This case does not strictly meet the criteria for a “series” of killings in that the murders occured in only two separate occasions, rather than three or more. Yet the extraordinary fact that Curtis killed six children after receiving a suspended sentence following the killing of their father makes the case so noteworthy that it ought to be studied along with serial killing cases.
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 5): Center [Texas], June 4. – Mrs. Lillie Mae Curtis, 36, mother of nine children was placed in jail here this morning by Sheriff J. B. Sample, on a charge of killing her husband, Robert Curtis, 41, at their home in the Haley’s Store Community, twelve miles south of Center, last night.
Curtis, the sheriff said, was shot through the head while he slept.
An examining trial for Mrs. Curtis was scheduled for this afternoon. She made no statement.
[“Mother of Nine Charged Killing Husband,” Corsicana Daily Sun (Tx.), Jun. 4, 1935, p. 1]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 5): Center, March 17. A mother who told officers she was ill and unable to provide for her family killed six of her nine children at a lonely farm home near here last night, kissing each of them goodbye before and after shooting them as they were sleeping.
~ UNDER SENTENCE ~
District Attorney Wardlow Lane said he would file murder charges against Mrs. Lille May Curtis, she was under a five-year suspended for slaying her husband, Robert Curtis, 44, in 1935.
The children ranged from five to 13 years of age. They were:
Marcle Jack, five, boy.
Margie Ree, seven.
Billie Burke, 10, girl.
Gloria Jean, 11.
T. O. Curtis, 13.
Justice of Preace Ben Eddins who returned an inquest verdict of “death at the hands of Lillie May Curtis” in each case, said the children were lying dead in their beds in one room when he arrived at the scene about midnight.
Sheriff J. B. Sample was summoned by one of one of the older children, Travis, 16, who was spared, the mother said “because he could take care of himself.”Sheriff Sample said he found the woman alone in the woods 400 yards from the slaughter.
~ MOTHER’S STATEMENT ~
Lane said Mrs. Curtis in her statement to him said “I was unable to care for them, that is, not physically able and not able in the way of money. I had not undressed when I went to bed, and I was thinking kinda about killing them when I went to bed, and I knew it was wrong to kill these children. I did not kill the oldest one (James Travis) because he is big enough to work for himself.”
The statement, Lane said, also told how the mother moved the youngest child from bed in another room and placed him with the other victims in a single room of the farm home 22 miles south of here at West Hamilton.
Lane said Mrs. Curtis’ statement said she placed a .22 calibre pistol at the heart of each child, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest.
Lane said powder burns were found on each victim, and that each was turned on the side in bed. The district attorney said apparently none of the children had awakened.
District Judge T. O. Davis called the grand jury to meet promptly to investigate the filicide.
Lane said James Travis had been awakened by his mother after the shootings and sent to telephone to Sheriff Sample. When the sheriff arrived, the spared boy told him the direction his mother had taken when she left the house for the woods after the tragedy.
Sheriff Sample said he looked for the woman and finally called for her, receiving an answer close by. The shriff said Mrs. Curtis told him she had placed the death weapon under the steps of the farm home, where it was later found.
[“Texas Mother Kills Six Of Children In Slumber – Asserts Inability To Provide For Tots To Officers – Center Woman To Be Charged With Murder,” The Adeline Reporter-News (Tx.), Mar. 17, 1938, p. 1]
FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 5): Center, April 6 – Mrs. Lillie May Curtis pleaded guilty today as her trial opened on one of six murder charges filed against her for the slaying of six of her nine children near here the night of March 16.
Testimony was being heard by a jury was to decide on punishment. District Judge T. O. Davis indicated separate trials would be held on five other charges of murder filed after six of the woman’s nine children were shot fatally in their lonely piney woods country home south of here. Judge Davis instructed veniremen not chosen for the first trial to remain in town for possible duty.
The state offered three witnesses in the trial of Mrs. Curtis on a charge of murdering T. O. Curtis, one of the victims who ranged in a ge from 5 to 13.
Fred Hudson, hardware dealer here, testified he sold Mrs. Curtis a .22 calibre pistol the day before the shootings and identified the gun.
L. S. Oates, health officer, testified each child showed powder burns near the heart where each was shot.
He also testified he believed Mrs. Curtis able to distinguish right from wrong, but that she was not mentally normal.
District Attorney Wardlow Lane, sworn as a witness, presented two written statements he said Mrs. Curtis made him detailing the tragedy.
The state indicated the death penalty would not be asked.
District Attorney Wardlow Lane said after the slaying the woman had made a statement she kissed the children goodbye and shot them because she was uunablr to provide for them.
One son at the time of the filicide, James Travis, was spared, Lane said Mrs. Curtis told him, because he was able to take care of himself. Another son and a daughter were not at the farm home when the tragedy occurred.
Mrs. Curtis at the time was under a five-year suspended sentence for the slaying of her husband, Robert Currtis, 44 [sic], in 1935.
[“Mother Slayer of Six Children Pleads Guilty – Mrs. Lillie May Curtis On Trial On First Of Six Murder Charges,” Corsicana Daily Sun (Tx.), Apr. 6, 1938, p. 1]
FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 5): Center, Texas – Mrs. Lillie May Curtis, who killed six of her nine children as they slept, was given a total of 495 years in the penitentiary in her trial today on five of the six murder counts.
Se was given a 99-year sentence in each case. One case was left hanging.
A five-year suspended sentence for killing her husband in a similar manner three years ago was ordered continued.
Mrs. Curtis will be transferred to the state penitentiary probably tomorrow.
The children, ranging from five to 13 years old, were killed she said, because she could not provide for them.
[“Woman sentenced To 495-Year Pen Term In 5 Deaths,” syndicated (AP), The Sandusky Register (Oh.), Apr. 7, 1938, p. 1]
EXCERPT (Article 5 of 5): Lillie May Curtis died February 3rd, 1980 at the age of 80, and was buried with the husband that she had shot and killed 45 years earlier, in the same Cemetery as the graves of the six children she brutally murdered only three years later while they slept. [On This Day in Murder... March 16th, 1938 , “Lillie Mae Curtis Murders 6 of her 9 Children Friday, 16 Mar. 16, 2012]