Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lottie Lockman, Indiana’s Suspected Serial Killer Elder Care Provider - 1946

Mrs. Lockman was suspected in a total of five deaths, was arrested three times, but never convicted.

6 suspected victims (in progress):

1937 – Mrs. Hattie Calhoun, 70, died, mercury found in body.
Jul. 1, 1940 – Fred (Uncle Fred) Giddings, 89 (90?), died, mercury found in body.
1940 – Frank Lockman, husband, died.
Year? – Wallace Lockman, brother-in-law, died.
Aug, 17, 1945 – Mrs. Minnie McConnell, 75, mercury found in body.
Jun. 1946 – Mamie (Mayme) McConnell, 55, attempted poisoning, mercury found in body fluids; she survived, yet expired in April 14, 1947.



Aug 6, 1946 – arrest #1.
Aug. 9, 1946 – 2 bodies exhumed, Minnie McConnell.
Aug. 1946 – Walter Lockman’s body exhumed.
Aug. 12 (or earlier), 1946 – Fred Giddings body exhumed.
Aug 13, 1946 – Refused lie detector test.
Aug. 27, 1946 – Minnie McConnell, second exhumation of her body.
Oct. 7, 1946 – indictment returned by grand jury on one death.
Date? – arrest # 2.
Oct. 11, 1946 – arrest # 3 (for poisoning of Mayme McConnell).
Nov. 15, 1946 – grand jury fails to indict (for Mayme McConnell death).
Apr. 11?, 1947 – acquitted.
April 14, 1947 – Mrs. Mayme McConnell, dies.



FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 12): Madison, Ind., Aug. 9 – Police said today they would exhume the bodies of four elderly persons who died while being cared for by Mrs. Lottie Lockman, 62-year-old housekeeper, charged with attempted murder by poison of her present employer.

Jefferson County Coroner Sidney W. Haigh said state and local officials would confer today on exhumation of the four, including Mrs. Lockman’s late husband, Frank, 65.

State police indicated that the first exhumation would that of Fred Giddings, 89, a wealthy farmer, who left his entire estate to Mrs. Lockman when he died July 11, 1940. the other deaths to be investigated are those of Mrs. Minnie McConnell, 75, and Mrs. Hattie Calhoun, 70.

Gray-haired Mrs. Lockman was arrested Tuesday after a laboratory test showed the presence of mercury in the stomach of Mrs. Mamie McConnell, bedfast wife of a Dupont hardware dealer. The test was made at the request of Mrs. J. S. Kirkpatrick, a nurse, who is also Mrs. McConnell’s sister-in-law. Mrs. McConnell was taken to King’s daughter hospital in Madison where her condition is reported as improving.

~ No Trial Date Set ~

Mrs. Lockman, who now is free on $2,500 bond posted by a Dupont farmer, has protested her innocence. The bond was set by Jefferson County Judge Harry Nichols, but no trial date has been scheduled.

State police said they were encountering difficulty in arranging the exhumation of Mrs. Calhoun’s body because they had not yet learned where she was buried. A detective said that Mrs. Lockman, a beneficiary of Mrs. Calhoun’s will, had declined to reveal the location of the burial place, other than that it was in Iowa.

The other three persons whose deaths are being investigated are buried in Dupont cemetery, near the small town of 300 population where all of the principals in the tangled case live or have lived.

People were told that Mrs. Calhoun, who had no immediate relatives, died at midnight and was taken to Iowa for burial the next morning. The McConnell death under investigation occurred Aug, 17, 1945. She was the mother of Forrest McConnell, husband of the woman whose symptoms caused Mrs. Lockman’s arrest.

Food which was taken from the McConnell home at the time of Mrs. Lockman’s arrest was tested but state police said no trace of poison was found in the food.

[“Four Deaths Investigated,” The Tipton Daily Tribune (In.), Aug. 9, 1946, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 12): Du Pont, Ind. (UP) — Mrs. Lottie Lockman, plump and motherly widow accused of poisoning two women whom she served as housekeeper, refused today to take a lie detector test.

Mrs. Lockman’s attorney, Joseph Cooper, said she would not take the lie test unless other persons who might be suspects in the two poisonings get similar treatment.

At the county jail in nearby Madison, Mrs. Lockman arose from a good night’s sleep and said she was not afraid of the murder and attempted poisoning charges placed against her.

“I am innocent,” she said. “The innocent are never punished.”

The murder charge was based on the finding of mercury in the vital organs of Mrs. Minnie McConnell, who died a year ago. Mrs. McConnell’s body was exhumed after Mrs. Lockman was arrested on charges of attempting to poison Mrs. Mamie McConnell. Mamie McConnell is Minnie McConnell’s daughter-in-law, Mrs. Lockman had served both as housekeeper, and authorities accused her of being the central figure in a real-life “Arsenic and Old Lace” melodrama.

As the folks in Jefferson county gossiped about Mrs. Lockman’s arrest, a report circulated that police were in possession of a letter which claimed Mrs. Mamie McConnell was the heir to a $250,000 estate. Officials refused to comment on  the rumor.

Residents of the county, skirting the Ohio river, gossiped about “the fix Lottie is in,” but her arrest failed to create much of a stir.

Neither did they show much concern about plans to exhume the bodies of Mrs. Lockman’s husband, Frank, who died six years ago, and Fred Giddings, a retired farmer who died at the age of 90 and left her his estate.

Mrs. Lockman was suspected in a total of five deaths.

In “Arsenic and Old Lace,” a Broadway hit play and later a motion picture, two benign old maid sisters committed a series of poisonings because they felt sorry for their victims and thought they would be better off dead.

Mrs. Lockman has refused to answer questions. She signed an authorization yesterday for the exhumation of her husband’s body in a surprise defense move to prove her innocence. She naked that the vital organs of her husband be sent to the state toxicologist at Indianapolis to determine whether they contained poison.

She signed the order in the county jail where she is held on a murder charge as the result of laboratory tests which revealed traces of mercury in the organs of Mrs. Minnie McConnell, who died a year ago while under Mrs. Lockman’s care.

[“Test With Lie Detector Refused By Widow Held in Poison Deaths,” syndicated (UP), Charleston Daily Mail, Aug. 13, 1946, p. 1]



FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 12): Dupont, Ind., Aug. 14 – Authorities awaited a state toxicologist’s report on the remains of “Uncle Fred” Giddings today before passing further charges against Lottie Lockman, 82, suspected of being a real-life “Arsenic and Old Lace” killer.

Giddings’ body was exhumed yesterday from a four-year-old grave and the vital organs sent to the state laboratory at Indianapolis to determine the possible cause of death.

Mrs. Lockman, a plump, kindly-faced housekeeper, has been charged with killing an aged woman by feeding her mercury and of attempting to kill another woman in the same way. In addition, she is under suspicion in the deaths oif Giddings, who died at the age of 90 while under her care, and three other elderly persons.

~ Never Hurt Anyone ~

Mrs. Lockman told investigators during three hours of questioning last night that she “never intentionally hurt anyone.” She steadfastly maintained her innocence even after Capt. Robert O’Neil, head of the Indiana state police, challenged her and her attorney to “find anyone who has lived that Lottie Lockman has taken care of.”

When O’Neil accused Mrs. Lockman point-blank with putting mercury in the food of her aged patients, she replied tartly with, “That’s a lot of hogwash.”

Mrs. Lockman refused to take a lie detector test on the advice of her lawyer, James M. lawyer, James M. Cooper, who protested that “other subjects are still free while my innocent client is in jail.”

The murder charge filed against Mrs. Lockman was based on the finding of mercury in the viscera of Mrs. Minnie McConnell, who died a year ago at the age of 73. Mrs. McConnell’s body was exhumed after Mrs. Lockman’s arrest on charges of attempting to poison Mrs. Mamie McConnell, 52, daughter-in-law of the dead woman.

Forrest McConnell, Dupont hardware dealer whose wife became sick last week after eating food prepared by Mrs. Lockman, told O’Neil he and other members of his household were willing to submit to a lie detector test.

Mrs. Lockman was questioned last night in the parlor of the home of Florence Bear, only woman sheriff in Indiana. The atmosphere was cordial, resembling a Sunday visit more than a police interrogation.

~ No Thanks ~

“We treated her as kindly as we could, but we tried hard not to give her the impression we were going to be brutal,” O’Neil said.

The elderly prisoner refused some preferred candy and oranges during the questioning, but told investigators, “I’d just love to have you eat one of my angel food cakes.”

[Robert T. Loughran, “Body Exhumed, Vitals Probed For Poisoning,” Dunkirk Evening Observer (N. Y.), Aug. 14, 1946, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 12): Madison, Ind., Aug. 25. – Removal for the second time of the body of Mrs. Minnie McConnell from a small cemetery near Dupont, Ind., for an autopsy was revealed Tuesday by state police.

The body previously was exhumed by authorities investigating the Dupont poison mystery case in which Mrs. Lottie (Tot) Lockman, 62-year-old housekeeper, is charged with murder and attempted murder.

State Police Detective Graham Tevis said Tuesday night the second exhumation was conducted secretly Sunday night “to avoid the morbidly curious people.” Earlier in the day, Coroner Sidney E. Haigh said the body had not been exhumed but that it would be.

A toxicologist report on the first exhumation said there was mercury poison in Mrs. McConnell’s body, but it was impossible to determine whether enough poison was present to cause death.

Mrs. Lockman, who cared for Mrs. McConnell during her last illness, is at liberty under $15,000 bond on the murder charge. The attempted murder charge involves the illness of Mrs. McConnell’s daughter-in-law, Mrs. Mayme McConnell.

The body of Frederick Giddings, who was under the care of Mrs. Lockman at the time of death, also was exhumed and showed traces of poisoning. Police now are awaiting the exhumation of the body of a still another woman. Mrs. Hattie Calhoun, buried at Burlington, Ia. She also was under the care of Mrs. Lockman at the time of her death.

[“Body Exhumed Second Time In Mystery Case,” The Kokomo Tribune (In.), Aug. 28, 1946, p. 14]


FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 12): Madison, Ind. – Coroner Sidney E. Haigh said Friday night that the body of Mrs. Lottie Calhoun, exhumed at Burlington, Ia. In the Lockman poison mystery probe, contained traces of mercury poison.

The body of Mrs. Calhoun was the third exhumed in the investigation and Haigh said toxicologists reported each body had shown traces of mercury.

Mrs. Lottie ‘Tot’ Lockman, who cared for the three persons before their deaths, is free under bond in connection with the investigation.

Haigh said he had received a report from Dr. Wilbur J. Teeters at Iowa City, Ia. In which he said “careful chemical tests of the material were made and positive tests for mercury were obtained.”

A grand jury is scheduled to be drawn Sept. 30 to investigate the case.

[“Traces of Mercury Are Found in Body,” Council Bluff Nonpareil (Io.), Sep. 21, 1946, p. 3]


FULL TEXT (Article 6 of 12): Madison, Ind. – Mrs. Lottie Lockman, 62, was freed on bond Saturday after her arrest on a grand jury indictment charging her with the attempted poisoning of Mrs. Mayme McConnell, 55.

Mrs. Lockman, known as a “good Samaritan,” whose neighbors insist she “always is doing things for people,” was seized at the home of a relative at nearby Wirt, Ind., Friday.

It was her third arrest since an investigation began last August in the illness of Mrs. McConnell and the deaths of at least three elderly persons, all of whom died under Mrs. Lockman’s care.

Mrs. Lockman spent 25 minutes in Jefferson county jail before circuit judge Harry E. Nichols, who set her free on an additional $2,500 bond until “some time next week” when she will appear for arraignment. She had been at liberty since Aug. 15 under $15,000 bond.

Mrs. Lockman’s attorney, Joseph Cooper, said “friends” furnished the bond.

In returning its indictment, the grand jury asked more time to investigate the deaths of Mrs. Minnie McConnell, mother-in-law of Mayme, Mrs. Hattie Calhoun and Fred Giddings.

Mrs. Lockman already faced a peace court murder charge in the death of the elder Mrs. McConnell, whose body revealed traces of mercury. Authorities also exhumed Giddings’ body and that of Mrs. Calhoun, and reported finding mercury in both cases.

[“’Samaritan’ Named Again Poisoner,” syndicated (UP), Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wi.), Oct. 13, 1946, p. 16]


FULL TEXT (Article 7 of 12): Madison, Ind., Nov. 15 – A grand jury that has been investigating the Dupont, Ind., poison mystery involving Mrs. Lottie (Tot) Lockman, 62-year-old housekeeper, was discharged today after returning a report recommending further investigation of the case.

The grand jury returned an indictment last month charging Mrs. Lockman was attempted murder in the poisoning of Mrs. Mayme McConnell, wife of Forrest McConnell. Mrs. Lockman was employed as housekeeper in the McConnell home.

[“Grand Jury Probing Dupont Deaths Fails To Return Indictment,” The Kokomo Tribune (In.), Nov. 15, 1946, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 8 of 12): March 28 – Mrs. Mayme McConnell was scheduled  to testify today from a hospital cot in the trial of Mrs. Lottie (Tot) Lockman, 62-year-old housekeeper charged with attempting to murder her with poison.

Mrs. McConnell, wife of Forrest McConnell, Dupont hardware dealer, was to be brought to the Jefferson county courthouse in an ambulance. She has been seriously ill for some time.

The trial swung into the fifth day today after opposing lawyers yesterday alternately described Mrs. Lockman as a “Jeckell and Hyde” character and a woman “whose life is an open book.”

An all-male jury of 11 farmers and one businessman was seated yesterday.

In an opening argument. Silas Kivett, an attorney for the prosecution, said the state would prove Mrs. McConnell became violently ill after eating two meals prepared by Mrs. Lockman.

Kivett said the state also would attempt to prove that illnesses of Mrs. McConnell and her mother-in-law, Mrs. Minnie McConnell, who died, were similar. The body of Mrs. Minnie McConnell was one of three exhumed during investigation of the case.

Defense Attorney Joseph Cooper charged Mrs. Lockman was “nothing but a slave in the
McConnell household, a slave for Forrest McConnell.”

He said she was a hard working woman in a household where there was no conflict until Aileen Kirkpatrick, sister-in-law of Minnie McConnell, came to stay.

The Kirkpatrick women instigated the investigation which resulted in the arrest of Mrs. Lockman.

“There were always other women in the McConnell home and cooking meals,” Cooper said.

He added that Forrest McConnell and his two sons ate fried chicken prepared by Mrs. Lockman three hours before she was arrested three hours before she was arrested last summer – “he knowing all the time about the poisoning charge.”

“There’ll be no evidence shown by the state that Lottie Lockman ever had possession of mercury” Cooper continued. “She had no reason to injure or try to kill Mayme McConnell.”

[“Mrs. McConnell Is To Testify From Sick Bed,” The Kokomo Tribune (In.), Mar. 28, 1947, p. 3]


FULL TEXT (Article 9 of 12): Madison, Ind. – A poison expert testified Monday that the invalid patient cared for by Mrs. Lottie Lockman, defendant in an attempted murder trial, received “large amounts of mercury over a considerable of time.”

Dr. R. N. Harger, state toxicologist and a chemistry professor at Indiana university, said Mrs. Mayme McConnell, 57, DuPont, Ind., housewife, suffered from “subacute mercury poisoning” when he made tests of body fluids last summer.

Harger said he made five different tests. He said the amount of mercury in the fluids gradually tapered off until none was found in the last one  a few months ago.

Mrs. Lockman, 62-year-old housekeeper and practical nurse, was accused of attempting to murder Mrs. McConnell. Mrs. Lockman also figured in the sensational investigation of the deaths of three other persons she once cared for in tiny DuPont in southern Indiana. The state still is conducting tests on stomachs and fluids of three exhumed bodies.

Harger was on the witness stand when the trial adjourned until Tuesday. He spent most of the day there describing technical details of the analyzation test.

“The content of mercury was typical of that in acute mercury poisoning,” he said. “It had to be given over a long period of time.”

He said a large quantity given at once would have proved fatal.

Physicians believed Mrs. McConnell, who testified at the opening day of the trial, was suffering in part from the effects of mercury poisoning. She testified from an ambulance wheel chair.

Harger said he was first instructed by Dr. E. C. Cook, DuPont doctor, and relatives of Mrs. McConnell to look for arsenic. He found none but later discovered a mercury content he said.

[“Poison Expert Testifies At Lockman Trial – Large Amounts of Mercury in Invalid Patient of Mrs. Lockman,” Logansport Pharos Tribune (In.), Apr. 1, 1947, p. 5]


FULL TEXT (Article 10 of 12): Madison, Ind., April 11—A Jefferson circuit court of 11 farmers and a Madison business man ended 14 hours of deliberation early today by acquitting Mrs. Lottie (Tot) Lockman, 63-year-old housekeeper, of a charge that she attempted to murder Mrs. Mayme McConnell, wife of her employer, with poison.

“Truth always prevails,” the grey-haired housekeeper told reporters. She had sat in an automobile outside the courtroom for six hours before the jury reported at 1:17 a. m. Mrs. Lockman shook the hands of the jurors and then burst into tears.

The indictment against the elderly housekeeper resulted from an investigation into the deaths of five elderly persons who were in her care. DR. R. N. Harger, state toxicologist, reported mercury was found in the bodies of Mrs. Minnie McConnell, mother-in-law of Mrs. Mayme McConnell; Fred Giddings, and Hattie Calhoun.

The body of Mrs. Minnie McConnell was exhumed twice during the investigation and Mrs. Lockman once was charged with murder in her death, but the affidavit was dismissed. Giddings’ body was exhumed from the Dupont cemetery near the McConnell home and Mrs. Calhoun’s body was disinterred at Burlington, Ia.

The other deaths investigated were those of Wallace Lockman, Mrs. Lockman’s brother-in-law, and of Frank Lockman, her husband.

Nothing came of the lengthy inquiry into the deaths, but the Jefferson county grand jury indicted Mrs. Lockman on a charge of attempted murder by poison in an acute illness of Mrs. Mayme McConnell, an invalid. The sick woman, reported in critical condition today in a Madison hospital, is the wife of Forrest McConnell, well-to-do Dupont merchant and factory representative for a Chicago milking machine manufacturer.

The prosecution sought a conviction through circumstantial evidence, but admitted it could not find that Mrs. Lockman ever bought mercury or that anyone saw her place poison in food in the McConnell home. The state contended, however, that Mrs. Lockman had expressed hatred for Mrs. Mayme McConnell and had shown affection for the hardware merchant.

Mrs. Lockman denied emphatically on the witness stand that she poisoned the woman or had any ill will towards her.

Special Prosecutor Silas C. Kivett closed the state’s final argument yesterday with the assertion that “of all the people in the McConnell home at Dupont, the only person who harbored hatred in her soul for Mrs. McConnell was Lottie Lockman. She valued life cheaply. The evidence shows that she had a purpose, plan, opportunity, motive and hatred.”

Joseph M. Cooper, chief of the defense counsel, had asserted the case would be carried to higher courts if the jury returned a guilty verdict.”

The jury received the case at 11:05 a. m. yesterday, 17 days after the trial opened. Judge Harry E. Nichols had gone home for the night but returned when Jury Gaylor Crozier announced an agreement at 1:17 a. m. today.

The case ended on a bizarre note – as it started – with a spectator falling 20 feet from a gallery in the 90-year-old Jefferson county court room as he craned over the railing to hear the verdict. He was unhurt and was arrested on a charge of intoxication.

[“Jury Acquits ‘Tot’ Lockman of Poisoning – ‘Truth Always Prevails,’ Mrs. Lockman Says After Hearing Verdict of Acquittal,” Rushville Republican (In.), Apr. 11, 1947, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 11 of 12): Madison, Ind., May 23 – Mrs. Mayme McConnell, the star witness in the attempted mercury poisoning trial of Mrs. Lottie Lockman, did not die of mercury poisoning, Dr. Amos Michael, Indianapolis pathologist announced today.

His report apparently cleared the elderly housekeeper, known as the “Good Samaritan” of the village of DuPont, of any further charges in Mrs. McConnell’s death.

The 57-year-old woman died April 14, three days after Mrs. Lockman was acquitted, and Mrs. McConnell’s husband, Forest, asked Michael to make an autopsy. Michael was assisted by Dr. R. N. Harger, Indiana university medical school toxicologist.

Although Michael said abnormal amounts of mercury were found in the body, he added that the accumulations were “below those usually associated with fatal mercury poisoning.” He also said he was not able to determine if the mercury found in Mrs. McConnell’s body last summer hastened or contributed to her death.

Mrs. McConnell’s illness led to Mrs. Lockman’s arrest and touched off an investigation of the deaths of three elderly persons who died while under care of the practical nurse.

[“Mrs. Lockman Is Cleared – Pathologist’s  Report Reveals Mrs. Mayme McDonnell Did Not Die Of Mercury Poisoning.” Syndicated (UP), May 23, 1947, p. 15]


FULL TEXT (Article 12 of 12): Madison, Ind. – Mrs. Mayme McConnell, for whose recent illness her former housekeeper, Mrs. Lottie Lockman, was tried and acquitted of a charge of attempting murder by poison, died Monday in a local hospital.

Mrs. McConnell's husband, Forrest McConnell, hardware merchant in the town of Dupont north of here, said his wife became seriously ill last June.

Mrs. Lockman was acquitted of the attempted murder charge by a jury early last Friday morning. Mrs. McConnell testified against her from a hospital bed.

The state charged Mrs. Lockman placed mercury in food she prepared for Mrs. McConnell, an invalid. Medical witnesses testified they found mercury in her body fluids.

[“Alleged Victim of Mrs. Lottie Lockman Dies in Hospital,” syndicated (AP), Council Bluffs Nonpareil (Io.), Apr. 14, 1947, p. 1]


A long article on the Lottie Lockman case published in 1984:

FULL TEXT: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men hee, hee, hee only the Shadow knows . . .

It was the sultry summer of 1946 and each Sunday afternoon that eerie message went across the nation’s airwaves as Lamont Cranston (the invisible Shadow) and the beautiful Margo Lane embarked upon a weekly episode of radio mystery.

A war-weary nation was just beginning to readjust itself to peace and prosperity that summer 35 years ago. Harry S. Truman and Henry Wallace were battling for control of the Democratic Party; John L. Lewis and the coal miners were restless; there was a ceiling on meat prices and the black market was flourishing and down in the rolling hills of southern Indiana a Gothic tale of mystery and intrigue was unfolding that might have made the Shadow shudder.

It was a bizarre and ghoulish episode of suspected poisonings and exhumed bodies that grabbed the head lines of the nation and traumatized the quiet little village of Dupont, a pinpoint spot on the Indiana map down near the Ohio River.

THE CASE WAS coined “Mercury and Old Lace,” and the central figure was a hymn-singing, hard working matriarch of the hills, 62 year-old Lottie (Tot) Lockman, suddenly suspect in murders by poison of three and as many as five persons, including three persons formerly under her care and possibly her husband, Frank, and brother in law, Wallace Lockman.

It was the stuff of mystery to be sure. Was Lottie, a motherly housekeeper for a wealthy Dupont businessman, actually the culprit in a trail of deaths that stretched back to 1937?

As the case unravelled through the long, hot summer it attained all the elements of high drama intrigue, mystery, avarice, and lust. The town was torn between two camps those who allowed as how Lottie was a good Samaritan, and those who viewed her as a flint-hearted, conniving woman.

To begin at the beginning:

LOTTIE, TO ALL outward appearances was a God fearing widow who worked hard at a variety of jobs to make her way through those lean times. She had pitched sacks at a feed mill, done fancy work, taken in washing and ironing, brought eggs for a creamery, cared for sick folks and done housework after her husband had died back in ‘37.

Her’s had been a hard lot through the Depression years, but things took a turn for the better in 1943 when she was hired by wealthy Dupont businessman, Forrest McConnell, as housekeeper and part-time nurse for his invalid wife, Mayme, and her chronically ill mother, Minnie, for $7 a week.

In addition she ran a hardware store and filling station located on the McConnell premises. Lottie proved efficient and industrious, gaining increasing responsibility and authority in operation of the McConnell household. Her salary climbed to $10 and then $15 a week.

Lottie was known to the Dupont community as a friendly, civic-minded woman quick to help those in need. It was noted that she had an exceedingly high esteem for Mr. McConnell, seldom home because of supposed business commitments; but she had voiced some disdain for the sickly women of the McConnell household.

SHE WAS SAID to have comment ed on at least one occasion: “Mr. McConnell is such a fine man . . . He’d be better off without those women.”

Lottie was left with almost complete control of the two ailing McConnell women, who were subject to vio lent fits of nausea, especially after meals.

The elder McConnell woman died in 1945, and the first suspicion of foul play came about when Mrs. Eileen Kirkpatrick, Mayme McConnell’s sister-in-law, arrived for a visit in early May of ‘46 and found her violently ill.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick requested a coroner’s inquiry into the death of the elder Mrs. McConnell. Specimens also were taken from the younger Mrs. McConnell and sent to the Indiana University Medical Center for testing by Doctors Amos Michael and K. N. Harger, pathologists and toxicologists at the center.

No traces of arsenic were found, but test results showed a high level of mercury in the deceased, and a high level of mercury in specimens from the younger Mrs. McConnell.

IT WAS THEN that police, under the direction of Indiana State Police Detective Graham Tevis launched an intensive investigation. Bodies of other patients, for whom Lottie previously had cared, were ordered exhumed for tests.

There was talk of exhuming the bodies of Mrs. Lockman’s deceased husband and brother in law, but only the bodies of two of Lottie’s former patients - “Uncle Fred” Guiddings (who died at the age of 90) of Dupont; and an elderly Dupont recluse, Mrs. Hattie Calhoun, whose body had been shipped by Lottie to Burlington, Iowa, for burial, were ordered exhumed.

The nation’s press converged on the small village of Dupont to report on all twists and turns of the bizarre case.

Charles Griffo, now assistant managing editor of The Indianapolis Star, reported how gravediggers in the eerie Dupont cemetery unearthed the body of “Uncle Fred” at midnight during a driving rain storm. It was a grisly scene, grist for the front pages of newspapers across the nation.

AGAIN, HIGH levels of mercury were found in the exhumed body specimens. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Lottie Lockman for the murder of Mrs. Minnie McConnell, and the apparently bewildered matron, professing her innocence, was jailed in the Jefferson County Jail at Madison.

Detective Tevis, suddenly catapulted into the national spotlight and anxious to make a name for himself, announced: “The case is clinched. We’ve got it all wrapped up.”

However, Drs. Harger and Michael hedged on their test results. While there were high levels of mercury found in the bodies, there was no conclusive evidence that the element was the cause of death.

Compounding the controversy was the fact that there were numerous patented medicines on the market with a mercurous chloride base, one of which was Calomel -- a medicine “Uncle Fred” had been known to take frequently and which was believed to be taken often by Mrs. Minnie McConnell.

IN LATE OCTOBER, as a tropical storm swept across Tampa Bay and the Boston Red Sox battled the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, a grand jury met and released an indictment against Lottie Lockman not for the murder of Minnie McConnell but for the attempted murder of Mrs. Mayme McConnell by poisoning. 

The murder warrant withdrawn, Lottie was released from jail on $15,000 bond, and went to live with a foster daughter, Mrs. Laverne Jeffries, at Wirt, Ohio. There she awaited her trial, scheduled for Jan. 27, 1947. at the century-old Jefferson County court house at Madison.

Joseph M. Cooper, a Madison attorney, had suffered a heart attack earlier in the summer, and he had just returned from Mayo Clinic at Rochester, Minn., with advise from his doctors that he would have to curtail his practice and take things easy.

Cooper, now more than 90 years old, recalled recently how he came into his office one afternoon that summer and his secretary informed him that a woman was waiting to see him. “I told her to tell her to go away, but she said ‘I can’t,’ You’ll have to tell her yourself.’ “

COOPER, INTENDING to dismiss the woman, was struck by her apparent sincerity. He listened to her story and agreed to defend Lottie Lockman in the forthcoming trial.

The case took another elongated twist when Mayme McConnell became greviously ill and was admitted to Kings Daughters Hospital. The prosecution, minus its key witness moved for postponement, and the trial was reset for March 24, 1947.

Lowell Nussbaum, reporter for The Indianapolis Star, described a “carnival-like” scene that December when virtually all of Lottie Lockman’s personal possessions, including her modest home, were auctioned off at public auction to pay for her defense. The case had taken on carnival like overtones.

Legions of reporters from across the country along with 600 spectators jammed into the ancient Jefferson County Courthouse on March 24, 1947, as a pale and worn looking Lottie Lockman, wearing a dark blue dress with lacy frills, appeared for trial. The city streets of Madison were swelled by square black Chevrolets and Fords, and knots of people stood around and gossiped about the case.

NEWS OF THE death of Henry Ford at Dearborn, Mich., took second billing to accounts of the “Mercury and Old Lace” trial being staged at Madison, where a jury of 11 farmers and one businessman was sworn in. Spectators munched chicken from pa. per-bag lunches, mothers sat with babes in arms, teen-agers chewed gum and ate popcorn; the courthouse floor was strewn with candy bar wrappers as the crowd settled in for the ghoulish accounting.

Claims and counterclaims echoed through the ancient courthouse as the defense and prosecution heard the high pitched, nasal-voiced southern Indiana witnesses testify. At the end of each day reporters would dash desperately away to find a phone. It was a madhouse scene. At one point when a wave of laughter swept the court, Judge Harry Nichols threatened to clear the courtroom. “I will not let this trial turn into a circus!” he shouted.

As the days of testimony dragged on, the defense attorney portrayed Lottie as “innocent.” “her life an open book.” He deftly dissected Detective Tevis’ iron clad case as merely circumstantial. Had a search of Lottie Lockman’s home turned up quantities of mercury? No. Had investigation disclosed that she had purchased mercury in the area? No . . .

BUT IT WAS brought out, too, that Lottie had received property from “Uncle Fred” Guidding’s estate, and diamonds from the estate of Mrs. Calhoun.

At one point Lottie reportedly stated, in regards to “Uncle Fred.” “Just because a man dies at the age of 90. does it have to be from poisoning?”

A witness testified that one time when Minnie McConnell had rung for help. Lottie had muttered, “Let the . . . lay.”

Another noted that Lottie had said of Mayme McConnell: “She don’t know nothing about the business. Mr. McConnell ought to have a wife like me who knows something about the business . . .”

What, Defense Attorney Cooper pointed out. would Lottie Lockman have to gain by disposing of the source of her employment?

The high point in the trial was the appearance of Mrs. Mayme McConnell who was wheeled into the courtroom in a hospital bed attended by her doctor and a nurse. She told of Lottie’s special attentions to Mr. McConnell and negligence in her own care, of violent illnesses after meals, “of nausea and stomach cramps, of swollen gums and dizziness.”

DEATHLY PALE and with huge black circles under her eyes. Mrs. McConnell presented a piteous sight.

Mr. McConnell’s testimony, while sympathetic to his wife’s claims of ill health, shed little light on the case. But, further damaging testimony came from Dr. Harger who testified that four toxicology tests taken on Mrs. McConnell between June, 1946, and January, 1947, disclosed that “30 times as much mercury was found in her body in the first test as those following.” Following hospitalization, “they showed practically none,” Harger said.

Finally Defense Attorney Cooper put Lottie on the stand: “Did you put mercury in that food at any time?”

“I should say not I did not!” Mrs. Lockman fairly screamed.

She then told in her high-pitched nasal voice how “she was sick the first meal I ever cooked for her back in 1943.

“I never gave mercury to anybody I knew about if it was in the doctor’s medicine, then I gave it ... I was just trying to do my job.”

WAS THERE friction between her and Mrs. McConnell?

“Not a particle bit . . .”

Such were the claims and counter claims.

After final arguments, the jury convened shortly before noon. April 10, for deliberation. Mrs. Lottie Lockman left the courtroom and sat alone in a car parked out in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse. Inside, the building resounded with excitement as spectators anxiously awaited the verdict.

Shortly after 1 a.m., April 11 after 14 hours of deliberation the jury announced that a verdict had been reached. Judge Nichols was called at his home and he returned to the courtroom.

About 27 spectators, of the approximate 1,000 on hand during the day, still waited.

Gaylord Crozier, jury foreman, started to read the verdict when a drunken man fell 20 feet from the balcony and the proceedings were delayed while he was taken out and arrested.


The verdict was met with applause from the small crowd. A pale, but smiling Lottie Lockman said, “Truth always prevails.”

Three days after Lottie Lockman’s acquittal, Mrs. Mayme McConnell died at Kings Daughters Hospital. A post mortem report issued May 22 by Dr. Amos Michael disclosed no traces of mercury in the body and attributed death to a combined heart and liver ailment.

All charges were dropped against Lottie Lockman. who moved to Dayton, Ohio, where she lived quietly with a daughter until her death several years later.

Shortly after the death of his wife, Forrest McConnell reportedly remarried and relocated in a western community.

Defense Attorney John Cooper and trial judge Harry Nichols, both now more than 90 years old, still reside in Madison. The “Mercury and Old Lace” trial, was one of the most memorable in their long and distinguished careers.

The case remains a Hoosier classic to this day.

. . . what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Perhaps only the Shadow really knew!

– By Rex Redifer

[Rex Redifer, “‘Mercury and Old Lace’ case bizarre Gothic tale,” The Indianapolis Star (In.), Feb. 14, 1982,  Sec. 5, P. 3]

* * * * * *

~ Lockman and von Bulow trials have similarities ~

Change some of the names and dates and a few of the details and Rhode Island’s von Bulow trial for attempted murder sounds much like the 1947 Indiana case dubbed “Mercury and Old Lace.”

Both stories are real life Agatha Christie’s, dramatic whodunnits involving attempted murder, money, lust and poison.

In one case it was mercury and the housekeeper under suspicion when an invalid wife’s condition worsened; insulin and the husband are implicated in the other.

Millionaire financier Claus von Bulow, on trial in Newport. R.I.. is accused of injecting his wife, who suffers from low blood sugar, with insulin, causing her to lapse into a coma from which she is not expected to recover. The prosecution says Von Bulow did it out of greed for his wife’s $35 million fortune and love for another woman.

Headlines also highlighted Lottie Lockman’s trial 35 years ago in the tiny town of Dupont, Indiana.

Mrs. Lockman, housekeeper for wealthy Dupont businessman Forrest McConnell, was accused of trying to kill his invalid wife, Mayme McConnell, by putting mercury in her food. The prosecution said the industrious woman wanted a larger role in her employer’s life and business.

The jury still is considering the evidence in the von Bulow case, listening to the testimony of the housekeeper, son and daughter, who blame the financier. But the jury’s decision in the case of Lottie Lockman earned a place in Hoosier history.

[Rex Redifer, “‘Mercury and Old Lace’ case bizarre Gothic tale,” The Indianapolis Star (In.), Feb. 14, 1982,  Sec. 5, P. 3]








For more cases, see Sicko Nurses

No comments:

Post a Comment