Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Serial Marrier / Serial Killer: Lyda Trueblood Southard - 1921

PHOTO CAPTION: Mrs. Lyda Trueblood Southard, whose trial on the charge of slaying her fourth husband opens in Twin Falls today. The prosecutor alleges that the woman was also responsible for the deaths of three other husbands, a brother-in-law, and a baby by her first marriage.

PHOTO CAPTION: MRS. LYDA SOUTHARD on her way from Honolulu to Idaho, where she will be charged with the murder of four husbands, a child and a brother-in-law. [Standalone]

[Untitled, syndicated (Keystone View Co.), The Evening Ledger (Philadelphia, Pa.), Jun. 17, 1921, p. 30]

PHOTO CAPTION: Mrs. Southard, First Husband and Child – Mrs. Lydia Trueblood Dooley Mchaffie Lewis Myers Southard; her first husband. Robert Dooley, and their child, Laura Mae Dooley. Dooley and the child are both dead and their deaths are being investigated.



Husband                                          Insurance

No. 1—Robert Dooley                       $ 4,600
No. 2—William McHaffle                         500
No. 3—Harlem Lewis                           3,000
No. 4—Ed Myers                                10,000
No. 5—Paul V. Southard                     10,000

The first four husbands are dead; the fifth is aiding her defence against the charge of murdering the fourth.


FULL TEXT (1921): San Francisco, May 20.—”She swept the men of her choice off their feet—courted them so persistently that they could not escape.”

That’s the way V. H. Ormsby, a deputy sheriff of Twin Falls, Idaho, describes the romance of Mrs. Lydia Southard, under arrest at Honolulu on a charge of murdering Ed Myers of Twin Falls, her fourth husband.

Ormsby and his wife, who also is a deputy sheriff, are en route to Honolulu to return Mrs. Southard to Twin Falls, where she will be questioned about the mysterious deaths of three other of her five husbands, a brother-in-law and her own daughter.

Mr. Southard, now the wife of Paul Vincent Southard, petty officer on the U. S. S. Chicago, has promised not to fight extradition. Her husband offered to pay the expenses of his wife and an official to Twin Falls so that the investigation may be speeded.

Mrs. Southard denies the charges and says she can satisfactorily explain the deaths of her former husbands. She told officials she believed she was a “typhoid carrier,” and that this may have been responsible for some of them.

“Take poor Ed Myers for example,” says Deputy Sheriff Ormshy. “He was the woman’s fourth husband. In 1920 he was running a little ranch out near Twin Falls when Lydia came home after Harlem Lewis. Husband No. 3, had died in Montana and she had collected $5,000 in insurance.

~ Everybody Talking. ~

“She rigged herself out fit to kill, bought a long mink coat and a closed car. Everybody in town was talking about the way she ran around to dances.

“She courted Ed right off his feet.”

“She talked around town that she wasn’t in love with Ed, but she wanted a home, and she said that sometime she might learn to love him.”

“Well, in August she and Ed were married after he took out a $10,000 insurance policy. In September Ed died.”

“The townfolks weren’t just satisfied. They started a lot of talk and the insurance company held up payment on the policy. The matter got into politics and folks wanted to know what the candidates for sheriff would do about Lydia.”

~ She Didn’t Worry. ~

“But Lydia didn’t seem to ho worrying. After she left for California the town got more dissatisfied than ever and in January I was assigned to the case.”

“I’ve had the bodies of the men dissatisfied and examined. Three chemists each working separately, reported to me that they found arsenic. I interviewed the doctors who attended he husbands and obtained statements from them that enabled me to build a strong case against her.”

“After Lydia left Twin Falls late 1920 she met Southard at a dance. Later they were married and when Southard was transferred from San Francisco to Honolulu he took his bride along, he’s still loyal to his wife.”

“The marital experiences of the one-time Missouri country town girl eclipses even those of fiction. Ten years ago while still in her teens she was attending Sunday school and enjoying the popularity that goes with being a village belle in the village of Keytesville, Mo. At that time she was living on the farm of her father, William Trueblood, about two miles from town.

Following the opening of new irrigated territory in Idaho, Trueblood moved his family to a section near Twin Falls. Robert Dooley, a school-day sweetheart of Lyttle, and his brother, Edward, followed soon after, and settled near the Trueblood farm.

In 1912 Robert Dooley took Lydia, then 20, into Twin Falls one day and the two were married. Edward Dooley went to live with them.

~  First Husband Dies ~

One day Edward Tooley became ill. Within a few hours he was dead. Lydia explained that he had eaten salmon from a can that had stood open for some time. Lydia and Robert Dooley accompanied the body back to Keytesville for burial and folks in the home town got their glimpse of Baby Laura Marie, daughter of Lydia.

About three weeks after Lydia and her husband returned to Twin Falls, Robert Dooley died. Lydia said he had insisted on drinking from a cistern on the farm that was close to the barn and that he had died of typhoid fever. At that time neighbors said she expressed the fear to them that their baby, too, would die of typhoid.

True to her prophesy, three weeks later Baby Laura was dead.

Mrs. Dooley collected $4,500 on insurance that had been carried by the brothers and a short time later was married to William McHaffie.

The two went to Montana to live and settled on a ranch. McHaffie took out a $500 insurance policy and made one payment on it. In a short time he died, but when Lydia went to collect the insurance she found that the policy had lapsed a few days and the company refused to pay it.

In June, 1919, Lydia married Harlem Lewis, an automobile salesman, with whom she had become acquainted in Montana. One month later, on July 6, Lewis died from when doctors said was ptomaine poisoning, and Lydia collected $5,000 in insurance.

Following the death of Lewis, Lydia returned to Twin Falls where she met and married Myers, husband No. 4.

[“Complete Story of Mrs. Southard’s Wooings,” Sheboygen Press (Mi.), May 18, 1921, p. 7]


FULL TEXT: A REMARKABLE escape, paralleling in its way that of Dumas’ famous woman character, Milady, has started a nation-wide search for one of the most intriguing and seductive killers in the history of modern crime.

The woman, who has been accused of murdering four husbands and a brother-in-law, by soaking fly-paper in water, is known from coast to coast as “Mrs. Bluebeard.” That she may meet the fate of the woman so colorfully described by Dumas—who was killed by D’Artagnan and his comrades— seems probable, as she has been described by prison alienists as “a horn killer, not with gun or dagger, but with slow, excrusiating [sic] poison.”

She has proved that no prison walls can hold her, and made her escape from the Idaho State Penitentiary by fascinating, as did Milady, a prison guard, who is believed to have rigged up for her an ingenious ladder of plumbers’ pipes and torn blankets and garden hose. This guard, however, died before Lyda Southard made her break for freedom.

The criminal history of Mrs. Southard, the “Twentieth Century Borgia,” started upon her graduation from high school in Twin Falls, Idaho. She had come with her parents from Missouri, and after her graduation tad taken a job as waitress and cashier in a cafe.

It was here that the smiling, dimpled little girl, then known as Lyda Trueblood, met Robert Dooley, a “boy from back home.”

Robert Dooley was then working in Little Falls. After they were married he took his bride to Missouri. This was in 1912. Three years later they were living on a farm not far from Little Falls, with Robert’s brother, Ed.

Lyda had persuaded her husband and brother-in-law to take out a joint insurance policy for 52,000. A short time after this Ed fell sick, apparently from indigestion and died. His body was taken back to Missouri and Lyda and her husband collected his insurance. The husband then took out a policy for 52,500. He died shortly afterward, as did Lyda’s baby daughter.

The young widow collected the money on the policy and went back to work in the cafe. A year and a half after her first husband’s death, Lyda married Gordon McHaffie, the son of a prosperous Tennessee farmer. He, too, took out a $5,000 insurance policy.

The couple went to live in Billings, Montana. That Winter Gordon died. But his insurance policy had lapsed and his widow was unable to collect a cent. His death was supposedly from the “flu.”

Lyda remained in Billings for the remainder of the Winter and in the Spring she met and married Harlan Lewis, a big, genial truck salesman. He, to, carried $5,000 insurance, naming his wife as beneficiary. He boasted that he had never been ill a day in his life, but he soon became sick and died—the doctors diagnosing his demise as having been caused by “gastro-enteritis.”

Lyda disappeared after her husband had been placed in his grave and the insurance paid. But, in the Summer, of 1920 she reappeared in Twin Falls and there met Edward Meyer, a 35- year-old bachelor, an industrious and thrifty farmer with some means.

They eloped to Pocatello, Idaho, in August of 1920, and left for Salt Lake City on their honeymoon. Meyer did not last as long as the other husbands, as he was stricken in the same month and died in a few days.

Partly through the suspicions of an insurance sales-man, who had paid Lyda her insurance after the death of Lewis, and with whom she had had words, and the news of her various husbands’ .suspicious deaths, she was eventually arrested. The five bodies were all exhumed and Herman Harms, Utah State chemist, and Edward Rodenbaugh, Idaho State chemist, found traces of arsenic in each of them. The woman’s baby was also exhumed but no traces of poison were found.

In their investigation the authorities found that the woman had bought large quantities of fly-paper. Reams of it were found at Meyer’s beautiful Blue Lake ranch, and several large barrels, in which it had been soaked to extract the arsenic, were also discovered.

Lyda, before her arrest, had embarked on another matrimonial odyssey. She had gone to California where the records showed that under the name of “Edith Meyer,” she had married a navy man—Paul Vincent Southard. They had sailed for Honolulu, where every effort was made to apprehend her.

However, she returned of her own accord to Little Falls, where she was promptly placed in custody and brought to trial.

She was found guilty of murder in the second degree for the death of her fourth husband, and sentenced to from fourteen years to life.

At the time of her escape she had already served ten years and was eligible for pardon. But she had planned on escaping and had worked her fatal fascination on Jack Watkins, a prison guard, who is supposed to have manufactured the ladder for her and provided her with a saw with which she sawed a bar from her prison cell.

Watkins died before she left prison. The ladder had been buried for weeks beneath the prison walls. The escape itself was dramatic. Women inmates, evidently under the spelt of the woman, who could fascinate those of her own sex as well as men, staged a party and played the phonograph and sang while she was gaining her way to liberty.

David Minton, who bad been pardoned but a month before, is believed to have aided in the jail break. It was learned that he had purchased a roadster a day after his pardon, and another peculiar circumstance was that the day before the woman’s sensational escape several thousand dollars worth of jewelry were stolen from the home of ex-Governor Moses Alexander.

It was also learned that Minton had fitted his car out with a complete camping outfit — a tent, bedding, cooking utensiles and provisions. Also that Lyda had been seen with him.

There was one report that Lyda and an ex-convict, a woman, had planned her escape years before this report said. Lyda had gone to the woman’s ranch far out in the desert country of Mountain Home. But authorities watched this ranch for days and could find no trace of Lyda.

Officers in Nevada have been on the alert, thinking that she might be headsd across the border. Customs officers also had a tip that she might have escaped by airplane, but there has been no verification of this.

All the law enforcement agencies west of the Mississippi have be«n apprised of the woman’s hegira and have been deluged with circulars and pictures in which she was described as:

“American; white; aged 89; height 5 feet 2 inches; weight 142 pounds; eyes blue with brown iris, complexion sallow, bobbed hair.”

What the authorities considered one of the best tips resulted in a woman-hunt, in which prison guards, detectives and cowboys participated. A mysterious, unsigned letter, one of the hundreds received by Warden R. E. Thomas, of the Idaho State Penitentiary, gave the officials concise directions as to how Lyda could be located.

This letter contained a rough map and instructions after this wise, “Intelligent men who know the desert will be able to find the fugitive if they follow the directions closely” The letter directed that the posse should go to Twin Falls and then follow a devious trail to the northeast to a spot marked “hiding place.”

The posse scoured a 22-mile stretch of desert covered with dusty and gray sage, and later picked up a trail which led into the foothills of the Minnadoks National Forest. These hills jut suddenly from, the sands of the desert and are filled with tortuous canyons and ravines through which flow turbulent and swollen mountain streams.

Gulches and draws filled with willow, scrub pine and giant sage, might well hide a car for weeks in this forlorne country, which is seldom traversed save by a wandering Basque sheep herder.

Into the fastnesses of this mountainous retreat went a hundred men, all bent on taking justice in their own hands, after the manner of the ‘“Three Musketeers,” who decided that they would be court and jury and rid the world of a woman whose seductive powers made her stand beyond the law.

But the search was of no avail. The reward, originally of fifty dollars, was later raised to $1,000. Deputy United. States Marshal H. A. Bucheneau, in leading the search, has impressed on the members of his posse the dangerous character of the woman.

Warden Thomas has characterized her an one of the most dangerous criminals at large.” He has appealed to all officials to watch the Canadian and Mexican borders, as well as the seaports.

“Some man will probably pay with his life in agony and death before this ruthless woman can again be brought’ to justice “ he says. “That she is the modern ‘Mrs. Bluebeard’ is certain.”

The prison warden says he cannot impress too greatly on the minds of the authorities the danger of having the “shifty eyed, fascinating woman” at large.

• ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ •

• ~ •


Robert Dooley, a farmer of Little Falls, Iowa., who married her in 1912 and took out a joint insurance policy of $2.000 with his brother —

Edward Dooley, also a farmer. Edward died in 1915 from violent gastric disorders. Robert then took out a policy for $2,500 and died of the same symptoms shortly after.

Gordon McHaffie, son of a prosperous Tennessee farmer, married Lyda in Missouri in 1917. He later took out a $5,000 insurance policy and died in 1918.

Harlan Lewis, a truck salesman, married her a few months after her third husband’s demise. After signup for a $5,000 insurance policy he died of gastric disorders.

Edward Meyer, well-to-do Idaho farmer, married her in 1920 and died on their honeymoon in Salt Lake City. Lyda disappeared.

Jack Watkins, a prison guard, who is supposed to have rigged up the ladder for her escape, died in April of this year.


Paul Vincent Southard, a navy man, married her after she fled to California from Salt Lake City. He left her in Honolulu.


David Minton, the ex-convict who is believed to have aided her. Benjamin Cheesman, a salesman, whom she is supposed to have married to Canada.

• ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ •

[“Fantastic Getaway of the Smiling ‘Mrs. Bluebeard’ That Men Can’t Resist; Although Blue-Eyed Lyda Fed Arsenic to Five Trusting Men, the State Believes Two Others Risked Everything to Help Her to Freedom,” The Salt Lake Tribune (Ut.), Oct. 25, 1931, p. 7]



PHOTO CAPTION: Fifteen-month search for Lyda Southard, 40, “woman bluebeard” who escaped May 5, 1931, from the Idaho State Prison at Boise, Idaho, ended in Topeka, Kan., postoffice where she surrendered to a detective who recognized her. Mrs. Southard was alleged to have poisoned four husbands and another male relative to collect insurance. She was sentenced from Twin Falls, Ida., in 1921 to a term of 10 years to life.

[“’Mrs. Bluebeard’ Is Recaptured,” syndicated, Syracuse Herald (N.Y.), Aug. 4, 1932, p. 6]

~ Circa 1946: Another Possible Husband-Killing ~

On October 3, 1941, Lyda Southard was paroled from the prison. Two weeks later, Time Magazine ran an article about her release under the headline, "Flypaper Lyda". She reportedly went to live with her sister in Nyssa, Oregon for a few years, but returned to Twin Falls and married for the seventh time, this time to Hal Shaw. Some accounts report that two years later, Hal Shaw disappeared without a trace. Lyda later moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where she died on February 5, 1958 from a heart attack. Her body was transported back to Idaho and is today buried at Sunset Memorial Park in Twin Falls under the name "Anna E. Shaw."

[source for information: William C. Anderson. Lady Bluebeard: The True Story of Love and Marriage, Death and Flypaper, 1994]



Oct. 16, 1892 –  Lyda Anna Mae Trueblood born, Keytsville, Missouri
1906 – The Trueblood family moved to Twin Falls, Idaho
Mar. 19, 1912 – marries Dooley
1914 – Laura Marie Dooley, daughter, born
Aug. 1915 – Robert C. Dooley, husband No. 1, dies
Oct. 12, 1915 (1917?) – Laura Marie Dooley, daughter, dies one source: “Lyda gave birth to a daughter, Lorraine Dooley, in 1914; she died in 1917.”)
Jun. 1917 – married to William G McHaffle,
Oct. 1, 1918 – William G McHaffle, husband No. 2, dies at Hardin, Mont.
Mar. 1919 – marries Harlan C. Lewis, Billings, Mont.
Jul. 1919 – Harlan C. Lewis, husband, dies
Aug. 10, 1920 – married Edward F. Meyer in Pocatello, Idaho
Sep. 7, 1920 – Edward F. Meyer, husband, dies
May 13, 1921 – Arrested in Honolulu, Hawaii
June 11, 1921 – arraigned
Oct. 3, 1921 – She was placed on trial for the murder of Meyer in Twin Falls.
Nov. 4, 1921 –  the jury, after 23 hours' deliberation, returned a verdict finding Lyda guilty of second-degree murder, and the judge sentenced her to the state penitentiary at Boise for a term of ten years to life.
May 4, 1931 – She escaped from prison
Mar. 1932 – marries Harry Whitlock
Jul. 2, 1932 – captured in Denver, Colorado
Jul. 31, 1932 – arrested in Topeka, Kansas
Aug. 1932 –  She returned to the penitentiary
Oct, 3, 1941 –  She was released on probation
1942 – received a final pardon
1942? – Marries Hal Shaw
Feb. 5, 1958 – Lyda dies in Salt Lake City, Utah., by then known as Anna Shaw, died of a heart attack






























For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.


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