Thursday, September 22, 2011

Amelia Rivers Webb Wardrop, Ohio Serial Killer - 1934

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Coshocton, O., April 7 – A 43-year-old mother, who collected $1,587.84 in insurance when two of her offspring died, today was charged with their killing by poison.

Climaxing a sensational, year long, inquiry into the strange deaths of a son and a daughter, a grand jury indicted Mrs. Amelia Rivers Webb Wardrop. It listed three counts, two of first degree murder, and a third, charging the administration of poison with intent  to kill to a 21-year-old nephew, Charles Hughes.

Crippled from the hips down and hobbling into Prosecutor Russell B. Lyons’ office on crutches, young Hughes a year ago told the story that led to a painstaking investigation, a secret night-time exhumation of the bodies of his cousins, and discovery by a chemist that each contained poison enough to have caused death.

~ 27 Witnesses Heard ~

Twenty-seven witnesses paraded into the grand jury room to relate pertinent incidents. It took two and a half days for the jury to hear the evidence.

Mrs. Wardrop was removed to the county jail tonight, still protesting her innocence, to await arraignment in common pleas court Tuesday.

“ I am not worried.” She said, “because I am innocent.” She would not discuss the case further and refused to answer questions. Her arraignment has been set for 10 a. m. Tuesday.

Twice married, she was divorced from her second husband ten years ago. She admitted. Lyon said, giving both of them medicine.

~ Two Suddenly Die ~

It was on October 1, 1931, that the first of Mrs. Webb’s children, 19-year-old Herbert George Webb, died on January 7, 1932. Mrs. Iona Webb Senter, also died suddenly while recovering from an operation for appendicitis. Myocarditis (inflammation of the muscular tissue of the heart) was given as the cause of both deaths.

Young Hughes, who was living with his aunt, became ill and in April 1932 county officials started an investigation of his mysterious illness. Physicians reported the boy was suffering from poison but, after a time, officials dropped their inquiry.

It was a year later that Hughes, paralyzed from his illness, hobbled into Lyons’ office for questioning in connection with a family quarrel. The prosecutor, who had come into office after the investigation of the youth’s illness, ventured a kindly inquiry as to what brought about the affliction.

The story of the alleged poison interested Lyons. He questioned Hughes carefully and obtained a signed statement from the youth that he had purchased the poison that he said later was given him as a medicine.

~ Poison to “Kill Rats”~

His aunt, Hughes said, instructed him to buy the poison for use “to kill rats.” She cautioned him, the youth said, to buy the poison at one drug store capsules at another.

~ Druggists Verified the Story. ~

Dr. Floyd W. Craig told the prosecutor he treated Hughes for poisoning and was able to save the youth’s life only because of prompt use of a stomach pump. Lyons learned, he said, that Mrs. Wardrop held two insurance policies for $98 on her nephew. Both were lapsed after the youth recovered.

Lyons then started his inquiry of the deaths. He discovered that of the $1,587.84 in insurance Mrs. Wardrop collected, $500 was paid on a policy she had taken out on Herbert 17 days before he died. Another $500 was on a policy taken out on Iona 40 days before her death. Mrs. Wardrop, Lyons said, had made a vain attempt to have reinstated before the deaths other policies that had lapsed.

~ Bodies Dug Up ~

The prosecutor demanded exhumation of the bodies. Last March 22, officials, working secretly, in the darkness of night, visited Fairfield cemetery. They hastily erected floodlights that cast a trial of brilliant light across the scene as workmen, with grim expression, dug up two coffins. An inquest followed. The vital organs were removed; the bodies replaced in their caskets and returned to their graves.

C. L. Long of Columbus, a chemist, analyzed the organs. On March 31 he reported that he had found sufficient poison in the body of Herbert George to cause death.

Mrs. Webb was taken into custody; held for investigation. Throughout a long night, officials questioned her. She steadfastly denied poisoning her children.

Then Chemist Long sent his second report. He had found, he in formed Lyons, a greater amount of poison in Mrs. Senter’s body than had been found in Herbert George’s.

Lyons took the case to the grand jury. The indictment resulted.

[“Indict Coshocton Woman In Two Deaths – Bodies of Offspring Exhumed – Will Be Arraigned Tuesday On Three Counts,” syndicated (AP), The Sandusky Register, Apr. 8, 1934, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Mrs. Amelia Rivers Webb Wardrop, 45-year-old Coshocton mother under indictment for the poison slaying of her two children, may escape further prosecution on the two first degree murder charges, it was indicated today by Prosecutor Russel E. Lyons.

Mrs. Wardrop, who has been under treatment at the Lima state hospital for the criminal insane for more than a year, was returned from that institution Thursday night by Prosecutor Lyons and incarcerated in the county jail.

The mother, who collapsed following the ordeal of her trial for the murder of her son, Herbert George, 18, in 1934, is greatly improved in health and talks rationally, the prosecutor said.

Questioned at conference in Lima Thursday between Prosecutor Lyons and state alienists, Mrs. Wardrop maintained her innocence of the charges that she administered arsenic to her son and daughter, Mrs. Iona Webb Senter.

Prosecutor Lyons said today that the future course of action against the mother had not been determined, but it is “doubtful” whether she is to be tried for murder a second time. A jury of 12 men failed to agree when Mrs. Wardrop was tried for the murder of her son in August, 1934.

Murder indictments against the mother were returned in April, 1934, two years after the deaths of her children. The charges developed after exhumation of the bodies and chemical analysis of the vital organs revealed that the viscera of each contained sufficient white arsenic to have caused death.

Herbert George died Oct. 2, 1931, and Mrs. Senter on Jan. 7, 1932. First degree murder indictments were returned against the mother in each case, and a third indictment for administering poison with intent to kill was also found by the grand jury.

The latter indictment was returned in connection with the illness of Mrs. Wardrop’s nephew, Charles Hughes, who lived with his aunt following the daughter’s death. Hughes was taken ill while living in the Wardrop home, but recovered from an illness which physicians describe the county jail where, she was held for nearly a year before her breakdown and removal to the Lima hospital.

State alienists informed county authorities a month ago that the woman had been restored to reason and was to be dismissed from the institution.

[“Mother May Escape Further Prosecution Mrs. Wardrop Returned from Lima Hospital; Is in Jail Pending Disposal of Case,” Coshocton Tribune (Oh.), Jun. 5, 1936, p. 1]


Amelia Rivers Webb Wardop


Oct. 1, 1931 – Herbert George Webb, 18, son, died.
Jan. 7, 1932 – Mrs. Iona Cordelia Webb Senter, 24, daughter, died.
Mar. 1932 – Charles Hughes, 21, nephew, crippled from hips down.


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