Saturday, September 12, 2015

Bertha Lankford, Double Black Widow Murderess – 1899, Texas


FULL TEXT: Dallas, Tex., Dec. 23. – When Mrs. Bertha Lankford killed Dr. George A. Lankford in their home in Harrisburg he was the third husband of the woman accused of unfaithfulness and the second whose life was forfeited because of the charge.

The first husband, William Howard of Houston, escaped, so far as physical harm was concerned. He was simply divorced. The second husband was William Smith, also of Houston. His wife tried to kill him, but the bullet went wide and only shattered his arm.  But her brother took up the quarrel, and shot Smith dead. Boyce was acquitted on the ground of justifiable homicide.

In her second attempt to murder a husband Mrs. Lankford took no chances.

She says boldly that she had the right, to kill Mr. Lankford because she was satisfied he had deceived her. But she need have no fear of the law, because death will claim her before an executioner could, even if she were found guilty of murder in tho first degree. She is in the last stages of consumption.

She knows neither remorse or regret. She says her own life has been wrecked by the perfidy of men, and that the least she could do was to make an example of men who betray.

There was no young woman in Texas whose career was brighter in promise than hers. She is now little more than thirty and in ten years has been crowded much misery and desperation.

She was the only daughter, of Captain Robert Boyce, known all over Texas, in business, political and military circles. Bertha Boyce was carefully educated. She had a brilliant mind, was pretty had wealth and position. When her father died he left her $100,000. Then her misery began.

Miss Boyce soon afterward married William Howard of Houston. After two children were born to them Mrs. Howard learned that about her husband which made her secure a divorce.

There was no lack of suitors for the rich Texan woman. William Smith won her affections and they were married.

One day she saw him enter the Casino in Houston with two women companions. Mrs. Smith had long been prepared. She reached into her pocket, grasped a revolver, walked into the Casino and stood before her husband and his companions. Without a word she fired three shots at him. Only one took effect. It shattered an arm.

There was no divorce from William Smith, ltobort Boyce said that Smith and his sister could not both live and he shot Smith dead. He was tried for murder and the jury acquitted him.

Mrs. Smith went to live in her beautiful home in Harrisburg.

Dr. George A. Lankford came to Houston twelve years ago from Maryland. He practiced both in Houston anf Harrisburg, and met with much success.

He knew all about her previous matrimonial experiences of the daughter of Robert Boyce. He and she were married.Trouble began almost immediately. There is no denying that Mrs. Lankford is extremely jealous. She mistook the congratulations showered upon him for attentions which a husband should not receive.

It is not likely that the details of the murder of Dr. Lankford will ever be known. Long before Mrs. Lankford will ever be known. Long before Mrs. Lankford had made up her mind to slay him she discovered proofs of his wrong doing.

She has said repeatedly that she does not know the circumstances surrounding the shooting, that her mind is a blank. But she makes no denial of the murder itself.

As nearly can be learned, she went to the library, where her husband was writing, on Thanksgiving evening. A quarrel was ended by Mrs. Lankford shooting her husband three times. The second shot would have proved fatal had not the first already killed.

She was waiting in the library when a deputy sheriff arrived, waiting there with tho husband she had murdered.

“Dr. Lankford violated his vows and obligations of a husband and I killed him,” she said, “There was nothing else for me to do. I am justified in avenging my wrongs. Look for yourself.”

She pointed to two letters lying on the desk where Dr. Lankford had been writing. They were addressed to a woman in Houston.

After the murder Mrs. Lankford collapsed utterly. It was no plain that she can live but a little time that she was released on $3,000 bail. She was taken to the house of friends, where she is waiting for the end.

[“The Strange Case of Mrs. Lankford.” Oakland Tribune (Ca.), Dec. 23, 1899, p. 5]

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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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