Friday, May 6, 2016

Alice Platt, Suspected Missouri Serial Killer – 1896


Some sources (including in Kansas City) use the spelling “Pratt,” but “Platt” is more common and thus is presumably correct.

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3 Deaths:
Sep. 20, 1896 – Mrs. Ellen J. Torrence (6), mother of Mrs. Mussey.
Oct. 23, 1895 – Elizabeth Mussey (4).
Oct. 25, 1895 – Sue Mussey (10).

Chronology:
Oct. 24, 1896 – Alice Platt arrested.
Feb. 4, 1897 – trial begins.
Feb. 12, 1897 – Alice Platt acquitted.

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): Kansas City, Oct. 26. — Miss Alice Platt, aged 28 years, a servant girl in the household of Charles Mussey, a prominent attorney, is under arrest on suspicion of having poisoned Mrs. Torrence, Mussey’s mother-in-law, aged 60 years, and three children. She is believed to have been insane.

Mrs. Ellen R. Torrence, Mrs. Mussey's mother, died suddenly five weeks ago supposedly from stomach complaint. Soon after that Hugh, a 6-year-old son of the Mussey was saved from Morphine poisoning, and Saturday Sue, aged 4, and Elizabeth, aged 10 years, died of strychnine poisoning taken in cookies given them by the servant. The death of Mrs. Torrence and the illness of the boy Hugh were at the time supposed to have been natural. Evidence deduced tends to fasten the poisoning of all four upon the servant.

At the coroner’s office Miss Platt steadfastly maintained her innocence, but was held for developments. The only reason assigned for the alleged crime is insanity, which the Musseys have suspected of Miss Platt for some time. The body of Mrs. Torrence, which was taken to Keokuk, Ia., for burial, will be exhumed.

[“Insane Servant – Believed to Have Poisoned Four People in Kansas City.” The Knoxville Journal (Ky.), Oct. 25, 1896, p. 12]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 4): Alice Platt, a domestic 25 years old, is detained at Central police station on suspicion of having administered strychnine to two daughters, aged 10 and 4 years, of Charles F. Mussey, an attorney living at 2411 Forest avenue, from the effects of which they have both died. The younger daughter, Elizabeth, died at 6 o’clock Friday evening, and the older, Sue, died about noon yesterday. Coroner Bedford, after making a thorough investigation of the circumstances of the children’s death, ordered the Platt woman’s arrest. She was arrested by Detectives Ennis and Johnson at the home of her sister, Mrs. J. E. Lowe, 1530 Euclid avenue. She denies knowing anything about the death of the children.

Sue and Elizabeth Platt returned home from school Friday afternoon, and went into the kitchen, where it is said the Platt woman gave them some cake, which they ate. Later they went, in company with a neighbor girl named Minnie Brendel, to W. J. Coleman’s grocery store at Twenty-fourth street and Forest avenue, where they ate some apples. Upon their returning home at 5 o’clock, little Elizabeth drank a glass of water the servant girl gave her, and was almost immediately taken violently ill with pains in the stomach. Her condition became so serious that Dr. T. W. Overall was summoned from Twenty-third street and Lydda avenue, but despite his efforts and those of Dr. John Wilson, the family physician, who arrived soon afterward, she died in an hour in great agony. Dr. Overall at first thought her death due to bilious colic, but upon making a hasty examination of the case, decided, with Dr. Wilson, that death was due to strychnine. The other daughter. Sue, who was taken violently ill a few moments after her sister, with exactly the same symptoms, died about noon yesterday. Dr. Wilson remained with her during the night, but was unable to save her. Dr. C. S. Merriam was called in Friday evening after the death of Elizabeth Mussey, and was in attendance upon Sue Mussey yesterday with Dr. Wilson. Both physicians agree her death was due to strychnine. She was given an emetic before she died, and vomited.

During Friday night Sue was conscious, and talked to those about the bed-side. She expressed great sorrow at her sister’s death, but. when questioned as to who gave her the poison, could not state.

The death of the Mussey children is shrouded in a cloud of suspicion of murder, which at present rests upon the shoulders of the Piatt woman. Mrs. Mussey’s mother, Mrs. Ellen J. Torrence, died rather suddenly at the Mussey homestead September 20, and her body was burled at Keokuk, Ia. Dr. Wilson, who attended her, said her death was due to congestion of the lungs, due to asthma. Her body, however, will be taken up and the stomach examined for traces of poison. Mr. Mussey’s cow died under suspicious circumstances a few weeks ago, and it is thought she was poisoned.

What motive can be ascribed to the Platt woman for causing the death of the Mussey children is not known, and the police are at sea in the matter.

Her parents live at Carrollton, Mo., and she came to Kansas City a year ago, entering almost immediately the service of Mr. Mussey. She was sent from the house yesterday morning at the request of Mrs. Mussey, who expressed a nervousness at having her about, and went to the home of her sister, Mrs. Lowe, where she was arrested. She is a small woman, with large eyes, which are exceedingly soft in their expression, and are easily held under control while the young woman converses. She was closely questioned by inspector Flahlve yesterday, but bore up well. Coroner Bedford also cross-examined her, but could get nothing but a denial in toto of any knowledge whatever of the Mussey children’s death. She confessed to being addicted to the temperate use of morphine, but said she was never completely under its influence. She has always been attached to the Mussey children, of which there were four. Sue, age 10; Hugh, aged 6; Elizabeth, aged 4, and Charles William, aged 2. Her sister, Mrs. Lowe, who accompanied her to Central police station yesterday after her arrest, stated that, while visiting at Carrollton four years ago, Alice fell on the ice, injuring her spine to such an extent that her mind was affected. She would be rational at times, but when her violent spells would come upon her she would be almost insane, and rave like a mad woman. She took treatment for mania several months ago, and had her hair cut off at the suggestion of a physician. Since that time she has not been well, and her doses of morphine have been more frequent.

The children’s funeral will be held at the residence this afternoon at 2 o’clock. Dr. Neal will officiate. Burial will be in Forest Hill cemetery.

[“It May Have Been Murder. – Elizabeth and Sue Mussey Die of Strychnine Poisoning. – Alice Platt, a Domestic, Suspected of Having Killed Them – Declares Her Innocence – The Funeral This Afternoon.” The Kansas City Journal (Mo.), Oct. 25, 1896, p. 3]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): Kansas City, Feb. 12. – Alice Platt, the servant girl in the family of Charles F. Mussey, who for the past week has been undergoing a trial for poisoning the two Mussey children, has been set free, the jury this morning returning a verdict of not guilty. The trial was rather sensational and the court room was constantly crowded room was constantly crowded with spectators. The announcement of the verdict created the wildest enthusiasm. Alice Platt went into hysterics and fell fainting into the arms of her sister, while the audience cheered.

[“Alice Platt Innocent. – A Jury Acquits Her of the Charge of Poisoning.” The Leader-Democrat (Springfield, Mo.), Feb. 12, 1897, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 4): The Alice Platt trial presented an opportunity for an exhibition often witnessed of the sympathy of women with persons accused of crime – a sympathy which seems to be extended without regard of the personality of the accused or of any circumstances pertaining to them except that they are charged with offenses against the law; and it is remarkable that the more horrible the offense charged, and the stronger the chain of evidence to prove it, the more general and ostentatious are the demonstrations of affection and admiration on the part of the female attendants in the court room. This sympathy and its visible exhibition does not always cease with the trial, but follows the convicted to the prison and, as far as possible, to the scaffold. Wicked, heartless, cruel murderers, in whose black record there was not one single extenuating act, have before now been showered with roses and been made the recipient of such attentions as “patient merit” very rarely receives. It is certainly hard to understand how the mere accusation having poisoned two young children, whether the charge was provable or not, could lend attractiveness to a woman. Between two women, one a mother who had lost two children by sudden and awful death and the other charged with having murdered them, it would be natural to suppose that the sympathies of women would go out to the mother. That the contrary result may happen has been shown in our own Criminal court, as it has been demonstrated in other Criminal courts before and doubtless will be again. It is one of the impenetrable mysteries of life.

[“One of the Mysteries.” The Kansas City Star (Mo.), Feb. 13, 1897, p. 4]

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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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