of M. S., with Lynch, 3
Summers, 5 th husband, died Aug. 1930
A. Meyers, brother of Margaret Summers, died Aug. 1930
Meyers, nephew, died Aug. 1, 1928
Meyers, 17, nephew
Lanagan, 46, boarder
Reiman (Reenan), 72, boarder
targeted victims (insurance policies):
Margaret Ritty, step-daughter? Of M.S.
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 6): Chicago, May 21 – Mrs. Margaret
Summers, in whose North av. home five persons have died within the last three
years, was questioned Thursday to determine why each one of the five left
insurance policies naming her the beneficiary.
“I was just good to them,” she said, “and they expressed
their appreciation by taking out the policies.” Later she said she had paid
most of the premiums.
The inquiry was launched after relatives brought about the
exhumation of the bodies of Thomas, her late husband, and Thomas Meyers, a
nephew and last of the quartet to die. Doctors who examined the youth before he
died and there were indications of of arsenic poisoning, although an autopsy
was deemed necessary to establish this.
Officials said her husband, who died last August, left a
$3,000 policy; William Reenan, a roomer in her house, $400; Louise Meyers,
father of Thomas, $1,300 and Thomas Lanagan, another roomer, $1,000. A policy
on the youth was for $2,500.
[“Quiz woman in 5 Deaths – Victims All Left Her Insurance;
Seek Poison.” Syndicated (AP), Milwaukee Sentinel (Wi.), May 22, 1931, p. 1]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 6): Chicago. May
27.—While Mrs. Margaret Summers remained in the county jail today tearfully denying
that she had poisoned four members of her household in order to collect their
Insurance, police began an investigation into the death of a fifth possible
coroner’s jury yesterday recommended that the woman be held on murder charges
as a result of the death of a nephew, her husband, and two roomers by arsenic
was said she collected a total of $6284 in insurance upon the death of these
four: Thomas Meyers, 17-year-old nephew; Thomas Summers, her husband; Thomas
Lanagan and William Reiman, both peddlers and roomers in her apartment. Their
death occurred within the last three years.
The fifth person believed to have been a
possible victim was Mrs.
Summers’ brother, Louis Meyers, father of Thomas. He died August 1, 1928. His
body was ordered exhumed and examined.
at yesterday’s inquest showed that Mrs. Summers was named beneficiary in 13
insurance policies held by 10 persons. She admitted that she had paid most of
the premiums on the policies held by the four persons who died.
C. Wayland Brooks, assistant state's attorney
who obtained the conviction of Leo Brothers in the Alfred J. Lingle slaying, is
in charge of the prosecution.
Man’s Death Probed In Insurance Plot
Charge,” Oakland Tribune (Ca.), May 27, 1931, p. 20]
FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 6):
Chicago, May 27 – Living men whose life insurance policies make Mrs. Margaret
Summers the beneficiary added their testimony Wednesday to the post mortem
evidence given Tuesday against the woman, accused of poisoning four members of
Her husband, her nephew, two
brothers and two boarders all have died within three years – four of them
victims of poisoning; the other two of a cause yet undetermined.Samuel Strauss, who drives a cab
owned by Mrs. Summers and lodges at her home, was found ill Wednesday. He, too,
has signed a policy that would bring her money at his death. He told the prosecutors
he had lived with Mrs. Summers since October.
~ Went to Doctors. ~
“I have been feeling ill,” said
Strauss.” I went to two doctors. I was told I had poisoned tonsils and that I
would have to have several teeth pulled. I was told to take soda and a mixture
that I think contained pine tar honey. Mrs. Summers prepared the medicine for
Police searched the neighborhood
Wednesday in an effort to learn the source of the poison found in the four
Robert Barker, 50, another
policy-holder, said he agreed to Mrs. Summers’ suggestion that he take out
insurance after she promised to make the premium payments.
Others still living and insured in
the widow’s favor are Mrs. Margaret Ritty, daughter of Mrs. Summers by
adoption, and Mrs. Rittty’s three children, all insured for $500 each.
~ Reach New Death. ~
The 19 policies discovered by
investigators totaled $9,028, of which Mrs. Summers has already realized
$6,700. the woman has started that her husband was insured for $3,000 and as
the insurance company records showed payments of only $684 after his death last
August the records of other companies are being searched.
The undertaker who directed the
funerals of all the men informed the authorities Wednesday of a sixth death,
hitherto unreported – that of Mrs. Summers’ brother, John A. Meyers, who died
Mrs. Summers has employed two
former assistant state’s attorneys, Harold Levy and Emmet Byrne, to represent
[“Quiz Roomers Of Woman In Poison Deaths – One Admits He Took
Medicine Made by Her.” Milwaukee Sentinel (Wi.), May 28, 1931, p. 2]
FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 6): Assistant State’s Attorney E. A. Ferrari,
provided with a search warrant and attended by two policemen, raided the flat
of Mrs. Margaret Summers at 632 West North avenue late yesterday in search for
arsenic, the poison she is accused of having employed to kill four men for
Simultaneously the investigation of Mrs. Summers’ activities
was carried to her native town of Effingham, Ill., where additional peculiar
deaths of persons close to the widow were discovered. Her father and stepmother
made the disclosures.
~ Finds Her Home Emptied. ~
Forcing the doors of the flat at 4:30 p. m., Mr. Ferrari was
astonished to find that some time in the previous night the furnishings of the
home had been carted away. The downstairs tenant, Charles Gentry, volunteered
the information that the removal of the furniture had been accomplished by Mrs.
Summers’ adopted daughter, Mrs. Margaret Ritty, and the latter’s husband.
Still stored in the pantry and closets, the searchers found
boxes of cereal, baking powder, salt, and other edibles, samples of which they
took away. The samples will be examined for traces of arsenic today by Dr.
Clarence Muehlberger, the coroner’s chemist.
Under questioning by Mr. Ferrari yesterday in the county
jail, to which she was committed on recommendation of a coroner’s jury, Mrs.
Summers reluctantly admitted she had been married not twice but three times and
that the hitherto undiscovered husband, Stanley Korzen, had died mysteriously,
as had the others.
~ Says She Had Five Husbands. ~
But from the widow’s stepmother, Mrs. William Myers at Effingham.
Last night came the information that there were not three but five husbands.
“Maggie’s first husband was James Lynch,” said the
stepmother, a woman of 65 years.” They were married 31 years ago and had a 3
year old girl. It was soon after the baby’s birth that Lynch took sick and
Another mate acquired by Mrs. Summers in addition to Korzen,
James Fairfax and Tom Summers, with whom she had admitted marriage, was Stanley
Jones, according to the step-mother. The older woman was uncertain, she said, whether
Jones and Mrs. Summers were legally wed but Mrs. Summers had told her she and
Jones lived as man and wife, according to the step-mother’s statement.
~ Mentions Cab Driver. ~
Still another of her step-daughter’s affairs, the older
woman averred, was with a Chicago cab driver, whose name she did not know but
whose photograph “Maggie,” as she called Mrs. Summers, had given her, she said.
The photograph was to be sent here this morning for possible identification.
Besides the five men mentioned, the step-mother voiced the
suspicion that Mrs. Summers might know something of the death of her own
brother, John A. Meyers, and of Meyer’s wife. As related by the step-mother,
Meyers became ill and died about five years ago during one of Mrs. Summers’ infrequent
visits to Effingham.
Shortly thereafter the brother’s widow went to California,
whether Mrs. Summers went also. A few months elapsed and Mrs. Summers returned from
the coast with the news that Mrs. Myers had been killed in a motor accident in
~ Faces Former Husband’s Sister. ~
The jailed widow’s admission of admission to Korzen was made
in the presence of Korzen’s sister, Mrs. May Bonczkowski. During the interview
police kept close watch on Mrs. Bonczkowski because of threats she is said to
have uttered against the widow.
When the question was first put as to her marriage with
Korzen, Mrs. Summers made vigorous denial. Mrs. Ferrari then produced Korzen’s
photograph and, while Mrs. Bonczkowski glowered, admitted having wed Korzen,
who died in 1917.
[“Mrs. Summers’ Flat Raided In Poison Search – Stepmother
Avers Widow Had Five Husbands.” Chicago Tribune (Il.), May 31, 1931, Pt. 1, p.
FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 6): Chicago – Nineteen deaths are being investigated in connection with the poison murder charges against Mrs. Margaret Summers, rooming house proprietor, Coroner Herman N. Bundesen stated Sunday.
The deaths were those of lodgers and relatives of the woman, who is already accused of four poison slayings.
The additional names were obtained in a canvass Sunday of five homes in which Mrs. Summers has lived since she came to Chicago from Eflingham, Ill.
Each death, officials said, was entered in the woman's family Bible, which was confiscated.
Further exhumations, the coroner said, may establish whether the deaths of these other persons were accomplished by poison.
Deaths of two of Mrs. Summers’ husbands, bringing the total of her fatal marriages to five, have been disclosed, the coroner said, and as a result the inquiry has been carried back to a period of 25 years ago.
They were Stanley Jones and James Lynch. The deaths of these two antedated those of three other known husbands of Mrs. Summers.
Information concerning Lynch and Jones was supplied by Mrs. Summer’s stepmother, Mrs. William Meyers, of Eflingham. She said her stepdaughter married Lynch almost 30 years ago. A daughter born to the couple died at the age of three and Lynch’s death occurred shortly afterward. Jones was the second husband of the woman.
The investigators are seeking to learn if Mrs. Summers insured these men as she had the others.
The three other husbands whose deaths had been established previously were James Fairfax, Stanley Korzen and Thomas Summers.
Mrs. Summers is formally charged with murder in connection with the deaths of Summers, Thomas Myers, 17, a nephew; Thomas Lanagan, 46, a roomer, and William Heenan, 72, a roomer. She held insurance policies in excess of $5,500 on the four.
[“19 Deaths Probed for Poison As Chicago Woman Is Held Find Names in Family Bible; 5 of Her Husbands Died,” syndicated (AP), The Capital Times (Madison, Wi.), Jun 1, 1931, sec. 2, p. 1]
The jury set her punishment at 14 years in the penitentiary.
The case of the gray-haired stoical widow was unique in local annals in the method the state charged Mrs. Summers with employing in the poisoning of her nephew.
The state maintained the widow who has survived four husbands soaked flypaper sheets treated with arsenic to induce the chronic arsenic poisoning which physicians testified caused the boy’s death.
Prosecutor C. Wayland Brooks in his closing arguments charged the widow poisoned her orphan nephew who had given her his daily earnings in order to collect eight insurance policies she had taken out on his life.
The state did not ask the death penalty. The jury which received the case at 9 p. m. last night deliberated until after midnight.
Testifying in her own behalf Mrs. Summers admitted the purchase of flypaper as claimed by the state but said it was obtained last April because “it was pretty hot that month. We were making beer and there were a lot of little flies around.”
Her nephew died last May after a lengthy illness said by physicians to be chronic arsenic poisoning. Mrs. Summers’ attorneys moved for a new trial.
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