Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hattie Whitten, Maine Serial Killer - 1902


Victims:

1900 (or 1898?) – Mr. Whitten, husband, died, Dover, Maine
Sep. 19, 1902 – Frannie B. Whitten, daughter (11), died, Dexter, Maine
Nov. 27, 1902 – Jennie E. Whitten, daughter (9), died, Dexter, Maine

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): Dexter, Me., November 30. – Mrs. Hattie Whitten, who was arrested yesterday on the charge of having poisoned her 9-year-old daughter, from whose funeral she had just returned, committed suicide today by hanging while in the custody of the deputy sheriff. Her death ends a case which promised to be as sensational as any inquired into in many years.

Mrs. Whitten is suspected also of having caused the death of an elder daughter, aged 11, on September 19 last, and this body has been exhumed. Both children died suddenly, when previously they had appeared to be in the best of health. Mrs. Whitten’s husband also died suddenly two years ago. The children were insured for $56 and $85, respectively. As a cause of death the physician’s certificate mentioned meningitis and heart failure.

An autopsy on the body of the younger girl disclosed arsenic and strychnine. The result of the autopsy on the older girl has not been made public. The woman was taken in charge by a deputy sheriff, and this afternoon being left alone, she tied together two towels and hanged herself to a bed post.

A coroner’s jury had reported that the girl’s death was due to poison administered by the mother. Mrs. Whitten was arraigned on Saturday. She pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder and was held until Tuesday for a hearing.

Since her death some of the evidence presented before the coroner’s jury has been made public. It was shown that she brought laudanum, arsenic and castor oil the day prior to the death of her daughter in September, and strychnine and arsenic on three days the past week. Dr. Murphy, who attended both children, said if poison was given the poison undoubtedly was administered in oil, that it might pass through the stomach into the intestines and to make useless a stomach pump. As regards the second child it was shown that on Tuesday Mrs. Whitten left a postal card of the post-office calling Dr. Murphy to attend the child, regardless of the fact that he lives only a half mile from where she was stopping  and has a telephone.

Mrs. Whitten was about 45 years of age and came here from Dover, Maine, three months ago.

[“Died Self-Slain After Poisoning Her Daughter – Tragic Death of Mrs. Whitten Who Killed Her Children and Husband. – Arrested While Returning From Child’s Funeral – After Her Arrest She Secured Two Towels and Ended Her Miserable Existence – Wanted To Get Insurance on Their Lives.” The Atlanta Constitution (Ga.), Nov. 30, 1902, p. 12]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): Bangor, Me., Nov. 20. – Mrs. Hattie L. Whitten, of Dexter, who was arrested on Saturday, charged with the murder of her two little daughters, Jennie and Fannie, committed suicide by hanging this afternoon in the house of Deputy Sheriff Leslie  Curtis, where she was being held, pending a further hearing in the case next Thursday.

Deputy Sheriff Curtis had kept close watch upon Mrs. Whitten until 2 p. m., when he went out to care for his horse, leaving his prisoner in care of his wife. Mrs. Whitten asked for two towels, which were brought by Mrs. Curtis, who then stepped out of the room. Five minutes later, when Mrs. Whitten had hanged herself by means of the towels to the bedpost. Physicians were called, but the woman was dead.

It has been found that Mrs. Whitten came of a respectable family, but has led rather an irregular life since her husband died four [sic] years ago. She was addicted to morphine, and her children say that for several days before her arrest and suicide she was mentally unbalanced. Since she came to Dexter for four months ago, Mrs. Whitten has kept company with a weaver named Sutro, and it is said that they were about to be married.

[“Murderess Suicides – She Was Accused of Having Poisoned Her Own Daughters, Jennie, and Fannie. – Was Probably Insane,” The Scranton Republican (Oh.), Dec. 1, 1902, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): Dexter, Me. – Mrs. Hattie L. Whitten, who was arrested charged with having poisoned her nine-year-old daughter, from whose funeral she had just returned, committed suicide by hanging from a bedpost while in the custody of Deputy Sheriff Curtis.

Her death ends a case which promised, from the suspicions held against Mrs. Whitten, to be as sensational as any inquired into in Maine for a long time.

Mrs. Whitten was suspected not only of having caused the death of the child just buried, but also that of her husband, who died two years ago, even that of an elder daughter, aged eleven, who died September 19 last. Both children died suddenly when just previously had appeared to be in the best of health. The children were insured for $56 and $85 respectively.

Suspicion having been aroused by the death of a younger Thursday the physicians decided to hold an autopsy. The autopsy was held while the body was at the cemetery awaiting interment. Traces of arsenic and strychnine were found. Mrs. Whitten’s arrest followed.

Without delay a Coroner’s jury was impaneled, and on evidence presented it was reported that the girl’s death was due to poison administered by the mother.

Since Mrs. Whitten’s death some of the evidence presented before the Coroner’s jury has been made public. It was shown that she bought laudanum, arsenic and castor oil the day prior to the death of one daughter, in September, and strychnine and arsenic on three days of last week.

The autopsy showed evidences of poisoning in the stomach, intestines and brain, warranting of sending these parts to Professor Robinson, of Bowdoin College, for analysis. The stomach and intestines from the body of the elder daughter, which was exhumed, were also sent to Professor Robinson.

Mrs. Whitten was about forty-five years of age, and came her from Dover, this State, three months ago.

An incident just brought out that last Monday Jennie, then in good health, was selling small wares from house to house, stating that with the proceeds she intended to purchase her mother a Christmas present, and at the same time her mother was at the drug store purchasing poison.

[“Child Poisoner A Suicide – Woman Arrested at Dexter, Me., Hangs Herself. – Victims’ Lives Were Insured – The Accused Murderess Also Was Suspected of Having Killed Her Husband, Who Died Two Years Ago – She Had Purchased Poisonous Drugs and Gave Them to Her Little Daughters.” The Western North Carolina Times (Hendersonville, N. C.), Dec. 5, 1902, p. 5]

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