FULL TEXT: Lincoln. – Eliza Joyce, aged 31, a mild and not uninteresting looking woman, the wife of a gardener at Boston, was arraigned upon, and pleaded guilty to two indictments, charging the crime of wilful murder.
The first indictment charged the murdering by poison (laudanum) in the month of October, 1841, of Emma Joyce, aged eighteen months, the child of her husband by a former marriage. The second indictment charged the murdering by poison (laudanum) in the month of January, 1812, of Ann Joyce, aged six weeks, her own offspring by her marriage.
The unhappy being was arraigned at the spring assizes last year, upon the charge of administering to Edward William Joyce (a child of her husband, of some years’ growth) arsenic, whereby his death was caused, and to that indictment pleaded not guilty, and thereon, in consequence of proof to the name of William only, and not of Edward William, being offered, she was discharged, sureties being taken for her appearance to take her trial at the then next ensuing summer assizes. She was again arraigned thereon at the summer assizes of last year, and acquainted. As will be seen by her confession below, she now admitted the murder of the said Edward William Joyce, as well as the murders (all at different times) of Emma Joyce and Ann Joyce.
The shocking scene lasted but for a very few minutes. The wretched creature only faintly uttered on each arraignment, “I am guilty,” and the judge performed his sad duty in as few words and as short a time as decency and the observance of customary form would permit. Few probably of those present left that court with hearts untouched or spirits capable of enjoyment for some time.
Subjoined is the depositions made by the prisoner, and as the prisoner pleaded guilty to both indictments, nothing publicly transpired beyond the reading of the indictment, and the receiving of the plea with the usual formalities, followed by the sentence.
On the 8th of July, 1844, the following voluntary examination of the prisoner was taken before Mr. John Sturdy:
The prisoner, Eliza Joyce, has for some time past resided in the Boston Union workhouse. She was unfortunate enough to give her poor boy, William Edward Joyce, some arsenic; she thought about two teaspoonfuls; after which he was very sick and vomited much.
She had bought the arsenic at the shop of Mr. Simonds, a druggist in Boston. She was tried at Lincoln assizes for poisoning the boy and acquitted. She then stated that she had not given him any arsenic; but she now said that such statement was false. She then stated that she had not given him any arsenic; but she now said that such statement was false. She had been married to her present husband about eight months. When her husband’s daughter, by his former wife, named Emma Joyce, aged about eighteen months, was very ill, she bought, she thought, three penny-worth of laudanum at the shop of Mrs. Smith, a druggist in Boston. She gave, she thought, about two teaspoonfuls of that laudanum to Emma. She gave the laudanum to her about six o’clock in the evening, and the child died almost immediately after in a fit. Mr. Ingram, surgeon, was sent for by the prisoner directly after she had given Emma Joyce the laudanum, but the child died before he arrived. She did not tell Mr. Ingram that she had given her any laudanum, nor did she tell any one else at that time. Emma died, she believed, in the month of October, at which time she (the prisoner) was pregnant. She was confined of a girl in the month of January allowing. She died about three weeks afterwards.
She gave that child, whose came was Ann Joyce, about two tea-spoonfuls of laudanum out of the quantity she had bought herself at Mr. Smith’s shop before she was confined. The nurse was not in the house at the time she gave it the child the laudanum. The nurse’s name was Howard. Soon after she had given the child the laudanum, it had fits. Mr. Ingram, surgeon, was sent for, who gave it as his opinion that they were convulsion fits. Mr. Ingram advised the child to be put into a warm bath. In the course of the second night the child died. After she died she looked pale, to the best of her belief. To the best of her recollection the little girl, Emma Joyce, looked pale, after she was dead. She could not stale what induced her to five the children laudanum, and the little boy, William, the arsenic. She had had some words with her husband during the time she was confined, but generally was upon middling terms with him. The prisoner was induced to make the above confession because her mind was “so burdened that she could not live, and she hoped, as she had confessed, she should be better.” She had made similar confession to the above to the nurse in the workhouse (Susanna Francis), Mr. Wilson, the master, and also to Mr. Edward Coupland, the surgeon. She made other confessions to the nurse and her doctors, but to the same effect – except that to one person, who asked why she had done so, she said, “I don’t know, except I thought it such a thing to bring a family of children into this troublesome world.” – The woman, having been sentenced to death (as above stated), tranquilly allowed herself to be removed from the bar. – (The poor creature’s case certainly deserves further consideration. Mothers in their senses do not usually poison their children without a reason.)
[“A Series Of Murders.” The Weekly Chronicle (London, England), Jul. 27, 1844, p. 6]
Emma Joyce, step-daughter, 19-months, died Oct. 1841, (laudanum)
Ann Joyce, daughter, aged 6-weeks, Jan. 1812, (laudanum)
Edward William Joyce, step-son, of some years’ growth, arsenic