Thursday, September 22, 2011

Edith Murray & The Cleveland Black Widow Mystery: 3 Dead Husbands - 1922


NOTE: This is a particularly mysterious case. It was reported in newspapers across the United States and internationally, yet the trail goes cold and there is no mention in newspapers of any resolution to the investigation. Yet in 1999 a book was published that revealed the suspected Black Widow’s name.

EXCERPT: “After years of persistent inquiry, I finally learned the identity of the “Black Widow.” Her name was Edith Murray, and her last husband was John Joseph Murray. They were living at 1907 East 40th Street at the time of his suspicious demise. Edith survived John by almost half a century before she died in Pennsylvania in 1969. She was buried with John in Lake View Cemetery. Her guilt or innocence in his death remains undetermined.” [John Stark Bellamy II, The Corpse in the Cellar and Further Tales of Cleveland Woe, 1999, Gray & Company]

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Cleveland, Ohio, May 2. – While the city chemist was examining vital organs taken from the exhumed body of one of her five husbands, county prosecutor Stanton planned today to question again a woman suspected of a series of murders in order to collect $11,000 insurance. Three of her husbands died suddenly after mysterious circumstances. She was divorced from the first two men she married.

Records of poison sales in March, April and May, 1931, were being checked by the police today in an effort to find evidence that the woman purchased poison during those months.

The woman and several of her acquaintances were questioned Tuesday.

~ Arrested To Get Insurance. ~

Charges that the woman had told them that she had expressed a desire for her fifth husband’s death so that she might get the insurance were made by two of those questioned, according to Stanton. It was the body of this husband that was exhumed. He died last May.

Persons who knew the woman said she attended parties and acted hilariously right after his death. The night before his death he remarked that he was feeling fine, Stanton said he learned.

If death was caused by metallic poison, coroner Hammond said traces still can be found in the stomach, heart and liver. The widow may face a triple murder inquiry in the event the analysis reveals poison, Stanton said.

~ Exhume Another Body. ~

He also declared he is considering the exhumation of the body of her third husband, who he said he learned also is buried in Cleveland. The body of the fourth husband is buried in Pittsburg, where the woman was divorced from her first two husbands.

Stanton questioned an acquaintance of the woman, who, he said, before the soldier’s death the wife in a conversation with her said:

“I would like to get rid of him. I would like to give him arsenic.”

[“Exhume Body In Probe Of Death; Woman Held As Husband Slayer,” El Paso Herald (Tx.), May 3, 1922, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Cleveland – A divorced husband of a Cleveland woman suspected of having poisoned three of her husbands told Red Cross investigators in Pittsburgh he thought the woman had a mania for collecting insurance.

The woman, who has been married five times, divorced twice, and three of whose husbands died suddenly under mysterious circumstances, while two of her children died of poison, told Prosecutor Edward C. Stanton she intended last week to become a bride for the sixth time.

The body of the woman’s last husband, a former soldier, who died less than a year ago, was exhumed by Coroner A. P. Hammond and the vital organs were sent to Harold Knapp, city chemist. If the examination reveals traces of poison, a charge of murder will be placed against the woman, Stanton said.

~ Greets Him With Smile ~

The body of the woman’s third husband, who was the first to die under mysterious circumstances, also was buried in Cleveland, Stanton learned.

An autopsy on this body also may be ordered, Stanton intimated. The fourth husband was a resident of Pittsburgh and died suddenly in that city.

Husbands No. 1 and 2 were divorced  in Pittsburgh, where two children were said to have been poisoned accidentally.


While the body of her last husband was being exhumed, the woman, who is held on a charge of a different nature, was taken to Stanton’s office and subjected to a severe questioning. She had been told she was suspected of murder, but walked into Stanton’s office with a smile on her face, saying:

“Good afternoon, Mr. Stanton, don’t you think it’s a bit warm in here?”

Without warning James T. Cassidy, first assistant prosecutor, shot this question at her:

“Where did you get the poison with which you killed your husband?”

The woman denied having caused the death of any of her husbands. At the end of an hour of any of her husbands. At the end of an hour of heated questioning and discussion she became angry and demanded that she be taken back to jail.

~ Queer Clippings ~

Among the woman’s possessions Stanton found two newspaper clippings, which, he declares, may throw light upon the case. One of these was a report of a judge’s charge to a jury. It read:

“Bear in mind that suspicion was an entirely different thing from legal proof, and it was in accordance with proofs and not suspicion that their verdict must be given.”

The other clipping, Stanton thought, might explain her many matrimonial ventures. It follows:

“As to loving more than once, it certainly can be done. No love is so great that no one else cannot come along and take the place of the former love.”

Stanton questioned an acquaintance of the woman, who, it is said, informed him that a few months before the soldier’s death the wife, in a conversation with her, said:

“I’d like to get rid of him, I would like to give poison to him.”

Stanton also said he intended to question a member of the Cleveland baseball club and his wife, who live with the woman at one time. He expects they will be able to tell him something of the woman’s manner of living.

~ Collected $3,000 Insurance ~

The woman’s last husband, it was learned, had been employed by a motor company. He had been attended at a hospital at the plant for minor ailments and had received physical examinations. No trace of disability was reported.

At the death of her husband the woman collected nearly $5,000 insurance from a private company.

The widow attempted to collect government insurance also, but the policy had lapsed.

The money she received was spent within a month, Red Cross workers said. She spent $1,400 for diamonds, it was learned, which now are held by a Cleveland man as security for a loan.

[“Woman Suspected of Poisoning 3 Husbands Smiles at Prosecutor – Ex-Mate Says She Has Mania for Insurance,” The Milwaukee Journal (Ca.), May 6, 1922, 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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