in New Boston.

Some five or six weeks ago Mrs. B. F. Blaisdell’s mother, an aged widow, residing with him, was taken suddenly ill, and, after remaining in an unconscious state about twenty-four hours, died. No suspicions were excited by this death. On the 18th of February, Mr. Blaisdell’s son, a child about two years old, was taken sick in the same way, and died in about twelve hours later. A physician was called, who declared that the child must have been poisoned. No one was then suspected of administering the poison, neither could any traces of it be found in the house. The evening of the day on which the child was buried Mr. and Mrs. Blaidell sat down to the tea, but soon desisted from drinking it on account of its unusual and disagreeable flavor. They were immediately taken unwell. A physician was called who pronounced them poisoned. They were very sick during the night, but their lives were saved with great difficulty.

A few days since the whole mystery of the affair came out as follows: A girl by the name of Letitia Page, from 23 to 25 years of age, had been living in the family from early childhood as the adopted daughter of the old lady, Mrs. Blaisdell. For the last six years she hs worked in the Cotton Mills at Manchester and Nashua. – Some weeks since she came up from Nashua to spend a short time in Mr. Blaisdell’s family, and to make preparation for marriage. Soon after Mr. B. and his wife were taken sick she left to visit a family in Goffstown, who were living on a farm formerly owned and occupied by Mrs. Blaisdell. At this time Mr. B. had some suspicions of her. He went to see her on the subject, but she persisted that she was innocent. But a few days since she returned to Mr. B.’s in New Boston, and confessed to him and his wife that she was guilty of poisoning them all with morphine, which she purchased at Manchester for that purpose at the suggestion of a certain woman in Gffstown. She further confessed that a forged note of hand for $400.00 against Mr. B. running to her was put into her hand, and she was told that she could collect it, especially if Mr. B. and his family were out of the way. The note she destroyed before she made the confession, but she had shown it to two individuals. When asked why she should attempt so horrible a crime, she could give no reason, nor assign any motive. She said she had not the least ill will against the family. She had always called the old lady mother, by whom she had been reared up, with much maternal kindness and care, and to whom she had always been dutiful and affectionate.

[“The New Boston Posoning Case.” Dover Gazette and Strafford Advertiser (N. H.), Mar. 17, 1849, p. 2]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): N. H. March 10, 1849. – The girl who confessed having given a fatal dose of morphine to the mother and child of B. F. Blaisdell, Esq., of New Boston, N. H , a short time since, and also one which nearly proved fatal to himself and wife, was yesterday, (Friday) committed to the county prison without the form of a trial, to await the April session of the Court of Common Pleas.

Two or three others are implicated in the affair, one of whom was arrested last evening, a Mr. Cheeney of Goffstown.

It seems the girl had in her possession several foreign notes against Mr. B., which she expected to collect at his decease. Mr. C. is in some way connected with these notes, and with having advised the act of poisoning.

A respectable gentleman saw taken from the girl’s trunk two notes against Mr. B. besides several parcels of poison one marked “rat poison,” another was a blue crystallized substance, resembling blue vitriol; the third a white powder, supposed to be sulphate of morphine.

Considerable sympathy is felt for this young girl, who, up to the time of having left Mr. B.’s family, had always sustained a reputable character.

Two or three years ago, she left to seek employment in Manchester or Nashua, obtaining which, (as report has it,) instead of seeking for her companions the good and virtuous, she became the associate of the vile and licentious, and passed rapidly down the successive steps of crime, until now the State’s prison or gallows awaits her. Hon. David Steele, Counsel for State; Franklin Pierce, for the defence.

Yours, &c,

P. S. – There are many other things connected with this singular and painful tragedy in which I do not think it prudent to give publicity at present.

[“The Poisoning Case At New Boston-Committal Of Letitia Blaisdell.” (Correspondence of the Daily Mail.), The Middlebury Galaxy (Vt.), Mar. 27, 1849, p. 2]


One source recounts the Letitia Page story briefly – without giving the name – referring to a “New Boston girl,” and then recounts historical female serial killer cases such as Locusta (ancient Rome), Tofana (17 th century Italy), Gesche Gottfried (1831, Bremen, Germany) and Annette Schoenleben (1809, aka Anna Zwanziger, Bavaria, Germany).

[“Poisoning,” North American and United States Gazette (Philadelphia, Pa.), May 4, 1849]


For more cases of this category, see: Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America (as of January 20, 2014, the collection contains 61 cases)


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Alva Nordberg; Swedish Baby Farmer Serial Baby Killer - 1905

In 1905 Alva Nordberg, 29, a child care provider (baby farmer) residing in Rådmansö parish, Stockholm, Sweden, was convicted of killing three babies – through either neglect or assault. She was not prosecuted for the death of a fourth child who perished after being removed from her care. Nordberg was sentenced to only four years in prison.


Alva Nordberg; Rådmansö parish, Stockholm, Sweden
Born: July 15, 1876
Arrested: Jun. 20, 1905
Court judgment: October 3, 1905

4 Victims:

1) Blenda Hallberg, daughter of Karin Ragnhild; born Feb. 27, 1905; in care of Nordberg from 8 May to 16; died in May.
2) Elsa Gunhild Wigströms daughter Naemi born March 6, 1905 ; in care of Nordberg from June 4; died Jun. 6, 1905.
3) Anna Jansson's son Axel Herman was born June 4, 1905; in care of Nordberg from July 2; died on the Jun. 15 of the same month.
4) Martha Ulrika, daughter of Alma Larsson's, May 31, 1905, in care of Nordberg from 10 June 10 to 18 July 18; died after being removed.



For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Elizabeth Ridgway, English Serial Killer – 1684

This long title from 1684 book relating Ridgway’s story summarizes the case (archaic spelling is preserved):

A True relation of four most barbarous and cruel murders committed in Leicester-shire by Elizabeth Ridgway; The Like not Known in any Age. With the Particulars of Time, Place, (and other Circumstances) how she first poisoned her own Mother; after that, a Fellow Servant; then her Sweet-Heart; and last of all her Husband; for all which Tragical Murders the being brought to Justice, was Tryed, and found Guilty, at the late Lent-Assizes held for the said County: and for the same, was Burnt to Death, on Monday the 24th. of March, 1684.

[Printed by Geo. Croom, 1684]

(Full text available free on Google books)


4 murders:
Mary Husbands, mother.
Male servant, co-worker.
Mid-Aug. 1683 – John King, paramour.
Mid-Jan. 1684 – John Ridgway, husband; killed within a week of their marriage.

Intended victims:
William Corbet
Richared Tilley


This long title from 1684 book relating Ridgway’s story summarizes the case (archaic spelling is preserved):

A True relation of four most barbarous and cruel MURDERS committed in Leicester-shire by ELIZABETH RIDGWAY; The Like not Known in any Age. With the Particulars of Time, Place, (and other Circumstances) how she first poisoned her own Mother; after that, a Fellow Servant; then her Sweet-Heart; and last of all her Husband; for all which Tragical Murders the being brought to Justice, was Tryed, and found Guilty, at the late Lent-Assizes held for the said County: and for the same, was Burnt to Death, on Monday the 24th. of March, 1684.

[Printed by Geo. Croom, 1684]


FULL TEXT: A Dam being once fallen from the State of Innocency and driven from that Paradise of Pleasure and Security wherein God had placed him, instead of the sublime Life, to be as God, which the Devil Had promised upon Eating the Forbidden Fruit, he put therh upon the Destruction of one another, and such a Depravedness had Sin in those early Days brought upon their Nature, that the greatest, piece of Manhood we first hear of, was an Endeavour to destroy Humane Kind.

And, that the Arch-Enemy of Man might effect  the utter Destruction of that Creature whose Excellent Creation he so much envied, whilst yet there was but a few in the World, he set one Brother to murder the other, even before any pretended Occasion, or Quarrel, could be alledged.

As the People increased in After-Ages, the fame Enemy of Mankind stirred up Murders, Rapines, Bloodshed, and all things that tended to the Destruction of Humane Society, Nation against Nation, and Family against Family; which, since the World hath been Peopled, Languages and Kingdoms Divided, has gotten a fairer Title than that of Murder.

But of all Murders none so plainly discovers the inherent Cruelty and Enmity which Sin has lodged in Humane Nature, as those committed by private Persons, upon Premeditation who, though by the Laws of the Land Protected from open Violence one against another, yet, will take upon them to revenge every little Difference, or conceived Displeasure, by the private Murder of the Dearest Friend they have. Of which latter sort, a fresher and more barbarous Example, certainly, has not in this Age been heard of, than what I have now to relate from Leicestershire a Female of that Country having out-done the Desperadoes of this Town for Cruelty, whose often Excelics in Drinking, Debaucheries amongst Women, and Heats of Blood produced therefrom, a little palliates for their Crimes, as more the Effect of Rashness and Madness, than the Bloodiness of their Natures.

Elizabeth Ridgmay, late Wife of William Ridgmay, (a Taylor at Ipstocke, a Village near Besworth in Leicestershire, three Miles from Marhft Besworth) being the fatal Subject of this Relation; She was the Daughter of Husbands, a Farmer, who lived in that or a neighbouring Village, with whom he was brought up, and continued untill she was about 29 Years of Age, being always looked upon as a Religious Maid, and a Follower of the Presbyterians; yet, as appears, she was a Wolf in a Lamb’s Skin, or rather, a Devil in the Shape of a Saint, and great Cause to believe, that for eight years past, at the least (if not longer) she had been such: Yet, the first of her Tragical Actions that came to publick Discovery, was committed about three years since, when, she Poyfoned her own Mother, (viz. Miry Husbands) for no other Provocation, that was known, but some falling out about their Houshold Affairs, or being reproved by her said Mother for some other thing she disliked in her.

Her Mother being dispatched, she kept her Fathers House about the spice of a Year after that, went to Service, and had not leng been there, but a Young-man who was one of her Fellow Servants having some Difference with her, she seemed to put it up, as her manner was, never Scolding it our, but rather, being of a dogged, sullen Humour, kept her Malice to her self. But soon after their said Difference, the young-man died suddenly, to the Admiration of the Family, by reason he was a, healfhful, temperate Fellow, and never complained of any Illness till a few Hours before his Death, when the Poyson was working upon him. Her way of Poysoning was, by mixing White Mercury or other Powder, in their Broath, or Drink.

These two Murthered Persons were buried, without, Discovery of the Murderer, and she past on untill Augttfit lift, when, having two Sweet-Hearts, or Young man that Courted her in Marriage, viz. one John King a Servant, to Mr. Paget of Ipstocke, and William Ridgway, a Taylor, of the same Town or Village, it so fell out that she seeming to have the greatest Liking to William Ridgway, as being a House-Keeper that had two Apprentices, and lived in some Repute and before she knew which she liked best, having been so free with the other as that she thought he might be some Trouble to her, she resorted to her old Trade, and continued to keep the said John King Company untill she had an Opportunity to season him some Draught which sent him into the other World. This third Murder she accomplish’d about the middle of August, and past part of the Winter in Service, untill after Christmas she was married to the Unfortunate Taylor William Ridgway with whom she had not lived above a Week but they hapned to have some Falling-out, yet such, as that Ridgway told her, he doubted he should have an uncomfortable Wife of her, or said some Words to that effect. However, their Difference seemed to be composed, and they went lovingly together to Ashby Delazouch Market to buy some Houshold-stuff; but in a Fortnight after their Falling-out, being in all about three Weeks after the Marriage she gave him some Broath, wherein she had put White Mercury; at eating of which, he found great Fault, in the hearing of one or both the Apprentices, saying, something was in them more than ordinary, find that it grated in his Teeth: but notwithstanding that Dislike, he eat so much as worked his Destruction; for he soon sell into a very sad Condition, and died after they had been married three Weeks and two Days.

He was buried without any publick Discovery of his being Poysoned: But the time ot her Diabolical Actions drawing near a Determination, or rather the Divine justice now overtaking such horrid and unnatural Sins, this fourth Murder caused a Discontent amongst the Neighbourhood, who not being able to prove any thing. agaist-her, it rested some days, untill she attempted to Poyson her two Apprentices also, making her fifth Attempt upon Richard Tilley, her youngest apprentice, seasoning his Broath with her Wonted ingredients; but the Boy a little alarum’d by the Complaint his Master made of his Broath, or having watched her more narrowly, positively refused to eat his poysoned Broath; at which the pretendiong Anger, took them up and threw them away; the Boy repaired as soon as possible, and acquainted his Father therewith, and how his Dame had thrown the Porridge away because he refused them, as likewise he had observed her to throw some that were left in his Master’s Dish, away; the former Suspicion then grew into a Flame; she was seized, and carried before Sir Beaumont Dixey, a neighboring Justice of Peace, where all the Circumstances of Suspicion were charged against her, but more especially that of her Husband’s Death; who, after he had been buried eight days, was taken up again, and viewed; but ‘tis most remarkable, That when John Ridgway, the Father of the Deceased, forced her to touch the dead Body (which she was very averse to) it burst out at Nose and Mouth Bleeding, as freah as if new Stabbed: howbeit, her Instuctor in those wicked Practices, to secure her for his own, hept her from any penitent Acknowledgment; but on the contrary, she persisted in constant Denial of all that was charged against her, that she had either Poysoned her Husband or any other Person.

The Coroner being sent for, had such strong Evidence, that upon his Inquest, William Ridgway was found to be Poysoned, and said Elizabeth thereupon committed to Leicester Goal. At the Assizes, which in some Weeks after was held for that County, she was brought to Tryal, continuing in her Denial: but the said Inquest taken by the Coroner, with the concurring Evidence of the Boy hearing his Master’s Complaint of the Broath and upon a strict Inquiry, having been found out that she had bought White Mercury at Abby Delazonch Market when (he went with her said Husband to buy Houfbold stuff, (and soon after their Falling-out) also that when the Boy refused the Porridge, and that Che found he suspected her, she desired him to say nothing of her throwing the Porridge away, but that if he would be good to her she would be good to him with several other strong Circumstances that at least she had poysoned her Husband: and she being thereof found Guilty, received Sentence to be Burnt to Ashes at the Common Place of Execution for that County.

After Sentence, great Endeavours were used by many to work in her a Confession, and Remorse of such barbarous Crimes; all which proved ineffectual till the very Morning (viz. on Monday the 24th. of Murcb. 1684.) that she was to be Executed; when she perceiving she must dye, and that her Denials would avail her nothing, confess’d, that for eight years past she had lain with a Familiar Spirit, who at her first Contrast with him, tempted her to poyson her self, which she refused; and after that tempted her to poysbn any one that offended her; that she had, during the said years, constantly concealed Poysbn in her Hair, and upon all Occasions renewed it at several Markets: she confess’d the Murdering of her Mother, of her Fellow-Servant, and of her Sweet-heart, to be for the Reasons herein mentioned also, that when married she did not love her Husband, and therefore Poysoned hin; that she intended to have Poisoned her two Apprentices, Richard Tilley and William Corbet; and last of all to have Poisoned her self. She did not seem, very free in her Confession, mentioning only those with whose Death she had been charged therefore it’s thought in her eight years time many others, not taken notice of died by her Malice, by reason of the could not, to the very last, afterought to any penitent Behaviour, refusing the Assistance of two Eminent Divines who offered to go with her and aflist her at the Place of Execution, telling them, the could Read and Pray as well as they could. Neither would she add any thing more at the Stake, or repeat what she had before confess’d; telling the People she had made a Confession before she came out. She was kept great part of the Day in Prison, in Expectation of a greater Discovery; and when at the Stake, a Spectator of two Brothers who were Executed for other Crimes (one of which might have had a Reprieve if he would have hanged his Brother, and Executed her, but refused it) all which having no other Effect than bath been related, she was at length fastned to the Stake, much desiring they would let her be hanged first, which not being granted, as soon as the Fire touched her she gave one Shriek, and leaping besides the Block, with the Rope and the Smoak she was soon choaked, and afterwards burnt according to the Sentence.

If any Reader question the Truth of this Relation, or think the Author may have added thereto, they may be satisfied to the contrary by William Corbet, the eldest of the said Apprentices (one of them that was attempted to be Poysoned) who upon the Death of his Master being at Liberty, is come up to this Town, and lives now at the Swan in Shooe-makers Row in Black-Fryers, As also by George Ridgway, the Brother of the said William Ridgman that was Poysoned, who lives at the Kings-Head in Kings-street near the Queens Garden.


LONDON, Printed bv Geo. Croom, at the Sign of the Blew Ball over against Baynard’s Castle in Thames-street. 1684.



More cases: Female Serial Killers Executed


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Charlotte Howell, Suspected Serial Kiiller – Pennsylvania 1895

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): Wellsborough, Penn., Aug. 10. – Mrs. Charlotte Howell of Tioga, a good-looking woman of about twenty-seven years of age. was lodged in jail here last eight, charged with the murder of Miss Libbie Knapp at Tioga on May 30 last. Two detectives from the Wilkinson agency, in New-York have been investigating the case for six weeks, and it is believed that they have secured evidence enough to convict Mrs. Howell of the crime. Her examination is to take place next Tuesday.

Miss Knapp died under mysterious circumstances. She retired at night in her usual health, awoke in great pain, and died twelve hours later. She stoutly affirmed before her death that she had been poisoned, and so the Coroner’s jury decided.

Miss Knapp had been living with the Howells, and it is believed that Mr. Howell became jealous of her. It is said that the detectives have some evidence to show that Howell’s first wife died under similar circumstances a few years ago, and that his young son also died suddenly, both deaths resulting from poisoning, and that Mrs. Howell may also be connected with these cases.

[“Mrs. Charlotte Howell Arrested on a Charge of Murder Her Husband’s First Wife and Son Died Strangely.” The New York Times (N. Y.), Aug. 11, 1895, p. 9]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 4): At the close of the examination of Mrs. Charlotte Howell last Wednesday morning before Justice Robert K. Young she was remanded to jail to await the action of the grand jury at the September term of court, on the charge of poisoning Miss Libbie Knapp at Tioga last May.

Mr. Jerome Burke, a neighbor of the Howells, testified that a day or two before Libbie Knapp’s death his wife asked him to stop at Mr. Howell’s house and ask after Libbie as he passed on the way to milk his cow. He opened the Howell gate, walked to the door and peered around the house, satisfying himself that nobody was yet astir. When he went out he barred the gate with a prop. On his return from milking, Mr. Burke, who walks with an artificial leg, set the pail down at Howell’s gate to rest. While he was standing there the door of the Howell house was opened as Mrs. Howell pushed her head outside, the quickly withdrew it when she saw Burke. That Mrs. Howell displayed a letter addressed to Libbie Knapp, which she said she found tied to the front gate early that morning. Burke, however declares that the front gate early that morning. Burke, however declares that there was no sign of a note or envelope on gate or door when he went by the house. The contents of this letter were of a filthy, depraved character, charging the Knapp girl with improper acts and reiterating the story of the administration of the poison.

Mrs. Mary Stevens testified that in the early part of March Mrs. Howell borrowed from her a teaspoonful of poison known as “Rough on Rats,” the reason given that Mrs. Howell wanted to get rid of an old dog. About the middle of April Mrs. Howell sent for more of the poison to kill a cat. She said her husband had found the first dose and threw it into the stove. About two weeks before the time that Libbie Knapp was taken ill at her house Mrs. Howell one morning sent a note by her boy to the witness, in which she requested Mrs. Stevens to bring with her the box of “Rough on Rats” and come to her house at once. Mrs. Stevens was at that time in a delicate condition. She complied with the request in the note, took the box of “Rough on Rats” and went to Mrs. Howell’s house. Mrs. Howell declared that during the night before she dreamed that somebody had given Mrs. Stevens poison to kill her unborn babe, and that because of this dream she wanted Mrs. Stevens to turn the box of “Rough on Rats” over into her possession. Mrs. Stevens acquiesced, and saw Mrs. Howell push the box back on a shelf among a number of bottles. Two days after the death of Libbie Knapp Mrs. Stevens called at the Howell home, and Mrs. Howell told her that she had burned the box of “Rough on Rats” in the stove that very morning, because since Libbie died of poison she was so nervous that she didn’t want any of it in her house.

The evidence of Mr. Burt Keeney, the stenographer who was present at the interview with Mrs. Howell in District Attorney Owlett’s office, was important. Notwithstanding that Dr. Brown had stated on the stand that Libbie Knapp never said anything to to him about being poisoned., Mrs. Howell told the District Attorney that Libbie told the doctor that she thought she was poisoned; that if he would give her something for poison it would help her; that Libbie told this to Dr. Brown nearly every time her cam; told him that she thought Will Rightmire had poisoned her. According to the testimony of Keeney the defendant material discrepancies between her statements immediately after the girl’s will be remembered that the first dose of “Rough on Rats” had been found by her husband had burned; in the hearing of Mr. Keeney she stated that the first lot of poison procured from Mrs. Stevens was spread on bread, and put in the clear for rats; the second, as she stated before, who used for killing an old black cat.

It was shown by witnesses that Mrs. Howell’s stories as to when she burned the poison did not agree. She told the Distict Attorney that she burned up the box at Libbie’s request two days before her death. She also said she was washing clothes at the well when Burke passed her house; this Burke denied. There were also some serious discrepancies to her story about the dream and Mrs. Stevens’s statement if the incident.

When Libbie Knapp died a startling story was circulated. Mrs. Howell declared that a night or two before the girl died she was aroused from her sleep by Libbie’s screams. She went down stairs to the girl’s room, where Libbie told her that somebody had been in her room, had put some sweetish substance in her mouth and had stolen her pocket book, which contained a small sum of money. The night following this strange occurrence Mrs. Howell says a letter and Libbie’s pocket-book were tied to the gate. The note purported to have been written by young Rightmire, and it declared that it was he who had entered the girl’s room, administered the poison and took the pocket-book. Mrs. Howell, subsequent to the girl’s death, said Libbie told her that Rightmire once made an improper proposal to her, for which she “read him a free lecture.” Rightmire further charged her with having improper relations with Chauncey Howell.

Mrs. Howell had been asked to print with a pencil some verbatim copies of the letters which had been sent to Libbie Knapp. She did so, and her copies of the letters which had been sent to Libbie Knapp. She did so, and her copies were placed in evidence to show their striking similarity to the original in general and in the peculiar formulation of many letters in particular.

[“The Case of Mrs. Charlotte Howell. – Testimony On Which She Was Held For The Action Of The Grand Jury.” The Wellsboro Agitator (Pa.), Aug. 21, 1895, p. 3]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): Wellsboro, Pa., Nov. 28. – The county court here has been occupied all week on the case of Mrs. Charlotte Howell, who is charged with the murder of Elizabeth Knapp at Tioga last May. It will be remembered that Miss Knapp died under mysterious circumstances, and it was suspected that she had been poisoned. Detectives were set to work and the more they investigated the case, the more probable it became that a foul deed had been committed. Miss Knapp lived with Mrs. Howell and for months before her death she received every day or two a threatening anonymous letter. Libbie (Miss Knapp) saved all the letters until she had about 100. These are now to offered in evidence and an attempt is made to establish the fact that Mrs. Howell was the author of them all, and that she it was who, from a jealous motive gave Libbie Knapp poison. Mrs. Howell was induced to write or print some letters in Roman capitals, dictated to her from some of the originals. She made these copies in the presence of several witnesses, among them the detectives.

The case has dragged along without particular incident until this afternoon, when Mrs. Howell was put upon the stand to testify in her own behalf relative to her examination in the district attorney’s office before her arrest, when she made the printed copies of the letters. She stated that Dupignac, one of the New York detectives, was in the room alone with her and that he made an insulting proposal to her, offered her $25 to accede to his request. She alleges that the detectives told her that if she would confess the whole thing they would let her off free.

Dupignac took the stand and declared that there was no truth in the woman’s testimony regarding has words and actions.The letters made by Mrs. Howell were then offered in evidence as a ground upon which to establish the fact that she brought the original notes to Libbie Knapp, which contained vile insinuations and threats. The court ruled all these letters out and this is considered a very strong point for the defence. The case is a very singular one in criminal annals. The evidence is very circumstantial, but is deemed to be quite complete in every point, except on that of a motive for poisoning the girl.

If the commonwealth is able to male it appear that Mrs. Howell was jealous of the girl the case will be a strong one, without this, it will no doubt, be impossible to convict her.

[“Charlotte Howell’s Trial. - Tioga County Furnishes the Most Peculiar Case Upon Record – A Detective Accused.” Scranton Tribune (Pa.), Nov. 30, 1895, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 4): Wellsboro, Pa., December 13. Mrs. Charlotte Howell was acquitted of the charge of murder in poisoning Libbie Knapp to-night. The verdict of the jury was greeted with uproarious applause in the court room. Mrs. Howell remained calm, until her relatives stepped up to congratulate her. Then her eyes filled with tears for a moment, but she dashed them away and was herself again. The Messrs. Dutton, of New York, her two brothers, and her sister and a few other friends clustered about her as she arose from her chair a free woman. She quietly accepted the hands offered, and when two or three of the jurors approached to be presented to her, she met them in a dignified and modest manner, and with no demonstration of emotion.

This morning Jerome B. Niles occupied the entire session in a forcible presentation of the Commonwealth’s side of the case. He was followed by Judge Mitchell, who consumed nearly two hours and a half in his charge to the jury. This was considered by members of the bar a fair and impartial statement of the case. He dwelt upon the fact that the evidence had been wholly circumstantial and instructed the jury that unless they could satisfy their minds beyond a reasonable doubt that Mrs. Howell had committed the crime, and no one else, it would clearly be their duty, under the law, to acquit her. The case was given to the jury at 5 o’clock, and exactly an hour later they had reached their verdict. Many of the jurors are elderly men and they showed the strain of twenty days confinement. They appeared to be relieved and well satisfied with their work.

A Strange Case.

The Howell case was one of the strangest in the criminal annals of Pennsylvania. Mrs. Howell, who is the wife of Chauncey Howell, of Tioga, is a member of a well-known New York family, and her two brothers are among the wealthiest merchants of that city. She was estranged from them from the time of her marriage, until the charge of murder was preferred against her, when they came to her assistance. The Howells and Knapps were neighbors and a warm intimacy existed between Mrs. Howell and Libbie, who was 19 years old. Libbie had a love affair, which ended in a parting, and thereafter she began to receive letters which would be found tied to the door knob, thrust in a broken window pane, or thrown in the doorway. These bore the signature of a Tioga young man and most of them, it was alleged, were found by Mrs. Howell.

Last May Libbie was taken suddenly ill and Mrs. Howell took her to her own house to attend her. On May 17 she died and subsequently evidence of poisoning was found. Mrs. Howell Was soon afterwards arrested. The letters, which were both obscene and threatening in character, were all printed in Roman letters with a lead pencil. It was the Commonwealth’s purpose to prove that the prisoner had poisoned the girl because of jealousy.

A Sensational Statement.

The trial began three weeks ago, and on the fourth day Mrs. Howell was put on the stand in her own behalf. She created a sensation by declaring that she had been offered money and promised acquittal if she would make a confession. This proposition was alleged to have been made by detectives before the formal charge was made against her. It was denied by those implicated. One of the witnesses for the prosecution was Wm. Rightmer, the discarded lover of Libbie Knapp, upon whom counsel for the defense attempted to fasten suspicion. The medical testimony proved that the girl had been killed by arsenic, but it was all along the impression that no motive for committing the crime had been fixed on Mrs. Howell. It was also shown that others beside herself had found the letters, and there was much testimony of an inferential character directed towards Rightmer as their author. There was nothing adduced to show that the relations of the two women had ever been anything but warm and friendly.

There is a general satisfaction over the result of the trial, but the case remains shrouded in mystery. There is no question of the fact that the girl was murdered, but nothing positive has been brought out to fasten the crime upon anyone.

[“Mrs. Charlotte Howell. - Mrs. Howell Not Guilty The Verdict Of The Jury Affords General Satisfaction. - A Most Extraordinary Case - The Death of Libbie Knapp Remains as Great a Mystery as Ever - She Unquestionably Died From Poison, But by Whom It Was Administered Will Probably Never be Known.” The Times (Philadelphia, Pa.), Dec. 14, 1895, p. 1]



For more cases of this category, see: Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America (as of January 20, 2014, the collection contains 61 cases)


Chivalry Justice in 1907 USA

FULL TEXT: Is there a “dementia Americana” for women murderers?

Are women who kill men protected from capital punishment by an “unwritten law” which, says they shall not be hanged?

The plea of the eloquent California lawyer who defended Thaw that the “unwritten law” justifies a man in killing another under certain circumstances finds an equally strong counterpart in a public sentiment firmly fixed in most States which silently protests against capital punishment for women.

Is this sentiment, which may be called the new “unwritten law,” the incentive to recent numerous murders of men by women.

The question whether women become murderesses because they are, through a maudlin public sentiment, immune from the severest penalty of the law, is one which criminologists and the legal profession now discuss without reaching a solution which will receive general approval.

The hanging of a. woman in Vermont a few years ago for the murder of her husband, though the people of the State protested, proved that the executive of the State was firm in heeding the cold demand of the law. On the other hand, the commutation of the death penalty to life imprisonment. In the case of Mrs. Aggie Myers would indicate that the chief executive of this State yielded to the almost unanimous prejudice against capital punishment for women.

The recent killing of Walter S. Guerin, a young artist, by Mrs. Dora McDonald, wife of an ex-gambling and political boss of Chicago, has given rise to the question whether the woman committed the deed in the full realization that the sentiment opposing capital punishment for women would save her from the severe penalty of the law, or whether she counted on the strong political influence and wealth of her husband to extricate her.

~ Chicago Sentiment Divided. ~

Although in Chicago sentiment is divided as to justification or lack of justification for the killing, the feeling is strong that she ought not, and probably will not, have to face the risk of the extreme penalty should she be convicted.

The actual motive of this still very recent crime is as yet unexplained. The murderess has since the day of the tragedy been suffering from real or feigned mental derangement, and in lucid moments has declared that she killed the artist in self-defense and again has stated that she went to Guerin’s studio to put an end to a burden of blackmail which he had forced upon her.

On the other hand, Guerin’s relatives say it was murderous jealousy which led to the crime, that Dora McDonald was so infatuated with the young man that on hearing a false report that he was to wed another she was driven to frenzy, and determined to kill him rather than permit another woman to take her place in his affections.

Mrs. McDonald has obtained her liberty temporarily, under heavy bail, and while already indicted for murder in the first degree, remains safe from inquisitors m her luxurious home. While juries in Illinois have not been too reluctant in punishing women for murder, they have invariably disregarded the State’s plea for capital punishment.

~ Transferred His Affections. ~

More sensational, perhaps, was the recent killing of former United States benator Arthur Brown, of Utah, at Washington, D. C. , by Mrs Annie M. Bradley. The man, according to the woman’s story had often promised to obtain a divorce from his wife and marry her. At other times, it is claimed, he promised to and did acknowledge publicly that Mrs. Bradley’s two younger children were his. When she discovered this he had transferred his affections, after his wife’s death, to another woman, whom it was rumored he was about to marry. Mrs. Bradley followed him to the National Capital and killed him.

Whether the “new unwritten law” will prevail to save Mrs. Bradley from capital punishment in the event she is convicted is a problem. Though possessing no means she has many influential friends, who are standing by her. A half dozen able lawyers have been engaged to defend her and they are sanguine they will secure acquittal.

~ The Case of Mrs. Tolla. ~

There nas been one recent case, though, where a jury scorned the new “unwritten law” and did not hesitate to convict a woman for murder. It was in Jersey City that Mrs. Antoinette Tolla in defense from the persecution of Joseph Santo shot and killed him. Even the wife of the slam man justified the killing, but the jury failed to see any extenuating circumstances or to be influenced by the defendant’s sex and found her guilty of murder in the first degree. However public sentiment proved powerful enough to save the woman from an ignominious fate and influence brought to bear upon the State board of pardons resulted in a commutation to life imprisonment.

A different wrong from the one usually actuating women to slay men figures in the mysterious case of the Baroness, de Massey. She came to this country a few months ago and in New York killed Gustav Simon a wealthy shirt manufacturer who she alleges, murdered her husband in France. It was to avenge her husband’s murder she declares, that she followed Simon and killed him. The family of Simon deny the woman’s story and assert that she attempted to blackmail her victim and failing and fearing exposure, she slew him.

There are the same elements of mystery and contradiction in this murder by a woman as in the McDonald-Guerin tragedy in Chicago. The trial will doubtless reveal the truth and demonstrate whether the now “unwritten law” which safeguards murderesses will prevail to save the Baroness de Massey, should she be convicted.

~ May Escape Death Penalty. ~

There are, however, numerous precedents to make the baroness hopeful that she will either be acquitted or escape the death penalty. There are the cases of Florence Burns, Rosa, Salza, Josephine Terranova, and Nan Patterson. The first three named who killed men were set free by juries in the case of Nan Patterson, the former show girl was placed on trial three times for the alleged murder of Caesar Young, an English sporting man, who died from a pistol shot while in a cab with her. There was no proof that Nan Patterson shot the man but his severance of his relations with her was claimed by the prosecution to furnish the motive which probably led her to kill him.

The prosecution amassed much circumstantial evidence to show that Nan Patterson committed the crime, but on each one of the trials as many different juries failed to be convinced and disagreed. She was given her freedom. Since then she became reconciled to her husband, and the two are living together. Only her trial will determine whether Goldie O’Neil, a once popular chorus girl will fare better, as well, or worse than Nan Patterson. She stabbed her husband to death with a hatpin. She claims self-defense, and her friends and relative’s sustain that plea.

~ Sentiment Favors the Women. ~

On the other hand, the State declares it will prove that Goldie O’Nell, chafing under the matrimonial yoke, deliberately drove a hatpin through her husband’s heart. In jail at Bridgeport, she awaits her trial. Sentiment in the community, as in most others in America, favors the new “unwritten law” for women.

In the South, where the ancient “unwritten law” is still strong in turning men, the new “unwritten law,” which saves murderesses from capital punishment, does not appear from a recent instance to grant them absolute immunity. Mrs. Annie Birdsong, member of a prominent family of Mississippi, and a cousin of former United States Senate McDaurin, of South Carolina, shot and killed Dr. Butler, an intimate friend of her husband. The woman’s plea was that her victim had slandered her without cause.

The prosecution claimed that Mrs Birdsong was infatuated with Dr Butler, and that she was enraged at his coolness toward her. The ablest lawyers of Mississippi were arrayed on both sides, former Senator McLaurln appearing as one of the counsel for his relative. The defense felt that their case was so strong that Mrs. Birdsong must easily go free. But, contrary to general expectation, the jury thought otherwise, though it exercised a large degree of mercy.

She was found guilty of manslaughter, and received a term of several years in State’s prison. A motion for a new trial was made, successfully in the near future, Mrs Birdsong will face a jury for the second time, and the impression is that the verdict may be acquittal.

~ The Case of Judge Favrot. ~

Differing from the Birdsong case only in that the accused slayer is a man, instead of a woman, but in all other essential circumstances the same, is that of former Judge Favrot, now a Louisiana Congressman-elect, who on the day he was elected, shot and killed his most intimate friend, also a physician, for the same cause Mrs. Birdsong claims impelled her crime, only that Congressman Favrot asserts that his victim slandered the good name of his wife.

Favrot still being judge of the court whose duty it was to summon a grand jury to take up his case could not act, but after considerable delay, a special judge was named, a grand jury impaneled and an indictment for murder in the first degree returned. This bill, however, sustained by the lower court, has been quashed by a higher tribunal, and while it is almost certain that a new indictment will be found against Favrot, it is believed certain that the “unwritten law” will prove effectual in saving him. The two cases are cited merely because they are similar in circumstances and to show that while the only difference is the sex of the slayer, juries are differently swayed by what has recently been called “dementia Americana,” a new name coined by the chief counsel in Thaw’s defense for a public sentiment which has abided with and influenced Americans from the earliest time.

~ The “Unwritten Law” and Its Power. ~

In considering the force and power of the new “unwritten law” which comes to juries from the people and virtually tells these arbiters of the fate of murderesses that they shall not hang a woman only crimes in which men are the victims of wronged women’s passion or jealousy are cited. There are many other murder cases in which females are the slayers, but in which women or children are the victims.

The mercy of the new “unwritten law” extends to the latter as well as to those who take the life of men. Around the men slayers, though, there is more of the glamour of romance, sentiment, and human sympathy than there is for the woman or girl who kills either another of her sex or children. Mercy is the softening factor in punishment for a woman who, through jealousy or cruelty, slays one of her sex or a helpless child. But no real sympathy is aroused for such an offender, and punishment tempered with leniency, is the inevitable decree.

The woman who kills a man to redress a wrong done her which the law will not right for her rarely risks the extreme penalty. This fact, for fact it is, and based on precedents and recurring precedents in new crimes, is argued by criminologists to be the cause of the sudden and appalling increase in the number of murders by women-killings in which men are the victims.

~ Many Still to Be Tried. ~

There are a large number of murderesses yet to be tried for their deeds, too recent and with the details too fresh in mind, to prove that the new “unwritten law” is inflexible. It remains to be seen how jurors will act in some very remarkable cases in which women are the defendants.

An Italian girl, Maria Schabara, while in one of the crowds which daily assembled to catch a glimpse of Evelyn Thaw, little dreamed that she would speedily become the occupant of a cell in the jail. In the throng she espied Nicola Ferrance, a young countryman who had cast her off. She was at his side. In a moment and pleading with him to do her justice. He pushed her from him and laughed Maria drew a revolver and shot him. Her sole and strong hope of escape is that her story will move the jury to comply with the new “unwritten law.”

Emma Ripkie, not quite twenty, awaits in a cell at Council Bluffs, Iowa, her trial for the murder of Frank K Potts, her affianced. She discovered letters written to him by another woman, and shot him to death while he was asleep. In his room Miss Ripkie exhibits not the least fear of the outcome of her crime.

~ Killed Six Weeks After Marriage. ~

Mrs. Margery Clark enticed Algernon S. Atwood to Boston six weeks after his marriage, shot him to death on his arrival and then mortally wounded herself. She had wired Atwood that she was dying and prompted by his former affection for Mrs. Clark he went on to his death.

Mrs. William Robinson, of Terre Haute and accused her husband of being untrue to her He laughed at the charge and she became enraged and shot him. She feels confident, that she will go free.

Jennie Ruth Burch, a half-breed young Indian nursegirl killed her three-year-old baby charge because she feared punishment for burning a barn owned by the child’s parents at White Plains, N. Y. The youth of the murderess, and the fact of her Indian blood, while it may save her from the electric chair will probably result in her confinement under strict restaint in the State reformatory. The new “unwritten law” will not be a factor, it is assumed, in deciding her fate.

~ Girl Shot by Sister. ~

More thrilling was the shooting of Ida Goff, a girl in her early teens, by her sister Mrs Josephine Kelly, who charged alienating her husband’s affection. At Atlanta, Ga., Mrs. E. M. Standifer shot her seventeen-year-old sister to death for the same reason, and the jury set her free. Mrs Kelly, from the present status of public feelings in Baltimore, where the tragedy occurred, will probably suffer light punishment.

Several women are to be tried in Kentucky in the near future for the killing of the women who they believed robbed the slayers of their husband’s affections. Likely as not the new “unwritten law” which extenuates the crimes of women who slay men will prevail to save them.

Acquittals of women recently who murdered men who wronged them are numerous enough to prove how strong is the trend of the public mind in its opposition to punishing slayers of the gentler sex.

[“Does the New ‘Unwritten Law’ Shelter Women Who Shed Blood,” (from: St/. Louis Post-Dispatch) Washington Post (D. C.), May 12, 1907, p. 10]



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