Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jane Dorsey, Serial Killer: Indiana - 1891

FULL TEXT: Strange indeed, are the circumstances which seem to weave a terrible chain of evidence against Jane Dorsey, of Indianapolis, who is accused of a long list of murders, before which the crimes of Lucia Borgia seem to pale into insignificance. In the criminal annals of this country there have been but few cases that attract more attention than this one. Jane Dorsey, the accused, is the wife of an industrious mechanic, living in the lower districts of Indianapolis. John Dorsey is her fifth husband. They were married a few months ago. The marriage followed shortly after the death of her fourth husband. All the preceding marriages were attended by like circumstances.

Mrs. Dorsey is now about 40 years old. Traces of former beauty are plainly visible. Her life has been one of continual romance with a succession of ghostly climaxes. She was only 15 when she met Daniel Sanley, an honest working man. After their marriage he insured his life for $2,000.

He lived but two years, and a year after she married a fireman on the Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis railroad. He survived but a short time, and his widow was united to Albert Conkling, a tinner, and with him moved to Camargo, Douglas county, Ill., where he died. She then returned to Indianapolis, and in a short tune married Joseph Sterret, a widower with two children, and he shortly followed her other husbands to the grave, but not till both of his children had died. Three months ago she was married to John Dorsey, and they now occupy a modest little cottage in the southern part of the city which is the residence portion of hundreds of the working classes. All of her husbands were poor men, worked for their living and found in her a helpmate till a few months ago when her health failed, and she is now little better than an invalid. She is said to have broken rapidly within the past few weeks owing to the sensational rumors which connect her name with the death of her mother and sister. In height she is above the average of her sex, has piercing brown eyes, dark brown hair and speaks rapidly in ordinary conversation. When the subject of her trouble is broached, her countenance changes quickly, tears fill her eyes and she protests with the most earnest vehemence that she is the victim of circumstances and that she is innocent of crime.

Less than two months ago the Dorsey household consisted of Dorsey and his wife, the latter’s mother, Mrs. Taylor, her sister, Mrs. Nancy Wright, and a child of the latter, a girl about 10 years of age. Two months ago Mrs. Taylor was taken suddenly ill and soon after died, and the physician confessed that he had never been able to diagnose her disease satisfactorily. Some ten days after her death Mrs. Wright also fell sick, being taken with vomiting, which continued at short intervals till she also died.

Her sister, Mrs. Wright, also had a life insurance policy. So did all the alleged victims of this modern Borgia’s hand, except the two step-children. All the circumstances point to murder in each case, but the defendant claims that she is the victim of the strange kind of circumstances. The preliminary investigation will tell, as at it will be presented all the evidence secured.

[“Links In The Chain. Which Tighten A Modern Borgia In Its Coils. - Indianapolis’ Sensational Murder Case. – Mrs. John Dorsey Charged With Poisoning Four Husbands, Her mother and Sister and Two Children –The Adults Had Their Lives Insured.” The Waterloo Courier (Io.), Jul. 22, 1891, p. 8]


Daniel Sanely (“Stahey”) – husband #1, died 1891
John Temple - husband #2
Albert Conking - husband #3
Joseph Sterret - husband #4, died 1891
2 children of Joseph Sterret
Mrs. Taylor – Mrs. Dorsey’s mother
Mrs. Nancy Wright – Mrs. Dorsey’s aunt


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



For more cases of this category, see: Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America (as of January 20, 2014, the collection contains 61 cases)


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