NOTE: The name is spelled variously in different news reports: “Clemen,” “Kleman, or “Klemens,” as well as a supposed alias, “Clementine.”
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 6): Chicago, June 23 – Mary Kleman, who is said to have confessed to poisoning her father, mother and sister at Dubuque, Iowa, and to have attempted to poison her sister’s family at Rosa Hill, declared in the presence of Dr. Blutharrit, the county physician, that she had never poisoned or attempted to poison any of her relatives. And further, that she did not remember making such a confession, and if she did, she remembered nothing of it, and did not know what she was talking about.
The doctor is of the opinion that the girl is perfectly sane, but is suffering from a complication of disorders, which makes her extremely nervous and sensitive. He says she is afflicted with hysterical paralysis, and after the excitement, increased by constant talking, was likely to say anything, just like a person in delirium.
[“The Female Poisoner. - Mary Kleman Now Denies That She Ever Poisoned Anybody.” The Piqua Daily Call (Oh.), Jun. 23, 1885, p. 1]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 6): CHICAGO, June 21.—Mary Kleman, the girl confined in jail who has heretofore persistently asserted her innocence of the crime with which she Is charged, that of administering poison to the family of Mrs. Michael Freres, her sister, with whom she has made her home for a short time, at Rose Hill, confessed Friday night that she was guilty, not only of the attempt upon their lives, but of causing the deaths of her mother, father and another sister in Dubuque, Ia. Her mother died in July of last year, her sister Lena in August and her father Michael in March of this year. She assigns no motive for her crimes other than that she was impelled to commit them and is evidently insane.
Mary Kleman is less than twenty-three years old, slender, rather pretty, prepossessing in manner, and an invalid, having but partial use of her lower limbs and feet. She has an innocent expression, and looks even more youthful than she is. Her eyes have the strange, bright, fixed look so often seen with a diseased mind. For the past two months she has lived with her sister at Rose Hill, to whom she came after the burial of her father in Dubuque.
Several times since she has lived with her sister she has prepared the meals, and on nearly every occasion when she has done so the family, consisting of Michael Freies, his wife and two small children have been taken ill with vomiting immediately afterward. Michael Freres found a package of greyish-colored powder in the yard a week ago last Tuesday morning. When he ate his soup at noon he was seized with vomiting and observed a sediment in his soup-plate corresponding to it in appearance. Upon further examination more of the same substance was found in his wife's and the children's plates.
He carried both the powder found in the yard and that in the plates to Evanston for analysis, and called in a physician to attend to the family. The result showed that the powder was poison. Mary Kleman was accordingly arrested, and after a preliminary hearing before Justice Chapman in Evanston, brought here and lodged in the Cook County Jail.
There is little doubt that the girl is insane. There has always been a disposition on the part of the jail officials and attendants to believe the girl guilty, the facts were so strong against her, but many of those about the jail that evening thought the alleged confession went for but little. The girl is weakly, sick and predisposed to hysterics, and if she is insane, as her relatives believe, she was even more irrational than usual Friday evening. Therefore not much reliance can be placed on the confession, which was simply a verbal one made in a rambling, incoherent manner.
[“A Modern Borgia. - The Awful Story of Mary Kleman at Chicago. – Arrested on a Charge of Attempting to Poison Her Sister’s Family - She confessed to Killing Her Father, Mother and Sister In a Like Manner. - Too Horrible Fob Belief.” Semi-Weekly Jackson Sentinel (Maquoketa, Io.), Jun. 27, 1885, p. 4]
FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 6): Chicago, July 20. – Mary Kleman, the girl under Indictment on a charge of poisoning with intent to kill the family of her sister, Mrs. Michael Freres, at Rose Hill, and who is said to have confessed to having poisoned her sister and father a year ago, was placed on trial in Judge Anthony’s court. But little time was spent in securing a jury. Miss Kleman was dressed in deep mourning, and watched the proceedings closely. She seemed slightly nervous at times, but quickly controlled herself. Mrs. Freres, sister of the prisoner, took the stand and showed no sympathy for the prisoner, and seemed decidedly on the aggressive. She said that on Thursday night prior to the poisoning the defendant proposed that they have soup.
Witness acquiesced and soup was accordingly served. Miss Kleman refused to eat any herself, saying she did not care for it. Shortly after eating it they were all taken sick, and continued so until Thursday, when they were much better. On that day Mary proposed to have more soup, and again refused to eat any. They wore all taken sick again, and then became suspicious. She saw a gray substance in the soup, and a paper was found in the yard which also contained a similar powder. Isaac Poole, M. D , Bald he was called in to attend the sick persons and found undoubted evidence of arsenical poisoning. Henry S. Carhart, professor at the Northwestern University, was then called. He made a test of the powder in the cup and found unmistakable evidence of arsenic. Nathan P. Williams, druggist, testified to the examination of the powder, and said he found unmistakable evidence of arsenic. Other testimony of similar character was made, and the case was given to the jury at 8 o’clock. Shortly before 6 p.m., the jury returned with a verdict of guilty, the penalty named being one year in the Penitentiary.
[“Mary Kleman, the Self-Confessed Poison Fiend, Convicted and Sentenced.” The Evening Sentinel (Le Mars, Io.), Jul. 20, 1885, p. 2]
FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 6): The case of the young girl, Mary Klemen, who is under arrest at Chicago for administering poison to her sister’s family, and who has confessed that she previously poisoned her father, mother, and another sister, is (says THE NEW YORK TRIBUNE) interesting from a scientific point of view. The girl is 22, pretty, apparently intelligent, and innocent-looking. The account she gives is of a character so strange that a couple centuries ago it would, no doubt, have been believed to be a case of witchcraft, while even now, in some parts of Europe, the theory of obsession would probably be called in to explain it.
She says that something outside of herself, “it” is the expression she uses, came to her and kept urging her to poison her family. “It,” she says, “kept at my side and whispered in my ears day and night” suggesting that she should kill her mother, and the same thing occurred in all the other cases. Of course in these days the theory of insanity is that which flint suggests itself, and the books record many cases closely resembling this one in the central peculiarity of an imagined external tempter.
Dr. Hammond, in a pamphlet on “Insanity and Crime,” some years ago related one of these strange instances, the case of a French lad who murdered a little girl, and who insisted that he was compelled to do the deed by something outside of himself. In epileptiform [sic] insanity and hallucination referred is found most frequently. A remarkable ease in point is that of a gentleman who imagined that every day when the clock pointed to a certain hour the door opened an old woman with a magnificent expression entered and struck him a blow on the head with her crutched stick, whereupon he fell into a fit. A correct diagnosis revealed epilepsy. The most important consideration in cases of this kind involving homicide is, however, the question of responsibility, and upon this alienists are not yet agreed. Admitting the reality of Mary Kleman’s hallucination, it remains to determine whether or not she is accountable for her actions.
Of course the yielding loan impulse or hallucination does not prove that it could not be resisted, in many cases of homicidal insanity there is proof that resistance to the impulse was made on other occasions, nod successfully. No doubt this is a delicate point to decide, since it must to a considerable extent be determined upon conjecture. But since every human being is subject to sinister imaginings at this time and since in the majority of instances these are successfully resisted, it is nil important question whether the shield of insanity should be thrown over criminals whose mildness in plainly monomaniacal, and in whom its most marked manifestation is an abnormal feebleness of resistance, it is to be hoped that the case of Mary Kiernan will be carefully and fully investigated by alienists, for it is evidently one of far more than ordinary interest and importance in its bearing upon the disputed relations between insanity, crime, and law.
[“A Young Female Poisoner.” From New York Tribune, Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser (Grafton, NSW, Australia), Aug. 25, 1885, p. 2]
FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 6): The cloud of mystery hanging over Mary Klemen as a murderess has been cleared up by her own confession, admitting the crime for which she is an inmate, of the Joliet (Ill.) Penitentiary. She wrote a letter recently to a friend in Dubuque, making the startling confession that she poisoned her father, mother, brother and sister, causing their deaths, while the family lived at Dubuque.
[Untitled (Iowa Items), Williamsburgh Journal (Io.), Nov. 13, 1885, p. 4]
FULL TEXT (Article 6 of 6):: Dubuque, Ia., October 21. Mrs. K. J. Schrup, wife of the secretary of the Dubuque Fire and Marine Insurance Company, who is visiting friends in Rose Hill, near Chicago, wrote home for funds. Her husband signed a blank check, and humorously wrote her not to draw for more than $10,000. While riding in a Chicago street car her pocket was picked of the letter and check.
Yesterday the Dubuque bank received an order to stop payment on a check for $3,000, signed Mary Clementine, as it had been stolen. It is believed that Mary Clementine is Mary Klemens, formerly of this city, who poisoned her sister at Rose Hill, and confessed to having poisoned and killed her father, mother and brother in this city. She was adjudged insane by the Chicago authorities and was put in a hospital, from which she was afterward released. She is supposed to have taken the blank check, and after filling it up for $3,000 had it stolen from her.
[“A Dangerous Woman. - Another Escapade of a Female Poisoner, Released From an Insane Asylum.” The Pittsburg Dispatch (Pa.), Oct. 25, 1890, p. 12]
For more cases of this category, see: Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America (as of January 20, 2014, the collection contains 61 cases)***