Thursday, September 22, 2011

Victoria Lefebvre, Black Widow Serial Killer - 1939


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Fitchburg, March 30 – “I am not guilty – I didn’t do it” replied Mrs. Victoria Lefebvre, 53-year-old brunette with a slight tinge of gray in her hair when arraigned today before district court on a charge of slaying her husband with poison as police investigated the deaths of her two former husbands, one in Montreal.

Protesting her innocence, Mrs. Victoria Lefebvre, 53, today was placed under arrest for the alleged poison slaying of her husband as police investigated the deaths of her two former husbands, one in Montreal.

Mrs. Lefebvre was arrested at the home of friends near her farm in Ashburnham after an analysis by state chemists had shown that her husband, Floriente Lefebvre, 58, World war veteran, blacksmith and W. P. A. worker, had died of poisoning on January 21.

Investigation of the death was launched after neighbors revealed that Mrs. Lefebvre had purchased a deadly poison ostensibly to kill the family dog. State police found that the Lefebvres did not own a dog. Mrs. Lefebvre had called in Dr. John Mason of Ashburnham, who found the husband dead. Dr. Mason notified Medical Examiner Cornelius E. Geary, who in turn called in state Police.

State Detective Edward T. McCarthy said he had learned the couple had quarreled over an insurance matter.

McCarthy said it was the opinion of investigators that Mrs. Lefebvre fed her husband the poison with food and that he died unattended. In her cell in Fitchburg, Mrs. Lefebvre continually knelt in prayer, crying she was innocent. She said:

“There is no reason why I would want to murder my husband. I did not give him poison in any form. I cannot understand why I am being charged with this horrible crime. Floriente had been ill of stomach trouble for some time prior to his death, he refused to see a doctor. When I found him in bed I called Dr. Muson. He was dead when the doctor called. That was on Jan. 21. I went to the home of my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Raoul LaRoche to live.”

State Detective McCarthy, who investigated the case with Stale Detective Joseph L. Ferrari and State Policeman George H. Pollard, said that previous husbands of Mrs. Lefebvre were:

1 – Adrian Daigneault, whom she married in Montreal in 1903 and who died in 1921.

2 – Floyd Joseph Vallee, who died in 1936 of stomach trouble at the Gardner State Colony for Mental Health, where he worked with his wife.

Lefebvre, whom she married later had formerly been employed at the colony.

Mrs. Lefebvre has two children by her first husband, Frederick Daigneault, 36, living somewhere in California, and Ulric Daigneault, 32, of Loominster.

Mrs. Lefebvre was held on a charge of first degree murder. Her arrest followed the investigation, chemical analysis and inquiry made at the request of Worcester county District Attorney Owen Hoban.

[“Police Suspect Fitchburg Woman of Being Borgia Held for Poison Murder of Husband After Quarrel Over Insurance — Deaths of Two Former Spouses Are Investigated,” syndicated (INS), Lowell Sun (Ma.), Mar. 30, 1939, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Worcester, Sept. 11 – Mrs. Victoria Lefebvre, 53, of Ashburnham, was sentenced to life in the women’s reformatory at Framingham today by Judge James C. Connelly, in superior criminal court after she had pleaded guilty to second degree murder of her husband, Fleurient Lefebvre, 58, World war veteran, on Jan. 21, in their Ashburnham cottage.

The appearance of Mrs. Victoria Lefebvre in court today came as a complete surprise, Dist. Atty. Owen A. Hoban not having been informed of counsel’s change of plans in entering a guilty plea until shortly before court opened. The woman was originally scheduled to appear in court a week from today. It was indicated that a conference between Mrs. Lefebvre and her counsel, Atty. William W. Buckley, held yesterday at Worcester county jail, caused the change in plans.

Although the courtroom was crowded there was no unusual commotion. Mrs. Lefebvre wept bitterly when she took the stand but the guilty plea and sentence were disposed of in a few minutes. Dist. Atty. Hoban announced that nol-prossed all first degree charges.

Mrs. Lefebvre was apparently in a highly agitated condition when her name was called. Until late last week she had been a patient in Worchester city hospital, where she had been transferred from the county jail, suffering with hysteria. She was returned to the jail late in the week.

It was expected that Mrs. Lefebvre would be taken from Worchester to Framingham to begin her sentence today. Report had it that Atty. Buckley and the district attorney’s office agreed that the guilty plea and the ultimate disposition were the best steps to take in the case. Asst. Dist.-Atty. A. Andre Gelinas, who was present in court today, prepared the Lefebvre case for prosecution.

Mrs. Lefebvre was arrested on a murder charge early on the morning of March 30, this year, while working for Fitchburg. It was alleged that she had placed the poison in a plate of beans before serving them to Lefebvre, who was the woman’s third husband. Lefebvre had been employed bas a WPA worker. At the time of her arrest the woman denied the murder charge, asserting she had no reason for taking Lefebvre’s life.

The couple had been married less than three months before Lefebre’s death, and had lived in a small house in Ashburnham during that time. Relatives and friends were suspicious at the sudden death and a police investigation followed.

Examination of the victim’s stomach and other organs by Dr. Joseph A. Walker, state chemist, revealed the presence of a large quantity of strychnine it was later learned that a bottle of that poison had been purchased by the woman who told the druggist that she wanted to put away a dog. Upon returning the bottle to the druggist it is alleged Mrs. Lefebvre said she did not need the poison and the dog had been killed by an automobile.

Mrs. Lefebvre said at the time of her arrest that she had known her husband for 10 years. Her next husband was Alden L. Daigneault when she married in 1903 and with whom she had lived until his death in 1921. The couple had two sons. Her second husband, Joseph Vallee, died in 1936.

When Mrs. Lefebvre was arraigned here in district court before Special Justice A. Z. Goodfellow, the morning of March 30, she pleaded not guilty to the murder complaint and was held without bail for a hearing April 7. On that date the woman was represented by Atty. James B. Oliver, of Leominster. The case was again continued to April 21.

On April 15 it was announced that Atty. William W. Buckley had been retained to act as counsel for Mrs. Levebvre.

At the April 21 hearing in district court Judge Goodfellow found cause to hold Mrs. Lefebvre for the grand jury session on May 8. She was indicted by the jury in May 10 for first degree murder. Later in May the woman was committed to Worchester State hospital for a 35-day period of observation. On June 21 she was declared sane by hospital officials and remained in jail [illegible passage] today's hearing.

[“Says Guilty In Surprise Appearance – Mrs. Victoria Lefebvre Is Sent To Farmingham After Short Session – Weep Bitterly While On Stand – Move Follows Close On Heels Of Conference Between Poisoner and Her Counsel,” Fitchburg Sentinel (Ma.), Sep. 11, 1939, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): After coming through the horrors of the World war without serious injury, Fleurient LeFebvre, 58, Ashburnham blacksmith, died from strychnine poison administered by his wife, Mrs. Victoria LeFebvre, 53,. in a plate of beans on Jan. 21, according to state detectives who arrested her at 3.30 oclock this morning, charged with murder.

Mrs. LeFebvre, although stunned and apparently horror-stricken by the accusation, firmly but quietly denied her guilt and asserted she had nothing to do with the death and had no
motive for killing him.

Mr. LeFebvre was the third husband of the accused murderer. They were married on Oct. 29, 1938; and lived in Ashburnham about three months. The suddenness of the death aroused suspicions of his relatives and friends and state police were asked to investigate.

The stomach and other organs were sent by Dr. C. E. Geary, medical examiner, to Boston for examination and today Dr. Joseph A. Walker, state chemist, reported to the investigators that strychnine, in a larger enough quantity to kill, was found.

The motive for the alleged murder was not disclosed. Lieutenant Edward J. McCarthy of Worcester, Joseph Ferrari of Boston, Sergt. Walter Tompkins and Corp. George L. Pollard of the state police made the investigation and arrested Mrs. Lefebvre at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Raoul LaRoche. Ashby West road, early today.

Although the detectives are not giving out any information as to motive or evidence against Mrs. LeFebvre it was learned that she purchased a bottle of strychnine shortly before her husband died, claiming she wanted the poison to kill a dog.

Later she said returned the bottle unopened.

It is said she told the druggist that she did not need the strychnine as the dog was killed by an automobile near her home.

The state detectives have been unable to find where or when a dog was killed.

Police claim Mrs. LeFebvre returned the original bottle of poison, and in some manner obtained another bottle.

Mr. LeFebvre did not carry any life insurance and there was a mortgage on the small house in Ashburnham in which they made their home. He was a veteran of the World war with service at St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. It was believed in Ashburnham and in this city that he carried a large life insurance policy in addition to whatever benefits his war service entitled him but it later developed he had no insurance or reserve fund.


Mrs. LeFebvre, in a statement to a Sentinel reporter today shortly being arrested, said:

“I knew Mr. LeFebvre for 10 years as he often worked about the farm. He was my third husband as I married Adrian L. Deignault in 1903 and lived with him until he died in 1921. I have two sons by that marriage. Ulric of California of Frederick of Leominster, aged 32 and 30 years, respectively.

“My second husband, Joseph Vallee, died in 1936 and on Oct. 29, 1939. I married Mr. LeFebvre. Our married life was happy and I was contented and had no reason to wish for his death.

“He complained of severe pains for about two weeks previous to Jan. 21. I urged him to see a doctor but he refused despite all my pleas and urging.

“He continued  to work for the WPA during that period. On Saturday, Jan. 21, he remained about the house all day and did considerable work around the place.

“He had a very light supper, eating very little. Shortly after supper he was taken very sick and I called Dr. John M. Mason of Ashburnham. My husband was dead when the doctor arrived and after a brief examination DR. Mason notified Dr. C. E. Geary, the medical examiner.

“That is all I know about the case. I have told my story to the police and the detectives. There is nothing I can add to that story. There was no reason why I should want to murder my husband. I did not give him any poison in any farm. I can’t understand why I should be charged with this horrible crime.”

The sudden death of Mr. LeFebvre proved a shock to his friends and relatives, including members of the Lieut. Laurence S. Ayer post V. F. W. of which he was a member. They asked the Ashburnham and state police to investigate to see if death was due to natural causes and if not to determine who was responsible.

Dr. Geary removed the stomach and other organs and sent them in Boston to see if any poison or foreign substance could be found.

A preliminary examination indicated that the man had eaten a very hearty supper of frankfurters and beans. He ate at least five frankfurters. It seemed to be a very substantial supper for a sick man who had a “light supper” and the suspicions of doctors and police increased.

Corp. Pollard of the Athol borracha, formerly of Luxembourg, where he distinguished himself for unusually efficient work as an investigator, was assigned to the case working out of the Boston headquarters. His preliminary survey indicated that further investigation should be made.

Lieut. Detective McCarthy and Lieut. Detective Ferrari were assigned to the case and later Sergt. Tompkins was added to the list of investigators.

They were obliged to work quietly as evidence was slow in development and they did not want to move until the final report off the state chemist was received. Lieut. McCarthy said that the report was received early today and the four officers immediately secured a warrant and came to Fichburg.

They found that Mrs. Lefebvre was working at the home of Mrs. LaRoche and they arrested her there, and brought her to the Fitchburg police station for arraignment in court today.

Mrs. LeFebvre said that since her husband died she had been living part of the time at the Ashburnham home and at other times at the home of Mrs. LaRoche, whose farm is near the Vallee farm where she lived with her second husband.

Fleurient LeFebvre was born in Beauharme’s P. Q., and lived in Ashburnham for 15 years. He was a blacksmith and well-known in that town and in this city. He lived here most of his life and well-known in that town and in this city. He lived here most of his life and then worked as a blacksmith in Ashburnham for a time only to return to this city and live here until after he received his last veteran’s bonus when he bought the little house in Ashburnham and took up his residence there.

He is survived by his wife, now under arrest charged with his murder; three brothers, George of this city, Arthur of Mexico, and Louis of Leominster; six sisters, Mrs. Treffle Laurent. Mrs. Francis Lafleur and Mrs. Alfred LeClair, all of this city; Mrs. William Parent of Schnectady, N. Y., Mrs. Moses St. Jean of Cannan, H. H. and Mrs. Octave of Worcester.

He enlisted in the U. S. army at Salem on May 23, 1917 and served as blacksmith in the 101st Field Artillery and saw service at St. Mihiel and Meuse Argonne drive.

A military funeral was held at St. Dennis church in Ashburnham with burial in St. Celia’s cemetery in Leominster.

Mrs. LeFebvre was born in Ormsdown, Quebec and married Mre. Daignault in Canada and came to this city at the time of her marriage to Mr. Lefebvre that she thought she had found real happiness with her new husband and looked forward to a long and contented life  at their little home in Ashburnham. The house was small and unpretentious from the outside but the interior was neat and attractive.

Sergt. Joseph P. Darcy who was in charge of the police station when Mrs. LeFebvre was brought in summoned Sergt. Francis E. Shea who took fingerprints of the woman before she was placed under charge of Mrs. C. E. Ford, police matron.

[“Mrs. Victoria LeFebvre Said To Have Mixed Nine - Arrested At 3.30 This Morning; Pleads Not Guilty In Whisper; Held Without Bail For Murder - Lethal Dose Purchase Revealed By Druggist - Said To Have Procured It To Kill Dog; Was Wed To Florient LeFebvre But Three Months; Relatives Sought Probe,” Fitchburg Sentinel (Ma.), Mar. 30, 1939, p. 1]

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Victims:

Adrian Daigneault, husband #1, died 1921, Montreal
Floyd Joseph Valle, husband #2, died 1936
Fliorente LeFebvre, 58, husband #3, died Jan. 21, 1939

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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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