Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mae Hamilton, Alleged Oklahoma Serial Killer - 1926


NOTE: Some sources give the name as “Mrs. Mae Hamilton Owens.”

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): Okmulgee, Sept. 21 —Accused of poisoning her 14 -year-old son, John Courtland Hamilton, to collect $2000 insurance policy, Mrs. Mae Hamilton Owens, 40 was placed in jail on a charge of murder here this afternoon.

The murder charge was filed after Robert Isham, chemist, had reported to County Attorney Boatman he had discovered traces of poison in the boy’s vital organs, which were removed following funeral services September 9.

A corner’s jury will meet Thursday to order the body of an orphaned nephew of Mrs. Owens woman exhumed. The boy, 8 years old, died a year ago under circumstances said to have suggested poisoning.

[“Mother accused of Poisoning Son, 14, To Collect Insurance,” The Chillicothe Constitution (Mo.), Sep. 21, 1926, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 4): Kansas City, Jan. 8. – Already accused of poisoning three persons and the hand of suspicion pointing to four other deaths, Mrs. Mae Hamilton, 37-year-old divorcee, is in the Okmulgee, Okla., awaiting trial as the state points to her as a modern Borgia.

Evidence compiled by A. N. Boatman, county attorney, brands the woman as the slayer of her own 15-year-old son, John Courtland Hamilton; Earl Glen Cox Hamilton, 8-year-old adopted son, and F. M. Baker, 44, Oklahoma oil man, who the county attorney says was the woman’s fiance.

The graves of the two boys and Baker have been opened and autopsies revealed deadly quantities of strychnine. With the discovery of the poison it was learned by the prosecutor that Mrs. Hamilton was the beneficiary of insurance policies held by her father and mother, who died after a brief illness in 1922.

~ VIOLENT DEATHS. ~

A sister and brother also died violent deaths, the county attorney says he has learned. With this to start on, he has begun negotiations with the states in which the four are buried to have their bodies exhumed.

In his reconstruction of what he believes was the work of a second Borgia, the prosecutor will base his hope for a conviction on evidence tending to show the two boys and Baker also met their deaths with their insurance as the goal of the slayer.

He points to the fact that Mrs. Hamilton’s own son was insured for the maximum amount allowed children of his age and that her adopted son was also insured for a small amount.

Further to establish what he believes is a motive, he points to the attempts of Mrs. Hamilton to collect the insurance left by Baker, which was awarded a former wife in court.

With this web of evidence woven by the state, Mrs. Hamilton sits in her cell staunchly denying the accusation of murder and pleading mother love to break down the case of the state.

~ MOTHER’S DEFENSE. ~

“They say I poisoned my baby. But they know he died suddenly from meningitis, and that my adopted son died of the same disease, and they lie when they say I put poison in water I gave to Mr. Baker while he was in a hospital.”

Gossipy neighbors, who envied her motor car and the home she purchased after the death of her parents and the two boys, are blamed by the accused woman for her arrest and what she calls the “brutal” opening of the graves of her loved ones.

“They opened the graves of my boys, cut up their bodies and then only buried half of them again, and then they said they found poison,” Mrs. Hamilton charges from her cell.

Her stay in jail has made her vindictive and bitter.

Instead of an insanity plea, as first was expected, Mrs. Hamilton is going to face a trial judge with mother love as her only defense.

When she comes into court for her fight for life – murder being punishable by death in Oklahoma – Mrs. Hamilton must explain why she refused to accept outside help in nursing her two boys when they died within a month of each other last summer.

~ STOMACH DISORDER. ~

Both died in convulsions, the state has found after consulting medical records, which gave the cause of death as an acute stomach disorder, although the accused woman insists it was meningitis.

To combat the phase of the triple charge against her, Mrs. Hamilton again will rely on “mother love” to save her from the brand of “Borgia” that a conviction will carry. It was natural, she has said, that a mother would refuse to yield her place at the sickbed of her son.

It is charged by the state that each drink of water she gave the little boys, contained a small amount of strychnine, until finally the increasing poison in their stomach brought death. The boys, like Baker, died in convulsions. That Prosecutor Boatman contends, pointing to authorities in the medical world, is one of the first indications of poison.

Scarcely had the tragic deaths of the two boys occurred until Baker, alleged sweetheart of the accused woman, was stricken with typhoid and taken to the Okmulgee hospital. The day before he died, it is charged, Mrs. Hamilton gave him a drink of water in the absence of the nurse. The next night he died in convulsions, but it was believed typhoid was the cause.

It was not until Mrs. Hamilton, had been arrested and the bodies of the boys exhumed that a nurse recalled that Baker received a drink of water from Mrs. Hamilton the day before he died. His body then was exhumed and strychnine found in the stomach. With Mrs. Hamilton’s attempts to collect the Baker insurance suggesting a possible motive, the state added another charge of first degree murder, putting the total to three.

As the case gained publicity the prosecutor heard of the unexpected deaths of the woman’s parents in Eldorado Springs, Mo., in 1922, and the deaths of her brother and sister in Kansas the next year.

“We have evidence which indicates we are on the trail of a modern Borgia, who sat by the bedside of loved ones and fed them poison in their last hours,” says County Atty. Boatman in his only comment on the greatest murder mystery in the history of Oklahoma.

Mrs. Hamilton has been married twice, divorced once and has not lived with her second husband for more than a year. She explains she left her second husband because he was unkind to children, to further support of her defense that mother love would not permit any woman to poison her own child.

Prosecutor Boatman accepts mother love as the most lofty of all human traits, but demands that Mrs. Hamilton prove to the satisfaction of twelve men that she did not have anything to do with the death of the two boys and Baker.

Already in jail more than six months, Mrs. Hamilton faces a longer wait for trial with the possibility her case will be postponed until late in the spring to permit her attorney to attend the state legislature.

[“Woman Faces Courts After Seven Deaths – Her Son, Her Adopted Child, and Her Fiance Are Among Dead.” Milwaukee Sunday Sentinel (Wi.), 1927, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): Omulgee, Okla., April 26. – The difficult task of selecting a jury for the trial of Mrs. Mae Hamilton, who is charged with poisoning three members of her family for her insurance, was started here Tuesday in the State District Court.

Attorneys for both State and defense predicted that a special venire or sixty and the forty remaining from last week’s panel will be exhausted.

Large crowds or curious persons were disappointed when most of them were unable to find seats or standing room not occupied by the jurors or some of the seventy witnesses.

Mrs. Hamilton will be tried first on the charge of administering poison to her son John Courtland Hamilton, 14, for his insurance money. A vigorous attack on the State’s mainstay, an analysis that is alleged to have disclosed the poison in the body, will be the backbone of the defense.

Mrs. Hamilton also is accused of the death of Buster Cox Hamilton, her foster son, and F. M. Baker.

[“Woman On Trial – Charged With Murder Three Persons to Get Insurance. [sic]” The Saint Jo Tribune (Tx.), Apr. 29, 1927, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 4): Omulkgee, Okla., May 4. – The next trial of Mrs. Mae Hamilton, accused of poisoning her son, probably will not be held after July 1, when the beginning of the new fiscal year makes available more money for the jury fund, County Attorney A. N. Boatman said last night following discharge of the jury hopelessly deadlocked after 43 1/s hours’ deliberation.

After a week of terrific legal struggle, beginning with the attorneys, continuing with the witnesses and passing on into the jury room, the jury was dismissed at 6:30 p. m. yesterday by District Judge John L. Norman when he was convinced they could not possibly agree. A distinct line was drawn between two groups of jurors, with seven on one side for conviction and five for acquittal, and not once was the line crossed after the first vote, the court was told. A mistrial was declared and the defendant returned to the custody of Sheriff John Russell.

Disagreement was based solely on the guilt or innocence of Mrs. Hamilton and not on a question of the testimony, the jurors declared. They sat tired and wan, in the little jury box in the county courtroom while their foreman told of their long fight to convince each other.

[“Mrs. Hamilton To Face Trial Again – Jurors Stood Seven to Five for Conviction After 43 ½ Hours’ Deliberation,” Miami News-Herald (Ok.), May 3, 1927, p. 3]

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Mrs. Mae Hamilton was arrested Sep. 20, 1926.

SUSPECTED VICTIMS:

1922 – Mother
1922 – Father
1923 – Sister
1923 – Brother
1926 – Earl Glen (“Buster”) Cox Hamilton – 8, adopted (died summer 1926 in one source; in 1925 in another)
1926 – F. M. Baker – 44, fiance
Sep. 9, 1926 – John Courtland Hamilton – 15, son (summer 1926)

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