Thursday, August 11, 2011

Not Your Average “Black Widow” Husband-Murderer: Laura Christy (AKA Elsie Randles)


During the 1920s, Black Widows (predatory women who married men with the intention of murdering them for personal gain) were in the news constantly. But this one was a bit different from the run of the mill Black Widow. Elsie (or Laura) married eight men, but did not feel the need to murder all of them. Only two, according to her confession after being caught having poisoned husband #8. What is most peculiar is that this marriage was bigamous yet she claimed to not even know husband #6 (who cropped up after he read about her arrest after having been fleeced and abandoned). The hapless victim did, however, prove that he indeed was married to her and then promptly proceeded to get a divorce.

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): East Liverpool, Ohio, Jan. 15. – Mrs. Laura Christy, 48, left a widow in three of five marriages, was held in the county jail in Lisbon today, charged with fifth husband, Rev. William Christy, 56, who she first met and married less than two weeks ago.

Vital organs of Mr. Christy, who was a representative of the Christian Missionary Association of the United States, were sent to the state chemist at Colombus to be analysed for traces of poisoning.

The charge of murder was preferred against Mrs. Christy yesterday by Chief of Police McDermott, who said the woman had confessed to him and Prosecuting Attorney R. M. Brooks, that she had given her husband poison. Mr. Christy died Wednesday night in a hospital.

Mrs. Christy in her signed confession, according to Chief McDermott said her husband suffered from indigestion and that she administered him the poison “Because he asked for it.” When arraigned yesterday Mrs. Christy pleaded not guilty and was held to the grand jury. Mrs, Christy said she met her husband on January 4 and married him the next day.

Her fourth husband, John Evert, 50, died at Newell, W. Va., last November 7. Local officials today said his body might be exhumed to determine the cause of death. Officials said he was supposed to have been the victim of lung congestion and mumps but at the time of his death, his physician, had not seen him for two days, having pronounced him well on the road to recovery.

[“Admits Poisoning Pastor Husband,” The Sedalia Democrat (Mo.), Jan. 15, 1926, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT  (Article 2 of 4): East Liverpool, Ohio, Jan. 20 – Convinced that the woman has a mania for killing, authorities today impaneled a sanity commission to examine Mrs. Laura E. Christy, 48, who has confessed, according to the police, that she murdered two of her eight former husbands.

Mrs. Christy admits she gave poison capsules to her seventh husband and arsenic to her eighth, the Rev. Williams Christy, 56, attache of the Christian Missionary Alliance, who died suddenly Wednesday.

County Prosecutor Robert E. Brokes obtained the reported confession and brought out that of the woman’s eight husbands, six died suddenly and under mysterious circumstances.

“I poisoned two of my husbands but the others died naturally,” Mrs. Christy asserted belligerently when questioned further today. “They were mean to me. They had it coming to them.”

Mrs Christy’s seventh husband was John Ebert, a Newell, W. Va., pottery worker.

“I gave him an arsenic capsule,” Mrs. Christy confessed, according to Brookes. “John treated me brutally. He was ill at the time and I fed him arsenic instead of the medicine prescribed by his physician.

“William was ill, too. He had treated me mean, but I suppose I shouldn’t have poisoned him. We were married only three weeks ago. He was suffering from indigestion and when he asked for soda to relieve him I gave him arsenic on a knife blade.

Previously Mrs. Christy had said she administered arsenic to him at his own request.

Of the eight husbands, only two are living, according to Brookes. These are Frederick Harmon, Athens, N. Y., and Charles Graham, East Liverpool, who has remarried and is residing here.

The husbands who died besides Ebert and Christy were Jacob Barnhart, Jesse Sears and George Holt, all of East Liverpool, and Charles O’Neill, Cincinnati.

[“Pastor’s Widow Admits Killing Two Husbands – Inquiry Ordered Into Her Mental Condition – ‘They Had It Coming, They Were Mean to Me,’ She Says – Avers Other Deaths Were Natural,” The Chillicothe Constitution (Mo.), Jan. 20, 1926, p. 3]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): Mrs. Randles, known as Mrs. Laura Christy, was adjudged insane and sent to the state institution by the probate court of Columbiana county in 1926 following her confession that she has poisoned Rev. William Christy, her eighth husband, at their home in East Liverpool.

She later confessed that her seventh husband, John Ebert, a pottery worker at Newell, West Virginia, had died in the same manner. Randles was the woman’s sixth husband, the couple having married by Rev. C. J. McGee, pastor of the local United Brethren church, on March 30, 1925. She left Randles on June 15 and was not heard from again in East Liverpool in January, 1926.

Harlan Brown, this city, a son-in-law of Randles, read the newspaper stories of Mrs. Christy’s killings at that time and recognized her picture which was shown as part of the account. Mrs. Christy’s life history tallied perfectly with that of the woman who married Randles and left him two months later.

Randles met his bride-to-be thru a matrimonial agency and they were married at Brown’s home, making their home on the former’s farm at Layland. Telling her husband that she must return to her former home in Athens, New York, to “see about some furniture” and to some money left her by an aunt who had died. Mrs. Randles left her two months later.

She did not return and some time later Randles received a letter from her in which she stated that she had work in East Liverpool and would not come back.


In the brief period between June 16, 1925, the date on which she deserted Randles, and her arrest on a murder charge at East Liverpool in East Liverpool in January, 1926. Mrs. Randles married twice and poisoned her spouse on each occasion. The murder charges were dismissed when she was adjudged insane by the Columbiana county probate court and sent to the Lima institution.

Mrs. Clyde Barrick, this city, is a niece of Mrs. Randles, the latter having been a sister of Mrs. Barrick’s mother. At the time of Mrs. Randle’s arrest. Mrs. Barrick stated that her aunt had never been here and that she had never seen her.

In his divorce action started last week. Randles charges his wife obtained, by false pretenses, all the money she could get from him, then left home. She is charged with gross neglect of duty. Attorney R. B. McDermott in representing Randles in his action.

When Randles and the woman obtained the marriage license she gave the name of Elsie May Harmon, and her place of birth as East Liverpool. The man and woman gave their ages as 47 and 44, respectively.

[“Layland Man Asks Divorce From Confessed Slayer - Murderer Of Two Husbands Says She Doesn't Know Sixth - Marriage Records, However, Prove Contrary; Wife Now an Inmate of Lima Hospital for Criminal Insane; Served with Summons Notifying Her of Action; Husband Charges Obtained Money On False Premises,” The Coshocton Tribune (Oh.), Nov. 2, 1927, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 4): A decree of divorce was granted yesterday in probate courts to Isaac Randles of Layland.

The defendant, Elsie Randles [AKA Laura Christy], is now confined to the Lima state hospital for criminal insane, where she was sent from East Liverpool on confessing that she killed her seventh and eighth husbands by the poison route.

Randles was the woman’s sixth husband, the two having been married by Rev. C. J. McGee, pastor of the Park-av U. B. church, on March 30, 1925. She deserted Randles in the following June, telling him she was going to “see about some furniture” at her former home in Athens, New York. The next he heard of her was when she was arrested in East Liverpool in January, 1926, charged with murdering her husband, Rev. William Christy.

Newspaper accounts of her slayings were read by Harlan Brown of Coshocton, a son-in-law of Randles, and he recognized her picture as that of the woman who had left Randles.

Mrs. Randles also confessed killing her seventh husband, John Ebert, a pottery worker of Newell, West Virginia, in the same manner.

She and Randles met thru the medium of a matrimonial agency, were married and went to live on the latter’s farm at Layland. From the time she left him on June 16, 1925, until her arrest in January 1926, she was twice married.

The murder charge was dismissed when she was adjudged insane in the probate court of Columbia-co.

[“Randles Divorces Murderer – Blissfield Man Freed of Martial Ties with Insane Woman Who Killed Seven [sic] – Wife In Asylum – Decree Granted Yesterday in Probate Court; Left Him After Brief Period,” The Coshocton Tribune (Oh.),  Dec. 22, 1927, p. 1]

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For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.

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