Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cynthia Buffom ("Buffom"), New York Serial Killer - 1913

NOTE: There is confusion over the spelling, which is “Buffom” in some sources and “Buffum” in others. Although the court papers (indictment and appeal) use “Buffom,” this was an error. The question was cleared up on May 11, 1915, when the defendant was asked the correct spelling of her name, which she stated was “Buffum.” [see: Olean Evening Herald (N. Y.), May 11, 1915, p. 1 (& 3)]


Norris Buffum, son, 4; died May 1913.
Willis Buffum, husband; died August 24, 1913 (ill for 6 weeks).
Laura Buffum, daughter, 10; poisoned Sep. 15, 1913; died Feb. 2, 1914.
Herbert Buffum, son, 18 (in 1913); poisoned, left crippled for life.
Clarence Buffum, son, 16; poisoned, recovered.


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 5): The Buffom poisoning case, which a month or so ago attracted wide a ttention and which has been under investigation by the county authorities, loomed up in more sensational form than ever before yesterday afternoon, when the presence in Little Valley of Detective Thomas O’Grady of Buffalo, and an interview at the sheriff’s office between Mrs. Cynthia Buffom and District Attorney G. W Cole gave rise to rumors that the woman had been placed under arrest on a charge of killing her husband by administering arsenic to him.

This rumor was promptly denied by the district attorney, who not only declared that no arrest had been made, but said that none was imminent. The presence of the detective at the county seat was explained by the statement that he had been employed by the county authorities in connection with the Vorelli murder case, which was called for trial on Tuesday, and a jury to try which was secured yesterday. It was not denied that the district attorney had an interview with Mrs. Buffom, but this is not the first time that he has talked with her in connection with his investigation with his investigation of the case. It was denied that she was “taken” to the sheriff’s office, as one report had it; and instead of being placed under arrest she returned to her home after her talk with the district attorney. The family some little time ago removed from the farm where Mr. Buffom and one of his sons died, to the village of Little Valley.

Another sensational rumor, which was published as a fact in an extra edition of one of the Buffalo papers last evening, was to the effect that a young farmer whose name has been linked with that of Mrs. Buffom, had likewise been taken to the county jail and was being examined by the district attorney. This statement Mr. Cole declared to be absolutely without foundation; in fact, it is stated that the young farmer in question was not been for some time.

Further than to deny these rumors, however, District Attorney Cole declines to discuss the case, and the belief is strong at Little Valley that the authorities have neither accepted the theory advanced by relatives of Mrs. Buffom, that the poisoning of members of the family was accidental, nor have discontinued their quiet investigation of the case, but on the contrary evidence has been found to strengthen the early suspicions of foul play and that further developments may be expected at a not distant date. The next grand jury will convene with the opening of the term of the Supreme Court on Dec. 1st., and it is not impossible that whatever information the authorities may have gleaned will be submitted to that body for its consideration and for such action as it may deem proper.

Suspicions that poison had been administered to members of the Buffom family first became known to the public early in October, when District and it is said that he undoubtedly suffered from that disease. There were also, however, symptoms of arsenical poisoning.

In August came the death of the husband and father, Willis Bulfom, 52 years old, after an illness of about six weeks. He showed marked symptoms of arsenical poisoning. His wife is said to have attributed his death to excessive drinking.

At about the time that he was taken ill, Herbert, a son, 16 years old, exhibited similar symptoms, but in a milder form. He subsequently improved, and has almost entirely recovered.

On the 15th of September Laura, the ten year old daughter, became seriously ill, and Dr. M. L. Hilllsman of Little Yalley, who had attended Norris and his father, was again summoned. The little girl symptoms, were so typical of arsenical poisoning that the doctor felt it his duty to inform the district attorney of his suspicions. The application for a court order for the exhuming of the father’s body followed, and Dr. Herbert M. Hill, a Buffalo chemist, took portions of the viscera for examination. The results of that examination have never been made public. Dr. Hill submitted to the district attorney what the latter termed a partial report, and which he declined to discuss. The statement has been made in Buffalo that Dr. Hill found white arsenic in weighable quantities in both the liver and the stomach of the dead man. According to testimony by medical experts given in a recent trial for alleged arsenical poisoning in Massachusetts, this would be an indication that arsenic had been administered at intervals extending over a period of several weeks.

Laura Buffum is still alive, though her condition is still very serious. For a time she seemed at death’s very door,  then an apparent change for the better set in; but the improvement in her condition had not been sufficient to warrant strong hopes for her recovery.

Clarence, 16 years old, became ill after the little girl did, but has recovered, as has also Francis, 15 years old, who was only slightly affected.

According to gossip at Little Valley, Mrs. Buffom and her husband did not live happily together; in fact, there have been stories of an alleged entanglement between Mrs. Buffom and a young farmer.

The precise line of investigation which has been followed by the district attorney has not been disclosed; Mr. Cole is accustomed to keeping his own counsel in such matters, and to conducting his inquiries quietly. One of the Buffalo papers asserts that Detective O’Grady has had “half a dozen trained men and women investigators” at work at Little Valley, Salamanca and other cities and towns in which persons who might have some knowledge of matters in the Buffom family reside. This is denied by the officials.

[“Buffom Case Once More – Interest In The Mystery Revived Again – No Arrests as Yet However – Further Development Looked for At Early Date,” Carraraugus Republican (Salamanca and Little Valley, N. Y.), Nov. 20, 1913, p. 8]

FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 5): Salamanca, N. Y., Dec. 12.— “I loved Ernest Frahm so much more than I did my husband that I would have done anything, everything for him. He told me to kill my husband and poison my children. I did what he told me to do — but it was he, he, he who made me do it.”

This is not the official confession of Cynthia Buffum. That is typewritten on innumerable pages and in the hands of District Attorney Cole. This is what the woman said as she sank sobbing beside the bed of her little dying daughter after her arrest.

Mrs. Cynthia Buffum, arrested on a warrant charging her with murder in the first degree in having poisoned her husband, Willis Buffum, confessed her share in the crime later, according to the police. They say she implicated Ernest Frahm, her lover, who was indicted by the Cattaraugus grand jury as being an accessory before the fact. Buffum, a well-to-do farmer in this section, died suddenly in the first week of September. The attention of the authorities was called to the case when four of his children became ill, the symptoms closely resembling the illness which preceded their father's death. Laura, 10, is still in a serious condition; Norris, four, died under peculiar circumstances last May. Both Mrs. Buffum and Frahm were locked up here to await trial on the charge of first degree murder.

[“Woman and Her Lover Face Charge of First Degree Murder.” Elyria Evening Telegram (Oh.), Dec. 12, 1913, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 5): Little Valley, N.Y., December 13. The text of the confession of Mrs. Cynthia Buffom, who killed her husband and her baby son, Norris, and poisoned her three other daughters, was obtained last night.

In the confession, Mrs. Buffum says her love for Ernest Frahm, the dashing young man, and his urgent demands that she kill her husband and family, caused her to administer the slow poison. The document states she believes she still loves Frahm.

Mrs. Buffum, in her confession, says the murder of her husband and child was contemplated as far back as last winter. First the poison was given to little Norris.

Mrs. Buffum has passed over the killing of the little boy. In fact it was with difficulty that she would be induced to say something about it, her confession being devoted most wholly to the methodical manner in which she went about the work of sending her husband to death.

“Ernest said he wanted to marry me, and he wanted Willis out of the way. We talked it over. Norris was dead, and Earnest thought we should get Willis out of the way as soon as possible. He said to me: ‘I suppose I could catch him out in the  dark some night and put a bullet in his head, but you know an easier way.’ I knew he meant the poison.

“Then I began to place the poison in Willis’ food. I took the staff from bottles used by my brother, James Colf, in which to keep medicines, which he used to treat his horses. For about a week Willis didn’t seem to show any effects from the poison – then he began to get sick. Each day he got worse, but I kept right on giving him the poison.

“Finally we called Dr. Hillsman. He examined Willis and asked me some questions about him. I said nothing about the poison. After the doctor had been called Ernest met me and asked me if the doctor suspected anything. I told him I did not think so.

“Dr. Hillsman sent in some medicine to be given to Willis. I mixed the poison in the medicine and kept on giving it to him. A few days after that Willis got very bad and that night he died.

“A few days later I gave the poison to Herbert, Clarence and Laura. When Laura was very sick Ernest didn’t seem satisfied with the way things were going, and said we would have to hurry. Then I heard a lot of talk going around that the doctors were saying that Willis had been poisoned and I stopped using the poison. Willis was taken out of his grave after that and nurses were sent to take care of Laura.

“I love Ernest Frahm very much, and I think I still love him. I wanted him to keep quiet about the whole thing and wrote him letters in which I told him to answer no questions and keep our secret. I am glad it is all over and that I have told everything.”

[Woman Poisoned Whole Family – Her Confession Tells How She Planned Diabolical Crime With Lover – Doled Out Slow Poison -  Husband and Baby Succumbed, Three Daughters Escaping Same Fate by Doctors Becoming Suspicious,” The Gazette (Montreal, Canada), Dec. 15, 1913, p. 13]


FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 5): Little Valley, N. Y. – A woman charged with committing the most horrible crime in this country’s history goes to trial Monday. She – Mr. Cynthia Buffom – is charged with planning to end the lives of her husband and her children. She, the state’s attorney alleges, poisoned her husband, her little daughter, her little baby, her two son all fur the sake of an illicit love—the love of a middle-aged married woman for a handsome farm laborer.

If what the state’s officials allege is true, Mrs. Buffom is the arch-murderess of the western world—the Lucretia Borgia of modem times.

To see and talk to this remarkable woman I came to Little Valley.

I found her seated by the window of her cell reading the battered and thumbmarked trash novel, “Beautiful Evelyn’s Mistake.”

She is a comely woman, with a clear ivory complexion, soft brown eyes and a maw of slightly wavy brown hair.

Mrs. Buffom is 40 years old. In another cell, also awaiting trial, is Ernest Fralim, a good-looking young farm band who was employed on the Buffom farm and for love of whom Mr. Buffom is said to have undertaken the wholesale murder of her family. Frahm is held as the result of a confession made lo the district attorney by Mrs. Buffom and subsequently repeated before the grand jury.

The version of his confession current in Little Valley is that Mrs. Buffom admitted that she had undertaken to destroy her husband and children at Frahm’s suggestion that there might be no barriers to their love for each other, and that she used a certain horse remedy, which is a strong solution or arsenic, mixing it with the family food.

Mrs. Buffom’s brother, Jim Coliff, was once a horse trader, and it is said that, without his knowledge, she obtained a bottle of that poisonous liquid which had once belonged to him. The brother will be a witness against her. On the other hand, her sons, one of whom will be a cripple for life, show strong faith in their mother and visit her daily at the jail.

After Mrs. Buffom was placed in jail her little daughter, Laura, died of arsenic poisoning after suffering terrible tortures 27 days. The mother was asked if she desired to see the body of her child.

“No,” she replied briefly, and went on reading a trashy love story.

The husband, Willis Buffom, a farmer, and the baby boy, aged four, died first. After their deaths the wife and mother was arrested. Then the little girl died. Two older boys also suffered from arsenic poisoning, and one will be a cripple for life as a result of it.

“Do you love Ernest Frahm, who is jointly accused of the murder with you?” I asked.

Mrs. Buffom tossed her head and answered with a slight sneer, I should say not!

“I loved only my own man. A woman can love but once!”

And her hand closed tightly over the probable source of the noble sentiment – “Beautiful Evelyn’s Mistake.”

“To what do you attribute your arrest?”

“To village gossip—to the tongues of idle men and women who were always talking about things that did not concern them,” Mrs. Buffom answered.

“But I understand you were arrested as the result of admissions you made to a woman detective posing as little Laura’s nurse and to a man, another detective, who took you on pleasure trips to Buffalo and with whom you are said to have fallen in love?”

“I was warned against those two,” Mrs. Buffom answered. “I am told they were spying on me, but I didn’t believe it. The woman detective who was nursing Laura said I was sticking around the house too much, that I needed amusement and distraction. So I went with her and her friend to Buffalo. They took me to restaurants and shows. I had a good time and I don’t regret it. My motto has always been, ‘You’ve only got one life to live so you might as well live it.’”

And perhaps that was the motto of Willis Buffom and little Norris and Laura Buffom, the husband and the little children who had but one life to live – and who now lie under the snow in the Little Valley cemetery.

[Nikola Greeley-Smith, “Charge Woman Poisoned Her Whole Family - An Amazing Series Of Murders Laid At Door Of New York Mother,” The Tacoma Times (Wa.), Feb. 14, 1914, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 5): Buffalo, N. Y., May 21.—Mrs. Cynthia Buffum, the Little Valley woman who has been on trial in supreme court for two weeks on a charge of murdering her husband, Willis Buffum, by giving him repeated doses of a mineral poison pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree. The decision to enter this plea was reached by Mrs. Buffum and her lawyers after a conference that extended into the early hours of this morning.

Mrs. Buffum was sentenced to not less than 20 years nor more than life. On a previous trial Mrs. Buffum was sentenced to death, but a re-trial was granted on the ground that new evidence had been discovered.

[“Mrs. Buffum Gets 20 Years Or Life – Little Valley Woman Pleads Guilty in Second Degree for Poisoning of Husband.” The Day (New London, Conn.), May 21, 1915, p. 1]

















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