Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jane (Hannah) Dorsey, Suspected Serial Killer: Indiana - 1891


Note: Some sources give the name as “Hannah” and others “Jane.”

***

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Indianapolis, Ind., July 16. – The case of Mrs. Hannah Dorsey, who has been suspected of poisoning six or eight persons, including four husbands, has not been particularly noticed by the Indianapolis papers, because the suspicion was largely the outcome of the heedless gossip oi people who lived in the Dorsey neighborhood. The examination of the remains of Mrs. Taylor, the mother of Mrs. Dorsey, has not been completed yet by the chemist. She was the last one to die in the same house with Mrs. Dorsey. The chemist found some arsenic but he says it may have been that used by the undertaker who embalmed the remains. He is testing the embalmiug fluid, and will report more fully next week.

Mrs. Dorsey, who has been referred to in many papers as “the Indianapolis Borgia” is now in tailing health, and her physician fears a serious result unless a marked change occurs soon. She was seen at her home by Coroner Manker today. She stated that she was a victim ot circumstances sufficient to have wrecked others completely, but her sense of innocense alone has sustained her during a trying ordeal.

Public attention was attracted to this peculiar case when Coroner Manker began as investigation of the death of Mrs. Nancy Jane Wright several weeks ago. After a chemical analysis disclosed evidence of prison in the stomach. Coroner Manker told Mrs. Dorsey that he was suspected of admiuistering poison not only to Mrs. Wright, who is her sister, but to her mother, Mrs. Mary Taylor, who died a couple of weeks previous. Mrs. Dorsey strenuously denied auy knowledge of the poison, and said she could throw no light upon the matter. Afterward Dr. Manker had Mrs. Taylor’s remains exhumed and arsenic was found in the stomach. This discovery occurred last week, but today was the first opportunity the coroner found to secure another statement from Mrs. Dorsey. The coroner told her of the discovery of poison in Mrs. Taylor’s stomach and asked for an explanation.

“As God is my judge, and realizing that it is probable that I have but a short time to live, I want to say, Doctor, that I am a innocent of any act leading to the death of either my sister or mother as you are. There is only one thing that I do know that night assist your investigation, and that is that my sister frequently threatened to kill herself and my mother, too. She was an extremely high tempered woman, and on one occasion when she and mother quarreled I heard her say that she would kill herself and get mother out of the way too. Her little girl, Lizzie, heard her make the same threats, and so did my sister-in-law, Mrs. Taylor, though at different times.”

“Do you suppose,” asked Coroner Manker, “that your dead sister then carried out her threat by poisoning her mother?”

“Yes that is my opinion, since it is shown that their stomachs contained poison.”

Continuing Mrs. Dorsey told her marital history. Her first husband was Dan Sanley, who died of sunstroke two years after his marriage, she says. The second was John Temple, who, after living six years with her, went from bronchitis to consumption and died. Her third, Albert Conklin, died in Illinois of congestion of the brain, she says, after living three years with her. Her fourth was Joseph Stenett, who died in the spring of 1890. Mrs. Dorsey was married to her present husband last February.

Coroner Manker says: “Clippings from papers at the time show that Conklin worked where he was employed the day before his death, and, instead of dying irom congestion of the brain, died of a violent stomach trouble.”

[“Did She Poison Them? – Mrs. Hannah Dorsey Accused of Killing Six Persons,” The Laurens Advertiser (N. C.), Jul. 21, 1891, p. 4]

***

FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): 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; same article: The Goshen Times (In.), Jul. 16, 1891, p. 2]

***
One source gives the suspects name as “Mrs. Hannah Dorsey.”

***

VICTIMS
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 Jane Wright – Mrs. Dorsey’s aunt

***


***

VICTIMS
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.

***

http://unknownmisandry.blogspot.com/2012/02/female-serial-killers-of-19th-century.html


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

***

No comments:

Post a Comment