Some sources (including in Kansas City) use the spelling
“Pratt,” but “Platt” is more common and thus is presumably correct.
Sep. 20, 1896 – Mrs. Ellen J. Torrence (6), mother of Mrs.
Oct. 23, 1895 – Elizabeth Mussey (4).
Oct. 25, 1895 – Sue Mussey (10).
Oct. 24, 1896 – Alice Platt arrested.
Feb. 4, 1897 – trial begins.
Feb. 12, 1897 – Alice Platt acquitted.
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]
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
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
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
[“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]
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]
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]