Friday, February 26, 2016

Marianne Skoublinska, Polish Midwife & Serial Killer - 1890


NOTE: The name appears with a variety of spellings in English-language news reports: “Skoublinska,” Skoblinska,” “Skonblinska,” “Skublinski,” “Stysinski.” The following articles contain the spellings used in the original print edition, but the same “Marianne Skoublinska” has been chosen for use in The Unknown History of MISANDRY as the standard name, since the report using that spelling includes a first name.”

New information: A Polish visitor has been kind enough to provide the correct spelling: Marianna Skublińska.

Some brief reports on this case did not mention any name such as this one: “A woman concerned in baby farming at Warsaw has been charged with murdering seventy-five infants. She was sentenced to three years' imprisonment.” [“Extensive Baby Farming - 76 Infants Murdered.” The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW, Australia), Apr. 2, 1890, p. 3]

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 6): A horrible series of crimes has been discovered at Warsaw. A fire at an old house in Sienna-street had been extinguished by the brigade, when some firemen who had been left to prevent any mischief from stray sparks discovered a child’s corpse beneath the floor; two other similar discoveries were made soon after, and finally eight bodies were found beneath the floor of one room. The Chronicle correspondent at Vienna says that on some partitions and a cupboard being pulled down, six more bodies of children were brought to light [1+2+8+6=17]. An inmate of the house, a midwife named Skoblinska, has been arrested on suspicion of having killed and buried the infants. As she had been living in the house only four months the police are engaged in making investigations into her antecedents. Skoblinska shared her apartment with her sister. Each of the women had a grown-up daughter. The other three women were also arrested on suspicion of being implicated with Skoblinska. It is stated that in all fifty bodies have been found.

[“Horrible Crimes At Warsaw – Fifty Murdered Babies Found.” The Echo (London, England), Feb. 24, 1890, p. 3]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 6): According to advices from Warsaw some details have now come to light about the dreadful child murders committed there by the midwife Skublinski and some other women who have already been arrested. Skublinski resided in an attic, that she secretly received young illegitimate children “to nurse,” as she said. In reality, she, with several other women, carried on a regular trade in murdering infants. The attention of the police had already been drawn to this woman, and an unexpected examination of the house revealed several cradles with two and three babies in each.

Now, as Skublinski had no right to receive mothers and new-born children, she had to promise that from thenceforth she would take no more young infants into her house. Notwithstanding this, the police on a subsequent occasion found three little babies, and she was, in consequence, summoned, and the hearing was fixed for the 19th inst. [in February, apparently, rather than May as stated here] before the justice of the peace. During the night of the 17th she set fire to her lodging, after having first murdered the children committed to her charge.

Then this inhuman woman went and stood in the yard of the house among the excited crowd and quietly waited to see what would happen. As the house was only built of wood, she evidently hoped it would be completely destroyed. But one of the inmates of the house suddenly remembered the woman in the garret and her charges, and called out to the firemen to save the children.

Then Skubliuski was for the first time soon standing in the yard, and when she was asked if the children were already saved, she answered that they were no longer with her. In the meanwhile, the firemen had so far succeeded in subduing the fire that one of them penetrated into Skublinski’s lodging, and, not knowing what she had said, immediately began to search for the children. He soon found one little corpse, and then two more.

They wore taken down to the yard, and a doctor who happened to be present declared that the children were not choked by smoke, but a crime had been perpetrated. Then the police came forward and four more corpses were discovered, on one of which were distinct traces of the skull having been battered in. Consequently Skublinski and the other women were arrested.

[“A Diabolical Crime.” Supplement to Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand), May 17, 1890, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 6): The woman baby-farmer, Stysinski, who is believed to have disposed of seventy-five babies during the last few years, has just been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Her baby farm, or rather graveyard, became known to the police a month ago through her setting fire to her cottage, containing five little children, in order to obtain the amount of the insurance on her property. At the trial it was proved that not a single child which was entrusted to her care and entered her den ever left her house alive. It was also shown that she made two charges for taking care of children, fifteen roubles for allowing the baby to die in a few weeks, and twenty for procuring its death within a day or two. She frequently threw the bodies of the children to her pigs, and boasted of the fattest pigs in the district on account of the exceptionally good feed she provided for them, in spite of all the evidence, she could not be convicted of murder.

[“The Polish Baby Murderer Sentenced,” The Nelson Evening Mail (New Zealand), May 27, 1890, p. 4]

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FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 6): In our last number we mentioned the case of  Skonblinska, a baby farmer in Warsaw, who was tried lately for causing the deaths of about seventy children. speaking of the death sentence lately pronounced upon Sophie Günzbourg, the New York Volks-Zeitung remarks: “For a young girl who is supposed to have had the intention of attempting the life of the Tzar – the gallows; for the murderess of so many children – three years penal servitude. After that, who can reproach the Nihilists for what the do?”

[Untitled, Free Russia, (The Organ of the English Society of Friends of Russian Freedom, American Edition), (New York, N.Y.), Apr. 1891, p. 6]

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FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 6) : Le journal russe de Varsovie, donne les détails suivants sur le crime dont nous avons parlé dans le Stéphanois d’avant-hier:

Dans la nuit du 20 an 21 février, un incendie éclatait au numéro 56 de la rue Sennaia. Uu pompier avait trouvé à tâtons, dans une toute petite chambrette complètement obscure, le cadavre d’un enfant, quand on apporta des lanternes on découvrit encore sept cadavres d’enfants, dont quatre intacts et les trois autres en décomposision complète.

Tous portaient des traces de violence, la tête d’un de ces petits cadavres était fracassée.
On a fait immédiatement arrêter Ja sage-femme Marianne Skoublinska, propriétaire du logement dans lequel les cadavres ont été trouvés, ainsi que deux voisines, les femmes Zianowska et Winnicka.

On a constaté jusqu’ici 76 victimes de la Skoublinska.

A la suite des perquisitions faites, quatre arrestations ont été opérées dans différents quartiers. Un jeune homme de dix-huit ans, qu’ demeurait chez la Skoublinska, a avoué, après son arrestation, avoir pendant quelques mois emporté du logement de la Skoublinska une cinquantaine de cadavres d’enfants. Le menuisier Milenski a confectionné pour la Skoublinska des bières pour dix ou quinze cadavres.

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FULL TEXT (Article 6 of 6): At the examination of the woman Skooblinsky, lately arrested at Warsaw, details were brought out which reveal to what a horrible extent baby farming is carried on in Russia [Poland was controlled by Russia at the time]. The details induce one to believe that in the matter of surreptitiously disposing of  infants Russia is not very much better than China, where the Herodian custom is supposed to flourish best – or worst. It is said that Count Tolstoi, learning of these horrible practices, was inspired to write his “Kreutzer Sonata,” in which he hurled this piece of scorn at the present civilization:

What terrible unveracity passes current nowadays respecting children! Children, forsooth, are a blessing from God. Children are a joy. Now all this is a lie. This was so in times gone by; but it is not true in our days; nothing like it is true. Children are felt to be a scourge. This they are, and nothing more.”

The wildest excitement prevailed in some parts of Russia on the publication of the woman’s testimony, and the most serious of the papers called such homes as hers “angel factories.” Her method was like that of all of her class. ‘A common servant-woman gives herself out for a licensed midwife, opens what she grandiloquently terms an establishment for the bringing up of children in Warsaw, but which is, in plain truth, a filthy hut on the outskirts of the city, in which they are gradually done to death – and begins business without more ado. To the tender mercies of this monster mothers unhesitatingly confide their babies, paying her in advance for her trouble. In a short time her name and fame spread far and wide, and her clientele grows more numerous and more varied, including individuals; or families placed by birth or fortune far out of the reach of want. Unable to attend alone to the various departments of this lucrative occupation, she has recourse to the principle of the division of labor, hiring a sharp, cynical woman of loose character to furnish the establishment with “raw material.”

Besides these colleagues, Shooblinsky gave fees to her son-in-law to forge doctors’ certificates of death from natural causes; contracted with a carpenter to receive the little corpses, and keep them till a sufficient number accumulated to make it worth while to bury them, when it became his duty to assist her in chopping them up into little bits and packing them neatly into a spacious coffin of his own make. They were then buried by a half idiot boy who lived with Skooblinsky.

In Russia one can do nothing, good or bad, without a special authorization from the paternal authorities, and from this universal rule baby farming is not excepted. Hence the police, having received an inkling of what was going on, and knowing that Skooblinsky had been tried some twelve months previously for infanticide and acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence,” paid her a visit one day and found her “nursing four children,” whom they ordered her to return to their parents, seeing that she had no license to carry on the business of baby farmer. To this she assented, but instead of sending them back to their mothers she dispatched them.

The next day all the four children left for a better world, and that night the boy heard her call out to her son-in-law: “I say, Koonya, take away those puppies; they’re dead.” They had been systematically starved to death, a method of disposing of them which set her right in the eyes of the law, and en abled her to say to the procurator: “I did not kill them. They  died, poor things, because they were very weak. My calling was an honest one.”


The fathers and mothers who in trusted their children to this woman will never be discovered, for Skooblinsky made it a point never to inquire whence they came, what position they occupied, or even their names. In ordinary times $10 was the charge, but whenever business grew brisk” it was raised to a much higher sum, and lowered to $2.50 when it was un usually slack. Maybe the baby loses little in dying, for an illegitimate child in Russia is generally subjected for the term of natural life to cruel treatment. It is stripped of certain of its civil rights and is scoffed and sneered at with impunity in season and out of season, and made the butt of every coarse jester that comes along.

He bears about in his passport, like Cain on his forehead, the indelible mark that brands him as a fugitive and a vagabond. The following case, taken from the Law Journal of St. Petersburg, is a type:

The victim was the illegitimate daughter of a Russian nobleman, idolized by her father, who gave her a fine education. This nobleman’s death put an end to the education when the daughter was just turned sixteen. She was full of life and energy, shrank from no kind of labor, and resolved to win her way upward by her own unaided efforts. The reception she met with, however, on her first application for employment proved a wet blanket to her ardor.

“Have you a legal passport?” she was asked. ‘“No, I am an illegitimate child, but it’s not the passport that will do the work, but myself, and I am here.” “Yes, no doubt; but that is not enough. A Russian without a passport is like the sea without waier. There is no thoroughfare for the likes of you. Good-by.”

Bewildered, she ran hither and thither, endeavoring to obtain a passport, but in vain. Some officials promised, others shook rudely off, and others threatened her with imprisonment and Siberia for vagrancy. Still, however, she shifted as well as she could under the circumstances, making head against all difficulties and just keeping body and soul together.

At last a young man. full of admiration for her noble qualities, asked for her heart and her hand. The harbor of rest was in sight. So it seemed at first, but in reality this proved to be only a respite. here is your passport? You have none? Marriage is impossible without one. No priest can perform the ceremony for you.

Tears, sighs and earnest entreaties purchased pity and promise, but no remedy.

Her union with her bridegroom was cemented by love but not hallowed by religion, the legislator, forbidding the priest to pronounce a benediction. This was bad, but not the worst. A very demon seemed to preside over her destiny, for soon after the birth of her first child her helpmate died, and she was left alone in the world with despair for a guide and not even a passport to legalize a life of misery. Hundreds of similar Russian illegitimate children lose but little when they lose life.

Mothers, on the other hand, think that they would lose a great deal if they had to keep their children alive, and public opinion points the same way, for Russian juries never convict a mother who is guilty of nothing worse than killing her illegitimate offspring.

There are two colossal foundling asylums in Russia one in St. Petersburg, and the other In Moscow and the law refuses to countenance the opening of other similar institutions in the provinces; Now the maintenance of these two houses costs £300,000 a year.

These foundling institutions have existed for over 125 years, and have taken in during that time 1,300,000 children. The number of  those who died before completing  the first year of his life was 990,303, or 77 per-cent of the total. Of the remainder, 150,000 more died before leaving the asylum, so that only 155,268 children passed through the fiery ordeaI.

These figures give one only a very imperfect idea of the total number of children who die in Russia from avoidable causes. A numerous profession exists in the provinces of Russia, the members of which are needy women, endowed with an intuition enabling them to scent out all those mothers who desire to get their children put into the Moscow or the St. Petersburg asylum for foundlings.

They collect the little waifs, pack them in baskets (six or eight in one basket), stow them away under the seats of the third-class railway carriages, along with eggs, butter, rags and refuse and those who survive this first life’s journay are deposited at the front gates of  the foundling asylums. Eighty-eight per cent of these are in due time carted out of the back gates in the shape of little corpses.

Child-murder is too common in Russia to excite much comment. The Moscow Gazette recently had this:

“The Seventh department of the Moscow court of assizes tried the female cook, Riva Blatt, eighteen years old, for the murder of her child. She rolled it up in a napkin and threw it into a hole that she had dug out for the purpose.

As she was caught in flagrante delictu, the child was taken out alive, but it died very soon after from the effects. The jury found her innocent.

[“Unwelcome Babies, And How They Are Got Out of the Way in Frigid Russia. - A “Little Angel Factory” About Which Awful Stories “ - Are Told. Where the Little Ones Are Starved to Death and Cut in Pieces. - A Woman Caught Killing Her Child Found Innocent by a Jury.” St. Paul Daily Globe (Mn.), Jul. 14, 1890, p. 5]

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For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.

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[First version: Sep. 22, 2011]

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Elisbetta Altrui & Maddalena Loffredo, Italian Serial Killer Sisters – 1888


FULL TEXT: A triple-poisoning case is just now causing great excitement among the Neapolitans. Two sisters – Elizabeth Altrui and Maddalena Loffredo – lived with their husbands – Guiliano and Angelo – at the little town of San Pietro. One day a thief escaping from justice with a large sum of money he had stolen took refuge in their house, and a few days after he died suddenly. Two or three months had elapsed, when Guiliano fell ill of a mysterious internal complaint, and his wife and sisters floated the report that he was suffering from cholera. His death soon followed, but excited no particular comment, and suspicion was not aroused till a woman called Michela’s mother, who had merely sipped the same beverage, escaped after suffering great agony. The sisters and Toffredo were at once arrested on the charge of triple assassination, a post-mortem examination having shown beyond doubt that they had poisoned their victims with arsenic.

[“Naples’ Triple Poisoning Case.” The Chicago Tribune (Il.), Jun. 6, 1886, p. 12; “Toffredo” is corrected to Loffredo in the final sentence.]

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Martha Grinder, Pittsburg Serial Killer Executed in 1866


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): Mrs. Grinder, the Pittsburgh prisoner, has bean convicted the first degree. On the announcement of the jury’s verdict, on Saturday, she remained, to all appearances, perfectly unmoved and unconcerned. Her case is one of the more singular [in the history] of crime. She seemed actuated with a desire to poison people merely for the sake of doing so, having no pecuniary or revengeful motive for making away with her victims. She would volunteer to become a nurse accidentally came in and obstructed nor operation, says the Pittsburg Gazette, she grew jealous and got them out of the way as soon as possible, generally with a dose into poison not quite sufficient to kill instantly. It seems to have been no part of her plan to kill any one outright, as that deprived her of the luxury of witnessing the tortures which accompany slow poisoning, and hence her doses were limited, and intended to be cumulative. It is to this fact that many of her victims escaped with life, circumstances having intervened to put them beyond her reach before she had time, according to her plan, to complete their destruction.

[Untitled, The Cambridge City Journal (In.), Nov. 9, 1865, p. 2]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): The Troy “Times” contains the following account of Mrs. Martha Grinder, the poisoner, whose sufferings on the gallows, owing to an insufficient drop, and the faulty arrangement of the fatal noose, were terrible to witness: “Mrs. Martha Grinder, who was executed in Pittsburg on Friday last, will stand out as one of the most noted criminals of the world. She was professedly a religious woman, and of kind and agreeable manners, and while manifesting a tender and affectionate interest in her victims, was constantly dosing them with poison. Her confession, just before she was led to the scaffold, discloses some of the horrid deeds she had perpetrated, and confirms the testimony upon which she was convicted.

It appears that Mrs. Grinder, in June last, began the systematic poisoning of an acquaintance, a Mrs. Mary Caroline Caruthers, who, with her husband, had been visiting at her house. Both the latter were subjected to her attempts; but the husband succeed in surviving the effects of the poison. It was his evidence on the trial which afforded the most convincing proof of Mrs. Grinder's guilt. The poison, which the medical autopsy revealed to be arsenic and antimony, was administered in coffee during a period extending over five weeks, or until the first day of August, when the victim died. The husband objected to the metallic taste of the coffee, but still was unsuspicious of any crime, and so was the physician. At length Mr. C. had his suspicions aroused by other facts, that his wife had been foully dealt with, and, accordingly, on the 25th of August last, he preferred the necessary complaint against Mrs. G. who was taken into custody. The other facts alluded to were of a most startling nature, and reveal the culprit in the light of a most wantonly cruel monster.

The death of Mrs. Caruthers caused an investigation of circumstances which, in their cursory occurrence, they had not received, and though the particular crime mentioned above was the only one which the prosecuting attorney saw fit to arraign her, there are fearful histories in her record of guilt. At the time referred to the unusual number of deaths which had taken place at her house, or among her acquaintances, was remarked. Samuel Grinder, her brother-in-law, after his return from the war, was attacked like the other victims, and died in great agony. A little child, left to her care, as also her own child; a domestic, Jane R. Buchanan; Mrs. Caruthers and her sister, Mrs. J. M. Johnston, had all died in the same mysterious manner.

Her motive is a mystery. Money does not appear to have been the incentive, though previously, hearing that a rich relative had left a large property to her child, she played out the Burdell-Cunningham role, and was detected. A jury of physicians pronounced her not insane. Previous to her execution she confessed to the poisoning of Mrs. Caruthers and Miss Buchanan, but denied the other charges. She was born in 1833, married at the age of nineteen, at Louisville, Ky., and removed to Louisville about six years ago. Her horrid sufferings on her execution have been well described.

[“The Borgia Of The Century.” Reprinted from The Troy Times (N.Y.), Montana Post-Supplement (Virginia City, Montana Territory), Mar. 3, 1866, p. 1]

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ARTICLE 3 of 3: EXCERPTS from an article published in 1910:

Pittsburg’s arch murderess slew her victims for the pleasure of seeing them die. She planned her work with deadly patience, and thought no labor too hard that brought to her the chance of seeing some unsuspecting man, woman or child, writing in the horrible agony of dissolution, brought about by the poison she had administered.

LIKED TO SEE SUFFERING

There was not the slightest motive of gain or animosity in any of her murders. She killed them, and admitted so at the last, simply for the love of taking life, and of seeing suffering.

She was an expert in administering the poison, her skill no doubt being gained by her long practice, and she graduated her doses so as to cause her helpless victims the greatest and most protracted suffering. Their deaths were always, it is said by persons who remember, of a most horrible character, enough to move a heart of stone.

• • • • • •

Her confession was a remarkable revelation of human depravity. She had become obsessed with the liking for scenes of moral agony, and her mania went even farther, making her revel in coming into contact with dead bodies, which she loved to handle and prepare for burial.

In the early stages of this monomania she tried to satisfy her cravings of bereavement, and by assisting in bathing and dressing the remains. These natural deaths came too infrequently to satisfy her, however, so she desperately started out to manufacture funerals by supplying the dead bodies.

[“Martha Grinder, Arch Murderess Of Pittsburg – Women Who Poisoned Men, Woman and Children for Pleasure of Witnessing Their Dying Torments, Hanged – Monomaniac Carried Death In Her Pocket,” The Pittsburgh Press (Pa.), Nov. 15, 1910, p. 5]

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A booklet was published on the case in 1866:

Martha Grinder, The Life and Confessions of Martha Grinder, the Poisoner ..., J.P. Hunt & Company, 1866, 23 pages

A different listing of the pamphlet gives a different title and page count:

The Grinder poisoning case : the trial of Martha Grinder, for the murder of Mrs. Mary Caroline Carothers, on the 1st of August, 1865 : being a full and complete history of this important case. Pittsburgh, Pa. : Published by John P. Hunt & Co., [1865 or 1866?], 36 pages

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Mary Caroline Caruthers (Carothers), died Aug. 1, 1865
Mr. Caruthers (Carothers), survived
Samuel Grinder, brother-in-law, died
Jane R. Buchanan, her servant, died Feb. 28, 1864
Baby Grinder, died circa Jul. 7, 1865
Mrs. J. M. Johnston, Caroline C’s sister
First husband
The family of Mrs. Marguerite Smith
Un-named unwed mother, poisoned and robbed; related to a “bogus baby scheme”)
Miss Huges – disabled by poison (a case discovered after the execution)

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Sources for victims who are not reported in most accounts:

A) The Smith Family –

EXCERPT: There was also evidence to show that Mrs. Grinder had poisoned the family of Mrs. Marguerite Smith, who lived next door to Mrs. Caruthers, by a bowl of soup. The family was composed of the mother and six children, all of whom but one of the soup, and here, as before, all who eat were immediately taken sick, one, a child, dying.

[“Execution of Martha Grinder – Mrs. Grinder makes full Confession.” The Globe (Huntington, Pa.), Jan. 24, 1866, p. 2]

B) Miss Hughes –

[“The Pittsburg Poisoner – Another Victim – A Curious Case.” Newbern Journal of Commerce (N. C.), Nov. 15, 1867, p. 3]

C) Un-named Unwed Mother –

[“The Wholesale Pittsburgh Poisoner. – More About Mrs. Martha Grinder - A principlal in a Bogus Baby Case – Mysterious Death of Miss J. R. Buchanan – Body to be Exhumed To day – Additional Developments.” (from the Pittsburgh Commercial.), The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (N. Y.), Aug. 30, 1865, p. 2]

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EXCERPTS from an article published in 1910:

Pittsburg’s arch murderess slew her victims for the pleasure of seeing them die. She planned her work with deadly patience, and thought no labor too hard that brought to her the chance of seeing some unsuspecting man, woman or child, writing in the horrible agony of dissolution, brought about by the poison she had administered.

LIKED TO SEE SUFFERING

There was not the slightest motive of gain or animosity in any of her murders. She killed them, and admitted so at the last, simply for the love of taking life, and of seeing suffering.

She was an expert in administering the poison, her skill no doubt being gained by her long practice, and she graduated her doses so as to cause her helpless victims the greatest and most protracted suffering. Their deaths were always, it is said by persons who remember, of a most horrible character, enough to move a heart of stone.

• • • • • •

Her confession was a remarkable revelation of human depravity. She had become obsessed with the liking for scenes of moral agony, and her mania went even farther, making her revel in coming into contact with dead bodies, which she loved to handle and prepare for burial.

In the early stages of this monomania she tried to satisfy her cravings of bereavement, and by assisting in bathing and dressing the remains. These natural deaths came too infrequently to satisfy her, however, so she desperately started out to manufacture funerals by supplying the dead bodies.

[“Martha Grinder, Arch Murderess Of Pittsburg – Women Who Poisoned Men, Woman and Children for Pleasure of Witnessing Their Dying Torments, Hanged – Monomaniac Carried Death In Her Pocket,” The Pittsburgh Press (Pa.), Nov. 15, 1910, p. 5]

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A booklet was published on the case in 1866:

Martha Grinder, The Life and Confessions of Martha Grinder, the Poisoner ..., J.P. Hunt & Company, 1866, 23 pages

A different listing of the pamphlet gives a different title and page count:

The Grinder poisoning case : the trial of Martha Grinder, for the murder of Mrs. Mary Caroline Carothers, on the 1st of August, 1865 : being a full and complete history of this important case. Pittsburgh, Pa. : Published by John P. Hunt & Co., [1865 or 1866?], 36 pages

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EXCERPT: On the 15th of September the body of Samuel Grinder was exhumed, having been buried at Leechburg. A subsequent analysis showed that he had died from poison. He was a soldier, and was home on furlough, during which time he visited his brother George, and while there was poisoned. Before he died he said to his brother, “She [Martha Grinder] has poisoned me, and will poison the whole Grinder family.”

[“The Pittsburg Poisoner – Execution of Mrs. Grinder.” The Union and Dakotian (Yankton, South Dakota), February 17, 1866, pp. 1-2]

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FULL TEXT: Pittsburg can claim the unwelcome distinction of having produced one of the most horrifying types of female poisoner that ever darkened the pages of criminal records.

In Martha Grinder, who was hanged in the Allegheny county jail yard. January 19, 1866, there was revealed one of the most fiendish monomaniacs since the time of the unthinkable Borgias.

Mrs. Grinder’s case has nothing in common with the Schenk poisoning, save in the fact that she used arsenic, which, it is alleged, was administered to the millionaire pork packer by his wife, who years ago worked as a domestic for several families in her husband’s native town.

If Mrs. Grinder had perpetrated her crimes in these times of close communication between every corner of the world, the whole story would still be talked about. But it had all happened almost 44 years ago, in the infancy of telegraphy, and it has been forgotten years ago in all its disgusting details, by everyone except the very few who had occasion to come into touch with case in one capacity or another.

~ LIKED TO SEE SUFFERING. ~

There was not the slightest motive of gain or animosity in any of her murders. She killed them, and admitted so at the last, simply for the love of taking life, and of seeing suffering.

Martha Grinder indulged this frightful mania until she had caused the death of about a dozen people. Then, and not till then, did suspicion raise its eye to her. Suspicion, once directed against her, overwhelming circumstantial evidence piled up, although at first it was thought that she was absolutely innocent.

Mrs. Grinder lived in the old Ninth ward, and was regarded by her neighbors as an estimable and most kindhearted person.

One of her predominating characteristics was her keen sympathy for bereaved families. In cases of sickness she was always among the first to volunteer her services as nurse, and she could always be relied on to assist in the neighborly task, which was commonly practiced in those days, of “laying out” the body. There was seldom a funeral at which she was not conspicuous among the mourners, and the family which death had robbed of a father, mother or child, always felt a certain amount of comfort in the acknowledge that Mrs. Grinder felt for them.

For several years this went on, and the sympathetic, helpful Mrs. Grinder was often employed in these melancholy duties, not as a paid attendant, but as a kind, big-hearted friend. At last, however, it was noted that almost invariably when Mrs. Grinder had anything to do with a case of sickness, the patient died, and it gradually was observed that the deaths were suspiciously similar.

~ REVRLATION OF DEPRAVITY. ~

It is all a matter of record now, how she was arrested and formally charged with murder in October, 1865, and found guilty of an almost impossible degree of unnatural crime on October 28 of the of the same year. She was sentenced to death November 25 and executed the following January.

Her confession was a remarkable revelation of human depravity. She had become obsessed with the liking of scenes of moral agony, and her mania went even father, making her revel in coming into contact with dead bodies, which she loved to handle and prepare for burial.

In the early stages of this momomania she tried to satisfy her cravings by always being on hand in cases of bereavement, and by assisting in bathing and dressing the remains. These natural deaths came too infrequently to satisfy her, however, so she deliberately started out to manufacture funerals by supplying the dead bodies.

She was by no means an educated woman, but she knew that arsenic was a deadly poison, and she decided to make that her agent of death.

In the 60’s it was not nearly so difficult to obtain poisonous drugs, and chemicals as it is now, and she was able to provide herself with an abundance of arsenic. To be ready for an emergency she carried arsenic loose in the deep pocket which women used to wear in their dresses. In addition she kept a liberal supply of it at home.

This fiend in human guise made no distinction in choosing her prey. Round-faced, happy childhood never awoke a tremor of pity in her breast. The strong, full-blooded man, working happily for the wife and family he loved seemed just as proper a subject for her venomous care as did the white hatred, feeble old men and woman, totering to the grave [sic]. One and all, old and young, she killed without mercy, simply to gloat at them as their horrible sufferings convulsed them until life was extinct.

~ POWDERED ARSENIC ON FOOD. ~

Should a child, for instance, contract any of the simple maladies of childhood, Mrs. Grinder on hearing of it, would hurry to the house and ask if she could not do something to help.

“I know you are busy without having to take care of this poor little thing, she would say to the hardworking mother, for it was a poor, hardworking section of this city, “and you know I have little to do at home. Let me help you, I’ll nurse him, while you do the house work, cook you something to eat, and look after the house, it’ll be a pleasure to me.”

In the large majority of cases, this neighborly offer was taken advantage of, and the murderess was thereupon installed in the house. From her coming, the patient’s doom was sealed.

Mrs. Grinder, if she was in the sick room, was a model nurse, faithfully carrying out the attending physician’s orders, and giving the medicine regularly, but in addition she always dropped in a little pinch of arsenic on food, mixing it in the butter with which she spread the hot toast, dissolving a few particles of it in the milk or tea, or sprinkling it on the meats or in the soups.

It was the same when adults fell sick. It was patient happened to be the housewife, Mrs. Grinder’s kindly offer always eagerly accepted by the distressed husband. If the man of the house fell sick. Mrs. Grinder’s offer to help the overworked wife was just as welcome. She was an accomplished actress, and hypocritical to a degree. Her kind words and acts were as highly prized as her bustling eagerness to help the work. More than that, she proved herself a friend in need, by purchasing delicacies and expensive medicines with money of her own.

She was an expert in administering the poison, her skill no doubt being gained by her long practice, and she graduated her doses so as to cause her helpless victims the greatest and most protracted suffering. Their deaths were always, it is said by persons who remember, of a most horrible character, enough to move a heart of stone.

~ HER VIGOROUS DEFENSE. ~

They failed absolutely to bring her to repentance and had she not finally been detected, she would probably have continued her murderous career many years longer.

She retained counsel, and made a vigorous legal fight for her life, at first protesting her innocence. The defense was able, and every means was availed of to secure her acquittal, the power of challenge of jurors being exercised to the extent that the existing panel was ordered by the court to bring in 10 additional talesman, from which a jury was finally selected.

James P. Sterrett was the president judge, Judges Thomas Mellon and E. H. Stowe being also on the bench. The jury soon found a verdict of “Guilty of murder of the first degree.”

The court record thus describes the close of this famous trial:

 “John M. Kirkpatrick, Esq., moved that the court pronounce judgment against her, and upon this it is forthwith demanded of the said Martha Grinder, the prisoner at the bar, if she has anything to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced against her, who nothing further says unless as before she had said, whereupon the court pronounced against her, who nothing further says unless as before she had said, whereupon the court judgment as follows: “The sentence of the law is that you, Martha Grinder, the prisoner at the bar, be taken hence to the jail of Allegheny county, whence you came, and thence to the place of execution, and that you are dead, and may God in His infinite goodness, have mercy upon your soul.”

The final record in the gruesome case is the affidavit of Sheriff John H. Stewart, died January 20, 1866, setting forth that in pursuance of the warrant of the governor he did on the 19th day of January, 1866, execute Martha Grinder in the jail yard of Allegheny county.

[“Martha Grinder, Arch Murderess Of Pittsburg – Women Who Poisoned Men, Woman and Children for Pleasure of Witnessing Their Dying Torments, Hanged – Monomaniac Carried Death In Her Pocket,” The Pittsburgh Press (Pa.), Nov. 15, 1910, p. 5]

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EXCERPT (peaches and cream; crackers, coffee and toast):

STATEMENT OF JAMES A. CARUTHERS – In June last I resided in Gray’s Alley, Allegheny City, in an adjoining house to Mrs. Grinder, and my wife’s health up to the 27th day of that month was good—On the evening of the 27th she was invited to take tea with the Grinder family, by Mrs. G. and while at the table eat some peaches and cream. On her return home she was taken suddenly ill, and at nine o’clock was much worse. At twelve she was seized with violent vomiting, purging, nausea at the mouth, and headache. These symptoms continued two hours, rendering her prostrate and weak; she also complained of great thirst. At daylight she requested me to go for Dr. Irish, which I did, and then went to my work. About eleven o’clock I returned home and found my wife still in bed, but somewhat better, gave her some water to quench her thirst, cooked my dinner and returned to the store. In the evening she was worse and she continued bad all night.—Went to the store in the morning and returned at eleven o’clock. My wife complained of being hungry, and requested me to make some rice soup. Went down to the kitchen and kindled a fire, and while so engaged Mrs. Grinder came in and said she had filled the kettle and tried to make a fire, but it would not burn. I made the soup and a pot of tea, and when it was ready my wife came downstairs and partook of the soup quite heartily, after which she returned to her room and I went to the store. About two o’clock Mrs. Grinder came to the store and said my wife was quite sick again. I hurried home and found her affected precisely as she had been in the first attack. Dr. Irish came and said she was poisoned. On Friday morning Mrs. Grinder brought in some coffee, toasted bread and crackers which my wife partook of and was soon after taken with vomiting, spasmodic affection of the throat and burning at the stomach. At noon Mrs. Grinder brought another lot of crackers, coffee and toast, of which my wife eat sparingly, and in twenty minutes after was seized with the old symptoms.

[Caruthers, Mary Caroline Caruthers, The Spirit of Democracy, Woodsfield, Ohio, dated, January 31, 1866]
See Murderpedia for full text source: http://murderpedia.org/female.G/g/grinder-martha.htm

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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)

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http://unknownmisandry.blogspot.com/2013/03/female-serial-killers-executed.html

More cases: Female Serial Killers Executed

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http://unknownmisandry.blogspot.com/2014/07/sadism-female-serial-killers.html


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[Orig: Sep. 22, 2011; Feb. 22, 2016: 1,964 v]
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Saturday, February 13, 2016

“Alt-Ofen Serial Murderess” – Hungary, 1868


FULL TEXT: The General Correspondence of Vienna says: – “A letter from Pesth informs us that the daughter of a man employed on the roads near that city, and who resided in a cottage between Alt-Ofen and Ueriem, has just confessed, in a fit of remorse, that in concert with her father she had committed not less than sixteen murders during the last ten years, for the purpose of robbing their victims. Seven skeletons have already been discovered by the authorities, and information given by the young woman has led to the finding of the nine others.”

[“A Wholesale Murderess.” The Cardiff Times (Wales), Feb. 22, 1868, p. 7]

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Wikipedia: Óbuda was a city in Hungary that was merged with Buda and Pest on 1 January 1873; it now forms part of District III-Óbuda-Békásmegyer of Budapest. The name means Old Buda in Hungarian (in German, Alt-Ofen). The name in Croatian and Serbian for this city is Stari Budim, but the local Croat minority calls it Obuda (the name "Budim" they use for the fortress in Buda).

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Jennie Post, 16-Year-Old Serial Killer – New Jersey, 1878


NOTE: Although her third victim seems to have – barely – survived, Jennie Post was clearly inclined to continue murdering all who crossed her, thus she most certainly was a serial killer who merely got stopped early in the trajectory of a career that might well have taken many lives.

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): New York World, 17th: Jennie Post, the little girl who upon several occasions has put arsenic in the food of people whom she didn’t like, and who, as related in yesterday’s World, was arrested and brought before Justice Farrington, at Spring Valley, Saturday, for poisoning General von Weicht and his wife, her master and mistress, will be brought back from New City, where she has been in the county jail meantime, to Spring Valley to-day, for her final examination, when it will be determined whether she is to be proceeded against in lunacy, or whether her case is to go before the grand jury in regular manner. Jennie tells the story of her poisoning, and indeed of her whole life, with the utmost readiness, and from appearances, an idiot with shrewdness enough to know whom she dislikes and how to injure them, but without the sense to conceal her actions and utterly without moral sense. She is now between thirteen and sixteen years old, with brown hair and eyes and a childish body, rather common-looking and unnoticeable. She says that she and her mother went to the poor house in Paterson when she was two years old, and that, her mother dying, she remained in the poorhouse till she was taken away by a lady of Rockland county, about four years ago. It was in the poorhouse, Jennie says, that she learned how to mix poison, from observing the matron prepare arsenic for mice, she was greatly interested in the whole operation, and when she saw what quick and extreme effect the arsenic had upon the mice, she studied its preparation with the utmost eagerness, and even stole a little upon one occasion, and hid it carefully away for future private use.

It was a peculiarity of Jennie’s that if anybody refused her anything she had set her heart upon, no matter how trifling, she would straightway vow his destruction, generally expressing herself in the terms “You just wait; I’ll fix you.” Mr. Peter De Baum, with whom she first lived after coming from the poorhouse, was an old man and his astonishment was very great when upon one occasion Jennie began to address him in the most indecent and ribald manner. He corrected her with a good deal of severity, when she vowed, in her usual manner, to “fix” him; and she did it immediately by putting arsenic in his soup. Mr. Le Baum died very suddenly and unexpectedly of pneumonia, and no poisoning was suspected at the time, though its occurrence now seems probable, since Jennie herself says she did it. General von Weicht and his wife, with whom Jennie came to live about thirteen months ago, are wealthy Germans, General von Weicht was in the Prussian army, and some two years ago bought an extensive farm and a capacious house in the neighborhood of Spring Valley, where he lives with his wife in good style and surrounded by a great many comforts.

Mrs. von Weicht, having a weakness for poor children, one unlucky day came across Jennie, who had passed through several hands since the death of Mr. DeBaum, and, finding her poor and shabby enough, took her home. She still preserves the dress in which the girl appeared, consisting of an alpaca skirt, torn lengthwise and across beyond what one would think possible; a calico waist that looks no way in particular except scrimped and dirty, and a straw hat, with dirty, very dirty, ribbons, which looked as if Jennie had used it habitually to sit down upon. Mrs. Von Weicht soon discovered that her new charge was addicted to some startling vices, but she did not desert her on that account; on the contrary, she was only the more earnest in her care of Jennie, hoping for and contemplating her reform in good season. The girl was supplied in neat, fresh dresses in plenty, a warm, handsome sack for the cold weather, a whole heap of white linen underclothing, and all such matters, so that she was perfectly comfortable and respectable anyway, and a perfect princess in comparison to what she had been. Mrs. Von Weicht set herself to the task, also, of teaching the young person and spent time with her every day, and bought her religious books; but this part of the lady’s work had absolutely no effect on the girl.

She remained vicious, and time and again shocked the family almost beyond bearance. She had a violent temper, and, taking some pique at the German cook, cut her feather bed all to ribbons one day with a pair of scissors. Again, she slit up a pair of new trousers belonging to Mr. Von Weicht; and she threatened to poison a young lad of fourteen in the neighborhood by sending him arsenicated frosted cake, because he refused to be her lover. One evening, not long ago, Mrs. Von Weicht went up stairs to go to her room, but seeing Jennie inside, standing quite still, at the foot of the bed, and seemingly doing nothing, she stopped in the hall, where it was dark, to watch the girl for a moment. Jennie was talking to herself, and what was Mrs. Von Weicht’s horror to overhear her speak as follows: He wouldn’t do what I wanted and I put poison in his soup.

Then I put poison in her soup so as to get all her dresses and jewels. If that doctor interferes any more I’ll poison him, too. Then I’ll poison the cook, and then I’ll go off with my fellow and have a good time. It was after both General and Mrs. Von Weicht had been taken sick, and before they knew what the matter was, that the lady overheard this soliloquy from Jennie. Then she was charged with putting poison in the food, and admitted it at once. She said that she had intended to poison General Von Weicht because he had refused what she had asked of him, and because he had rebuked her, and that she had poisoned Mrs. von Weicht in the hope of inheriting her dresses and jewelry. Jennie used no less than three kinds of poison upon Mrs. Von Weicht arsenic, nitric acid, and muriatic acid, the lady is lying in a precarious condition. Her stomach, of course, is dreadfully inflamed by the poisons which she has taken into it, and she cannot bear any, even the simplest, food upon it. The milk in which the girl mixed her doses will probably prove her salvation, if she lives. Dr. Wigton, who attends her, says that at present there are reasonable hopes of her recovery.

[“Jennie Post. - The New York Pauper Girl, who Seeks to Avenge her Slightest Grievances by “Fixin” her Victims with Poison Potions. - She Attempts to Possess Herself of Fine Dresses and Jewels by Poisoning her Mistress A Strange Story.” The Memphis Daily Appeal (Tn.), Jan. 20, 1878, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): The little pauper poisoner, Jennie Post, who, at Spring Valley and elsewhere, put arsenic in the food of people whom she disliked, or whose jewelry and silk dresses she coveted, has been committed by Judge Suffern to the House of Industry in New York. The girl was weak-minded and without moral sense. She was found by a lady about four years ago in the Patterson Poor-house, where she had been brought by her mother, who was an habitual drunkard, and where she learned how mix poison from seeing the matron prepare arsenic for mice. Jennie’s case is clearly one of hereditary depravity beyond the reach of educational cure. The only sure remedy for eradicating it is the Malthusian one of absolutely preventing it transmission to unborn generations. In the poor houses of this country, as in those of England, this heroic remedy must be supplied. Besides, no natural born prisoner can be left safely at large, any more than a mad dog, or a mad cat. That species ought not to be propagated.

[Untitled, Harrisburg Independent (Pa.), Feb. 13, 1878, p. 2]

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CHRONOLOGY

1876 – Peter De Baum, poisoned, died.
Dec. 1876 – hired by Von Weicht couple.
1877? – sent 14-y-o boy  arsenicated frosted cake, because he refused to be her lover.
Jan. 1878 – Frau Von Weicht – poisoined with arsenic, nitric acid, and muriatic acid,  in the hope of inheriting her dresses and jewelry. Survived.
Jan. 1878 – General Von Weicht, intended to poison him because he had refused what she had asked of him, and because he had rebuked her.
Jan. 12, 1878 – arrested.

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More cases: Serial Killer Girls

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http://unknownmisandry.blogspot.com/2015/11/youthful-borgias-girls-who-murder.html

More cases: Youthful Borgias: Girls Who Commit Murder

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Mary Brister, 13-Year-Old Serial Killer – New Jersey, 1871


FULL TEXT: Mary Brister, a girl, 13 years of age, and daughter of Mrs. Weisner, of Pennington, N. J., by a former husband, is accused of causing the death of three children. The children had been left in her charge while her mother and stepfather were away at their daily labor. Two of them died about two years ago, very suddenly, and under suspicious circumstances. A third died a few days ago. The girl said it had fallen from the table to the floor, and when she found it, it was dead. A physician was called, who gave it as his opinion that the child had been strangled. The circumstances connected with the death of the last child naturally caused suspicions relative to the death of the others. The authorities of the township with the friends of the girl have tried to extract a confession from her; but she adheres to her story that the child died from injuries received from by falling from the table, and that the others died by accident.

[“Suspected of Killing Three Children.” The Bloomfield Times (Pa.), Aug. 1, 1871, p. 4]

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FULL TEXT: Mary Brister is the name of a thirteen year old girl in Pennington, N. J., who is arrested on a charge of murdering four infants who, during the last two years, have been in her charge.

[Untitled, The Daily State Journal (Richmond, Va.), Aug. 4, 1871, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT: Pennington, N. J., April 25. – Much excitement prevails over here over the case of a young colored woman named Mary Brister, who is accused of murdering several children. The accused is a daughter of Mrs. Wesley Weisner, by a former husband. Mrs. Weisner’s children had been placed in her charge while the parents were employed at daily labor. All have died over two years ago, very suddenly. A few days ago the fourth child died, and a physician gave it as his opinion that the child had been strangled. Circumstances connected with the death caused a suspicion as to the death of the others to be thrown on the girl. All means to extract a confession from her have failed so far.

[Untitled, The Daily Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pa.), Jul. 25, 1871, p. 2]

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More cases: Serial Killer Girls

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http://unknownmisandry.blogspot.com/2015/11/youthful-borgias-girls-who-murder.html

More cases: Youthful Borgias: Girls Who Commit Murder

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Anne-Marie Boeglin, 17-Year-Old Serial Killer – 1838, Alsace, France


Note: A reader has been kind enough to offer some details of this case gleaned from the 2011 book shown below. We are told that the girl's motive was actually of a mitigating nature, she having been the victim of incestuous rape by the  her brothers and perhaps her father. For the moment this not will stand as a corrective elaboration to the texts below that do not mention this aspect of the case. [Robert St. Estephe, Aug. 20, 2016]

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FULL TEXT: A horrible case of parricide and double fratricide, has occurred in Stetten, a small village in the department of the upper Rhine. The murderess is a daughter and sister! – her name is Anne Marie Boeglin, a young girl of very attractive appearance, of less than 18 years of age. It seems this unnatural monster has been addicted to intoxicating drinks from childhood, and availed herself of every opportunity, even by theft, to procure liquor. Her father was weak enough to suffer her to go unpunished, until her conduct became so outrageous he besought his eldest son to confine her occasionally to her room. This brother was her first victim. The second undertook the unpleasant charge, and he suddenly sickened and died. The old man was then compelled, too late to restrain her, and was speedily taken ill; and suspicion being now awakened, it was found he had been poisoned with arsenic. He died in a few hours, and upon disinterment of the bodies of the sons, it was found they had perished from the same cause. She had been condemned to the awful death prescribed by the law for the parricide.

[Untitled, The North American (Philadelphia, Pa.), Nov. 23, 1839, p. 2]

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Victims:

Father, 46
Jacques, brother, 21
Joseph, brother, 23

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01 septembre 1839; Anne-Marie Boeglin; Colmar; PARRICIDE, 17 ans. A Stetten, en 1838, empoisonne à l'arsenic blanc son père, 46 ans, adjoint au maire, et ses frères, Jacques, 21 ans, et Joseph, 23 ans. Ivrogne et voleuse, Anne-Marie était punie physiquement par son père à chaque récidive, et à sa mort, ses fils avaient été "chargés" d'assurer les châtiments de leur soeur. – Arrêt cassé, acquittée à Strasbourg le 16 février 1840.

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Case is featured in the book: Serge Janouin Beranti, Les empoisonneurs: 13 Affaires Criminelles, 2011, Bout de la Rue

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More cases: Serial Killer Girls

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http://unknownmisandry.blogspot.com/2015/11/youthful-borgias-girls-who-murder.html

More cases: Youthful Borgias: Girls Who Commit Murder

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Karoline Kieper, Suspected German Serial Killer - 1912


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Frau Karoline Kieper, a widow, 50 years of age, was placed on trial at Graudenz (Germany) on a charge of poisoning her 73-year-old mother, her 80-year-old father, and her husband. The indictment also suggests that she poisoned her first husband in 1889, but as more than 20 years have elapsed she cannot be prosecuted on that charge.

[“Widow On Trial.” The Clutha Leader (Balclutha, N. Z.), Apr. 23, 1912, p. 8]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): The German public (says the Berlin cor respondent of the London “Daily Telegraph”) are following with intense interest the trial of Karoline Kieper, a woman, aged 50, at Grauden [sic], in East Prussia, on the accusation of having poisoned no fewer than four persons. According to the Crown prosecutor, she is a veritable Borgia. Her third husband died from a mysterious disease, and an examination revealed the presence of arsenic in the body. It was then remembered that Kieper’s parents and her first husband had also died suddenly, and the bodies were exhumed, when traces of arsenic were again found.

The woman declares that her first husband poisoned himself to escape from the suffering consequent on a painful disease, and that her third husband poisoned her parents and then himself in despair. The second husband, who is still living, apparently escaped in untimely death by divorcing the woman. She stated that she had never been in a police court before, except when fined £5 for beating her last husband. The prisoner appeared in widow’s weeds.

[“Alleged Female Poisoner,” The Saturday Express (Adelaide, S. A., Australia), Masr. 30, 1912, p. 4]

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Letitia Page, New Hampshire Serial Killer - 1849


Also known as “Letitia S. Blaisdell”; 25.

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VICTIMS: 2 deaths & 2 victims rescued from death.

Ca. Feb. 1, 1849 – mother of Benjamin Blaisdell
Feb. 18, 1849 – Benjamin E. Blaisdell son, 2.
Feb. 19 [?] – Benjamin & Mrs. Blaisdell – posisoned, barely survived through physician’s intervention.

Poison: morphine (“adminitered”; also placed in tea).

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EXCERPT (Article 1 of 3): Benjamin F. Blaisdell moved from the easterly part of Goffstown to New Boston Village, purchasing the farm now owned by Charles Shedd, and engaged in mercantile pursuits. His family consisted of himself, wife, and four children, also his mother, Mrs. Sally Foster Blaisdell, widow of the late Henry Blaisdell.

On the 13th of January, 1849, Letitia S. Blaisdell, an adopted daughter of the late Henry and Sally Foster Blaisdell, came to New Boston to visit in the family. At her own request, the night after her arrival, she slept with her adopted mother. The next morning the old lady was taken sick, soon became insensible, lingered through the day and the next night, and died on the morning of the 15th. New Boston history has the following in regard to the affair:

After the death of Mrs. Blaisdell, Letitia went to Wentworth, spent four weeks and returned February 16. The next day after her return, Benjamin E., a boy two years and a half old, was taken sick and after twelve hours of suffering died, the physicians affirming that the child must have been poisoned.

"Soon after the burial of the child Mr. Blaisdell and his wife were taken sick with every symptom of poison, but by timely aid were relieved. Suspicions now began to rest on Letitia, and she soon confessed; admitted that she had administered morphine to the aged mother and the child, and put the same in the tea which Mr. and Mrs. Blaisdell drank, and that she had provided herself with strychnine if the morphine failed. She held a forged note against Mr. Blaisdell and intended to destroy the whole family. This was undertaken from no ill will towards any member of the family, but evidently with the impression she could gain possession of the property. To this crime she affirmed she had been impelled by the assistance of another person."

She was arrested and indicted for murder, and Franklin Pierce, afterwards President of the United States, and David Steele were assigned as counsel.

April 24,1849, was the day set for the trial. The house was filled with interested spectators; the indictment was read, and in an audible voice she pleaded guilty, and she was sentenced to be hung on the 30th of August, 1849, but this sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life, and in 1861 she was pardoned by Governor.

Goodwin, and subsequently married a man who had likewise served in the same prison. The person whom she charged with impelling her in this nefarious crime was never afterwards held in very high esteem by the people of Goffstown.

Soon after this Mr. Blaisdell returned to Goffstown, purchasing what was known as the Dr. Gove place in Goffstown Village, where Dr. Charles F. George resided at the time of his decease. Here he continued to reside during the remainder of his life, engaged in trade and manufacturing.

[Excerpt from Chapter XLV; Crimes; George Plummer Hadley, History of the Town of Goffstown 1733-1920, In Two Volumes; Narrative, Volume One; Published by the Town Copyright, 1922, George P. Hadley, Goffstown, N.H., The Rumford Press, Concord, N.H.]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): One of the most unaccountable attempts we ever heard to destroy a whole family, occurred a few weeks since in New Boston.

Some five or six weeks ago Mrs. B. F. Blaisdell’s mother, an aged widow, residing with him, was taken suddenly ill, and, after remaining in an unconscious state about twenty-four hours, died. No suspicions were excited by this death. On the 18th of February, Mr. Blaisdell’s son, a child about two years old, was taken sick in the same way, and died in about twelve hours later. A physician was called, who declared that the child must have been poisoned. No one was then suspected of administering the poison, neither could any traces of it be found in the house. The evening of the day on which the child was buried Mr. and Mrs. Blaidell sat down to the tea, but soon desisted from drinking it on account of its unusual and disagreeable flavor. They were immediately taken unwell. A physician was called who pronounced them poisoned. They were very sick during the night, but their lives were saved with great difficulty.

A few days since the whole mystery of the affair came out as follows: A girl by the name of Letitia Page, from 23 to 25 years of age, had been living in the family from early childhood as the adopted daughter of the old lady, Mrs. Blaisdell. For the last six years she has worked in the Cotton Mills at Manchester and Nashua. – Some weeks since she came up from Nashua to spend a short time in Mr. Blaisdell’s family, and to make preparation for marriage. Soon after Mr. B. and his wife were taken sick she left to visit a family in Goffstown, who were living on a farm formerly owned and occupied by Mrs. Blaisdell. At this time Mr. B. had some suspicions of her. He went to see her on the subject, but she persisted that she was innocent. But a few days since she returned to Mr. B.’s in New Boston, and confessed to him and his wife that she was guilty of poisoning them all with morphine, which she purchased at Manchester for that purpose at the suggestion of a certain woman in Goffstown. She further confessed that a forged note of hand for $400.00 against Mr. B. running to her was put into her hand, and she was told that she could collect it, especially if Mr. B. and his family were out of the way. The note she destroyed before she made the confession, but she had shown it to two individuals. When asked why she should attempt so horrible a crime, she could give no reason, nor assign any motive. She said she had not the least ill will against the family. She had always called the old lady mother, by whom she had been reared up, with much maternal kindness and care, and to whom she had always been dutiful and affectionate.

[“The New Boston Posoning Case.” Dover Gazette and Strafford Advertiser (N. H.), Mar. 17, 1849, p. 2]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): N. H. March 10, 1849. – The girl who confessed having given a fatal dose of morphine to the mother and child of B. F. Blaisdell, Esq., of New Boston, N. H , a short time since, and also one which nearly proved fatal to himself and wife, was yesterday, (Friday) committed to the county prison without the form of a trial, to await the April session of the Court of Common Pleas.

Two or three others are implicated in the affair, one of whom was arrested last evening, a Mr. Cheeney of Goffstown.

It seems the girl had in her possession several foreign notes against Mr. B., which she expected to collect at his decease. Mr. C. is in some way connected with these notes, and with having advised the act of poisoning.

A respectable gentleman saw taken from the girl’s trunk two notes against Mr. B. besides several parcels of poison one marked “rat poison,” another was a blue crystallized substance, resembling blue vitriol; the third a white powder, supposed to be sulphate of morphine.

Considerable sympathy is felt for this young girl, who, up to the time of having left Mr. B.’s family, had always sustained a reputable character.

Two or three years ago, she left to seek employment in Manchester or Nashua, obtaining which, (as report has it,) instead of seeking for her companions the good and virtuous, she became the associate of the vile and licentious, and passed rapidly down the successive steps of crime, until now the State’s prison or gallows awaits her. Hon. David Steele, Counsel for State; Franklin Pierce, for the defence.

Yours, &c,

P. S. – There are many other things connected with this singular and painful tragedy in which I do not think it prudent to give publicity at present.

[“The Poisoning Case At New Boston-Committal Of Letitia Blaisdell.” (Correspondence of the Daily Mail.), The Middlebury Galaxy (Vt.), Mar. 27, 1849, p. 2]

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One source recounts the Letitia Page story briefly – without giving the name – referring to a “New Boston girl,” and then recounts historical female serial killer cases such as Locusta (ancient Rome), Tofana (17 th century Italy), Gesche Gottfried (1831, Bremen, Germany) and Annette Schoenleben (1809, aka Anna Zwanziger, Bavaria, Germany).

[“Poisoning,” North American and United States Gazette (Philadelphia, Pa.), May 4, 1849]

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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)

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