Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mary Perkins, Ambitious Alabama Serial Killer - 1957



FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): Selma, Ala. – A “murder for profit” scheme has been laid by police to Mrs. Mary Perkins, 36, following a probe of the death of her husband’s body and her attempted suicide.

The probe of the son’s death, which police at first thought resulted under mysterious circumstances after the mother had sought to increase insurance on his life from $250 to $1,500 revealed that he died of natural causes.

Even after elimination of the son as one of her murder for profit victims, Mrs. Perkins still stands charged in the poison deaths of four persons on whom she carried life insurance policies.

The five known dead among 150 persons on whose lives Mrs. Perkins allegedly carried insurance policies ranged in age from 10 months to 70 years, according to Marengo County Sheriff Wilmer Shields.

They were:

Gloria Jean Montgomery, 10-month old daughter of a neighbor; Betty Jean Williams of Wilcox County, a grandniece of Mrs. Perkins; Mrs. Della Davis, a 70-year-old acquaintance; her husband, Charles Perkins Sr., and son, Charlie Jr., 7.

Circuit Solicitor Blanchard McCleod says Mrs. Perkins confessed feeding rat poison to the Montgomery child and Mrs. Davis to raise money to pay the premiums on policies she carried on other persons.

Mr. McCleod said that Mrs. Perkins denied having poisoned her husband, but said that “there was rat poison in the house and he got into it.”

The bodies of all of the victims except the son, revealed the presence of “appreciable quantities of arsenic,” authorities said.

When police began questioning Mrs. Perkins after an investigation was set under way, following her son’s death, police said that she shot herself in the chest with a .32 calibre revolver.

Following treatment at Burwell infirmary, Mrs. Perkins was held without bail in the Dallas County Jail in Selma.

According to Solicitor McCleod and Police Capt. Wilson Baker, the same gun was used by Mrs. Perkins in the shooting of the Rev. Menzo Brown, a 55-year-old neighbor, in 1955.

The Rev. Mr. Brown, who recovered from the gunshot wound in the abdomen, told police that he had been shot by an unidentified white man.

Police found a detailed account of the shooting in a stack of insurance policies at Mrs. Perkins’ home. She had written it, she said, to insure Brown’s arrest and conviction if he killed her in revenge.

Tom Hall, a state insurance investigator from Montgomery, said that Mrs. Perkins’ payments to the Independent Life Insurance Co., alone totaled more than $50 a week.

Other policies, he said, were held with the Life Insurance Co., of Georgia, Southern Life and Accident Co., and the Booker T. Washington Life Insurance Co.

In here confession to the poisoning of the Montgomery child, who died July 9 after a policy had been taken out on her life on July 1, Mrs. Perkins said that she had mixed rat poison with soda which she gave the child after its mother had said it was sickly.

A checkup is now being conducted, authorities said, among the other persons upon whom Mrs. Perkins carried insurance policies.

[“Officers Did Up Bodies – Say Wife Poisoned Husband, 3 Others,” Washington Afro-American (D. C.), Nov. 5, 1957, p. 19]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 4): Selma, Ala., Nov. 23. – Insurance agent Rufus J. Hogue, 27, today was under $6,000 bond on four charges of forgery in connection with an alleged murder-for-profit scheme of Negro scamstress Mary Perkins, 36.

The Dallas County grand jury returned the indictments Friday against Hogue, local superintendent of the Independent Life and Accident Co. of Jacksonville, Fla.

After meeting with officials of the Florida firm, State Insurance Commissioner Jas. H. Horn cleared the company of any complicity in the case.

“We have determined that the actions at Selma are not part and parcel of any company policy and that they are in violation of previously filed rules and regulations of the company,” Horn said.

Solicitor Blanchard McLeod said Hogue wrote all 84 life insurance policies for the Negro woman, who has been charged with feeding rat poison to collect death benefits to finance premiums on other policies. Hogue was charged with forging the names of the insured persons on the policies.

Hogue was jailed in lieu of $1,500 bond on each of the four counts.

[“4 Charges Of Forgery For Agent - Insurance Case Involving Alleged Murder For Profit,” The Times-News (Hendersonville, N. C.), Nov. 23, 1957, p. 4]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4):  Selma, Ala. – A 36-year-old woman, accused of seeking wealth through arsenic and insurance, was given a life term in prison, Wednesday, for the poison death of a neighbor’s 10-month-old child.


At the end of a two-day trial, a Circuit Court jury found Mrs. Mary Perkins guilty in connection with the death of an infant, Gloria Jean Montgomery.

The child was one of 84 persons upon whom Mrs. Perkins is said to have carried life insurance policies.

The Selma housewife’s elaborate scheme of insurance and murder for profit was brought to light by an investigation which followed the death of her own seven-year-old son, Charley Perkins, Jr.

The previous day she had increased insurance on his life from $250 to $1,000.

Ironically, no traces of poison nor evidence of foul play were uncovered in the death of the boy.

A Dallas County grand jury, however, later indicted on three counts of murder.

Exhumation and autopsy revealed traces of arsenic in the remains of her husband, Charley Perkins, Sr.; Mrs. Della Davis, a 70-year-old friend, and little Gloria Jean.

At the start of the probe, Mrs. Perkins shot herself in the chest in a suicide attempt, but was hospitalized and recovered.

Circuit solicitor Blanch McLeod stated that 10 bodies of persons insured by Mrs. Perkins were exhumed in the course of the investigation.

He stated also that Mrs. Perkins admitted that she poisoned Mrs. Davis and Gloria Jean because she needed the money from their policies to keep up the payments on other policies which were due.

The other two indictments against Mrs. Perkins remained on the court docket for possible future trial.

[“It’s End of the line for Mary Perkins,” Washington Afro-American (Washington, D.C.), Mar 4, 1958, p. 14]

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EXCERPT (Article 4 of 4): Mary Perkins, 37, 37-year-old seamstress from Selma, Ala., is now an inmate at the Julia Tutwiler prison, Wetumpka, Ala. She was given three life sentences for three poisonings.

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