Thursday, September 22, 2011

Anna Cunningham, Chicago Serial Killer - 1925


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): Chicago, April 10.—Does the brain of a Borgia lurk back of the sweet, motherly face of Mrs. Anna Cunningham? Authorities, investigates the death of Mrs. Cunningham’s husband and four children at intervals of a year, intimate that such is their belief.

Mrs. Cunningham, recovering in a hospital from an attempt to strangle herself, has admitted the poisoning of three children.

Dr. Thomas Carver aroused the interest of authorities in the matter when Mrs. Cunningham’s 20-year-old son, David jr., was taken to the hospital and found suffering from arsenical poisoning. Large quantities of poison were found in the Cunningham home. Mrs. Cunningham said she bought it to spray plants. She collapsed when questioned further.

The family lived until seven years ago at Bachley’s Corners, Ind., on a little farm. When David Cunningham, the father, died they moved to Gary.

Mrs. Anna Cunningham attended church regularly at Bachley’s Corners. Neighbors respected her, but they all said she was a “little queer.” She was eccentric and had peculiar ideas about children and other things.

In 1919 the father died there. His death was much the same as those that followed – intense stomach pains, a sudden attack and a few days’ illness, all indicating poison. He had been insured for $1,000.

Then Mrs. Cunningham sold the farm of 37 acres for $4,000 to Mrs. Katherine Betts, who owned an adjoining farm.

Harry Cunningham urged that the family go to Gary. A year after they left Bachley’s Corners, Isabelle, 28, died. She had been insured for $1,000 just five weeks later, at the age of 18. He was insured for only $320.

In 1923 the younger brother, Walter, 13, died, insured for only $180.

The last to be attacked was David jr., who was rushed from a Gary hospital in Chicago, where he is fighting to save his life. Insurance carried in his name totaled $1,000.

Harry, 23, was the next victim of the sudden illness. He died in 1921, less than a year after he had been insured for $2,500.

Charles, the second brother to die, suffered the same fate a year before her death and Mrs. Cunningham had paid but one premium.

All policies named the mother as beneficiary.

Mae Cunningham, 17, who is the only surviving girl in the family, said that her mother had been ailing and hysterical at times after they moved to Gary.

“She used to chase us around with the butcher knife,” she said. “That was when she got fits. Usually she’d collapse after having worked herself up into a frenzy.”

“She had a bible, which she used to take into her room. She would lock the door and read it for hours at a time.”

[“Hold Mother In Poison Case - Mrs. Anna Cunningham Confesses to Killing Three Children,” syndicated (Central Press), The Emporia Gazette (Ka.), Apr. 16, 1925, p. 8]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): Crown Point, Ind. – Confinement in prison. for the rest of her natural life was the sentence meted out to Mrs. Anna Cunningham, 49 year old widow, by a jury in Lake-co criminal court today, which found .her guilty of first degree murder in  connection with the fatal poisoning of her ten-year old son, Walter. The jury deliberated more than 24 hours.

Before Judge Martin; Smith could formally pass sentence, defense counsel .petitioned-the judge to withhold sentence until the defense could file a motion for a new trial. The request was granted. Mrs. Cunningham sobbed bitterly when the judge read the jury's verdict, but did not collapse.

~ MYSTERY DEATHS  ~

Suspicion first rested on Mrs. Cunningham in connection with the mysterious deaths, of five members of her family in sis years when David Cunningham, Jr., 24, became ill suddenly in Gary and was removed to a Chicago hospital for treatment last April.

Oscar Wolff, coroner of Cook-co (Chicago) investigated on information given by George Arnold, 25, a cousin of David Cunningham, who said the Cunninghams had lived principally on insurance paid on lives of the five deceased members.

Mrs. Cunningham was arrested in Gary April 11. The charge followed examination of the vital organs of the bodies of Walter, 10, and Harry, 23, her sons. Physicians found traces of poison in Walter’s organs, but none in those of the other young man.

The accused woman signed a confession on April 15. On the same day she fell ill into a state of coma, from which she was revived only after hours of effort. In the confession, which was later repudiated as having been obtained when she was in a delicate condition, Mrs. Cunningham said she fatally poisoned Isabelle, 20; Charles, 18, and Walter, 19. She also admitted having poisoned David Jr., who is only partially recovered. She said she fed the poison to her children on bread and butter sandwiches.

Indicted on three first degree charges on June 2, by the Lake-co criminal court grand jury, Mrs. Cunningham on July 16 went on trial for the alleged killing of her youngest child.

David Cunningham Jr., and Mae, 19, are the only survivors of the family. In her purported confession, Mrs. Cunningham said she poisoned the three children and also tried to kill herself so they all could “join in Heaven” David Sr., the father and husband. Physicians have pronounced the woman a victim of epileptic psychosis.

Deaths in the family began on July 2, 1918, when the father and husband died. Isabelle died December 31, 1919; Harry on October 18, 1921, Charles, September 21, 1921, and Walter, September 15, 1922.

David, last to become ill, is partially paralyzed, but gradually is recovering.

[“Life Term Prison Is Given Indiana Woman - Convicted Poisoner Collapses When Verdict of Jury Is Read - Appeal Is Noted - Slaying of Two Other Children Is Charged to Prisoner,” syndicated (AP), Jul. 26, 1925, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): Crown Point, Ind.,. Oct. 12, —Without funds to perfect an appeal to the Indiana supreme court, Mrs. Anna Cunningham, forty-nine, convicted of poisoning her son Walter, will enter the state penitentiary at Indianapolis tomorrow to begin a life sentence for murder. Judge Martin Smith in the Lake county criminal court today denied a motion for a new trial.

In a confession obtained in Chicago after her arrest and repudiated during the trial, the gray-haired widow said she had given poison to four of her children, three of whom died. The defense contended the mother was unbalanced mentally at the time the disputed confession was made.

Mrs. Cunningham’s husband, a farmer near Valparaiso, and three children, Isabelle, 18; Charles, 19, and Walter, 13, all died during six years. An investigation revealed that Walter, the last to die, had been poisoned.

When arrested the widow said she had killed the children because she loved them and wanted them to join the father “in heaven.” She declared she too had taken poison in hopes of joining him.

[“Poison Mother Enters Prison - Mrs. Cunningham Denied New Trial Motion,” syndicated (AP), Oct. 13, 1925, p. 1]

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NOTE: “Female serial killers are rare” is a false stereotype that was invented in the late 20 the century. This faulty claim based on the fact that, due to prejudice and chivalry, criminologists have traditionally avoided looking at female styles of criminality seriously and thus fail to put devote adequate resources to research the topic. The introduction of fallacious Marxian theories in the post-1960s period has exacerbated this state of affairs by  fostering outright distortions and censorship in the study of female violence among scholars.

SEE: “Three women Who Admit Poisoning 29 Persons,” syndicated, Lock Haven Express (Pa.), May 1, 1925, p. 2

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