Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mrs. Camfield, Idaho Black Widow - 1898


FULL TEXT: Cataldo, Idaho, Sep. 6 – Mrs. James Camfield, arrested on the charge of poisoning her husband, was taken today to the county jail at Murray. The grand jury is now in session there, and it is expected that an indictment will be returned in a few days.

This case is the reigning sensation of the Coeur d’Alenes. James Camfield, the man who died under suspicious circumstances, was one of the best known pioneers of the Coeur d’Alene country, having come here 13 or 14 years ago. He owned the townsite of Cataldo, about 12 miles west of Wardner, and was counted well-to-do in a financial way. He was a veteran soldier and was about 48 years of age.

Mrs. Camfield also been a resident of the Coeur d’Alenes for several years. She was a cook, and had worked at a number of places. About two and a half months ago they were married at Kingston, and came here to live. She had two husbands prior to this marriage. Her first husband, name Burns, died at Wardner of poisoning, and it was generally thought at the time that he had administered the fatal drug himself with suicidal intent. Later she married a man named Doherty. He was killed with a club in a saloon fight in Cataldo, and two men are now serving time in the Idaho penitentiary for the crime.

Of her life before she came into the Coeur d’Alenes little is known. She has no relatives in this section, but often spoke of having been at sea with an uncle.

~ She Gave Him Beer. ~

On the day of his death Mr. Camfield had been at work in the field. He came to the house in the afternoon, and drank from a bucket of beer which his wife had procured. Forty minutes later he was dead. The following statements came out at the coroner’s inquest, Postmaster A. W. Avery said: “Mrs. Camfield came running into my office, saying, ‘Jimmie was dying.’ She seemed greatly excited. I told her the coroner, Dr. Machette, was coming in on the train on business, that the train was then nearly due, and I would send him to the house. About 20 minutes later the train came in, and Mr. Machette went to the house, but Mr. Camfield was dead.”

Coroner Machette informed some of the neighbors that the case had the appearance of poisoning, and they promptly caused the arrest of Mrs. Camfield. The stomach of the dead man was taken to Spokane by Dr. Machette, and there analysed by competent physicians. It is said that aconite and acotine were found in large quantities, that the poisoning contents were tried on 10 different animals, and eight died within periods of from one and a half minutes to two and a half hours.

At the inquest Mrs. Wordner testified that Mrs. Camfield had told her that she always kept aconite in the house, as a medicine, and that on several occasions she had given her[self] doses of the drug.

W. S. Smith testified that Mr. Camfield had told him that he was afraid of his wife – that she would kill him.

Mrs. Charles Russell testified that Mrs. Camfield had said to her that “Jimmie was getting old,” and could not live long.

Postmaster S. W. Avery testified that she told him a few days before Camfield’s death, that “Jimmie was very sick that morning,” and it took her 20 minutes to bring him to: that he had asked Camfield about it, and the latter had denied that he had been sick.

~ The Verdict. ~

The coroner’s jury rendered a verdict that the deceased had come to his death from the effects of [poisoning, that in their belief the poison was given by Mrs. Camfield, and recommending that she be held to appear before the grand jury. The jurors were Fred Carlson, J. Van Valkenberg, L. K. Wiley, Charles Russell, Phineas Housington and L. C. Burris.

[“Poisoned His Beer – Idaho Woman Charged With the Murder of Her Husband. She Is Under Arrest – Her Two Former Husbands Also Met Sudden and Violent Deaths. Is A Sensational Affair, The Spokesman Review (Wa.), Sep. 7, 1898, p. 2]

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For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.

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