Thursday, April 9, 2020

Concepcion Gonzalez, Suspected Double Black Widow – Arizona, 1941

FULL TEXT: A murder charge was filed against Concepcion Gonzalez, 38 years old, 909 East Jefferson street, yesterday a few minutes after Richard F. Harless, county attorney, said he was told her sheep- herder-husband, Tiburcio, 57, died Wednesday in their home from poison.

The complaint was issued by Elbert R. Thurman, deputy county attorney and signed in East Phoenix Precinct Justice Court by Alex Maldonado, a sheriff’s deputy. Mrs. Gonzalez is held in the county jail.

Mr. Harless said an autopsy surgeon told him she found a mercuric poison in Gonzalez' stomach and that tests showed two small pill boxes seized by investigators in a search of the home also contained such poison.

The surgeon attributed Gonzalez’ death to such poisoning, Mr. Harless said. The boxes, their labels torn off, were found buried in the contents of an oatmeal carton in the Gonzalez kitchen.

Mrs. Gonzalez maintained her innocence in the death.

She told investigators she Is the beneficiary in two policies insuring her husband's life for a total of $4,000 and that she regularly had paid on them more than $11 of their $50 monthly income.

Mr. Harless assigned James H. Garcia, another deputy prosecutor, to the case and ordered him and Mr. Thurman to open an investigation into the death of Mrs. Gonzalez' previous husband, Antonio Gutierrez.

Mrs. Gonzalez told authorities she collected 52,900 insurance when Gutierrez died, reportedly August 10, 1937.

Investigation of Gonzalez' death was started Wednesday by Mr. Thurman and Deputies Maldonado and Oscar Roberts at request o: D. W. Henderson, Chandler district sheepman and employer of Gonzalez 20 years.

An autopsy was ordered when a physician who had been treating Gonzalez reported he suspected poisoning and Mr. Henderson declared Mrs. Gonzalez had refused to permit her husband to be taken to a hospital while he was alive.

Mrs. Gonzalez insisted she only had refused to permit her husband to be taken to the county hospital because she didn't believe he would be treated right there. She said she had money to have physicians to go to their home.

Besides the insurance, she said that a Glendale house and lot in which Gonzalez owned a half interest is recorded in her name.

Speaking through an interpreter, she said Gonzalez came to her home "for a vacation" from his sheepherding March 13 and hat he became ill the following night after eating some "crackings."

Thereafter, until his death, he sometimes got out of bed but never left the house, she said.

Only she prepared her husband's food while he was ill, she said, although Jose Garcia, another sheepherder and friend of Gonzalez since 1924, occasionally helped her feed him.

They were married three years ago this month, it was learned.

She first denied the cornmeal carton was found in her home, then admitted she purchased it some time ago, but insisted she knew nothing of the boxes containing the powder which assertedly proved to be poison.

[“Poison Found in Oats Box,” Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Az.), Apr. 5, 1941, p. 6]



FULL TEXT: Mrs. Concepcion Gonzalez yesterday was held without bond on a first-degree murder charge in connection with the poison slaying of her sheepherder-husband, Tiburcio, 57, in their home at 909 East Jefferson street recently.

Her attorney, Greg Garcia, offered no evidence to refute the state's contention she poisoned her husband to collect $1,782 insurance. The hearing was before Justice Harry E. West fall in East Phoenix precinct court.

The 38-year-old Mrs. Gonzalez was returned to the county jail.

~Doctor Finds Poison ~

Recalled to the stand by Elbert R. Thurman, and James H. Garcia, deputy county attorney, Dr. Tressa R. Moran, an autopsy surgeon and toxicologist, testified she found sufficient poison in the body of a former husband of Mrs. Gonzalez to kill him.

She previously has said only that she found in the body of Antonio Paublino Gutierrez, 44, a shoemaker, the same kind of poison she found in the body of Mr. Gonzalez, who died April 2.

Gutierrez died August 10, 1938, and Mrs. Gonzalez said she collected $2,000 insurance at his death.

~ Symptoms Were similar. ~

Dr. A. H. Alvarez described symptoms just prior to the death of Mr. Gutierrez and prosecutors said they were the same as those shown by Mr. Gonzalez immediately before his death.

Alfred F. Hanson and Marv Lou Sanchez, employees of the First National Benefit Society, testified that Mrs. Gonzalez reinstated three life insurance policies her husband had permitted to lapse and doubled the death benefits.

C. N.  Boynton of the pathological laboratory testified that two small pill boxes delivered to him by Alex Maldonado. sheriff's deputy, contained mercurous chloride, the same poison found in the bodies of both dead men.

Maldonado found the boxes buried in an oatmeal carton of the Gonzalez home and Mrs. Gonzalez denied knowledge of them.

[”Woman Held Without Bond On Poison Slaying Charge,” Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Az.), Apr. 13, 1941, p. 2]


FULL TEXT: Taking of testimony in the Concepcion Gonzalez poison murder case, in which the state is seeking

Taking of testimony in the Conicepcion Gonzalez poison murder case, in which the state is seeking death for-the 39-year-old mother of a 20-year-old girl, will start this morning before Superior Judge Dudley W. Windes.

Selection of the 12 men who will weigh the guilt or innocence of the small, quiet Mrs. Gonzalez, accused of poisoning her 57-year-old sheepherder-husband. Tiburcio, for his S1,782 life insurance, will start at 9 a. m.

The 32 men from which the jury will be selected were obtained in a two-day session last week.

~ Translation Asked ~

Judge Windes must rule this morning on the request of Greg Garcia, attorney for Mrs. Gonzalez, that all of the testimony, court orders and instructions be translated from English to Spanish for the benefit of Mrs. Gonzalez.

Elbert R. Thurman and James H. Garcia, deputies county attorney, said they will ask the jury to send the woman to the gas chamber on the contention she systematically poisoned her husband for his insurance.

~ Star Witness Missing ~

They unsuccessfully have sought delay of the trial until recovery of their star witness, Dr. Tressa R. Moran, pathologist, from a major operation. She previously attributed Gonzalez' death to mercury poison.

Greg Garcia, an uncle of one of the prosecutors, indicated in questioning of prospective jurors that he may contend Gonzalez died from improper administration of a medicine.

[“Jury Selection Slated Today,” Arizona Republic (Az.), Jun. 24, 1941, P. 4]


FULL TEXT: Testimony that Concepcion Gonzalez refused offers to take her gravely ill husband to a hospital was given yesterday at her trial on a first-degree murder charge in the poison slaying of Tiburcio Gonzalez, assertedlv for his insurance.

Dr. Ernest Pohle, Tempe physician, said he suggested hospitalization to Mrs. Gonzalez last March 2S - five days before the 57-year-old sheepherder died when he became convinced that Gonzalez was suffering from mercury poisoning.

He said that the 33-year-old Mrs. Gonzalez, whom the state seeks to send to the lethal gas chamber, only told him that her husband could get well at home "as well as at the hospital."

~ Employer Testifies ~

Similar, more positive testimony was given by Dawson Henderson. Chandler sheepman and employer of Gonzalez 21 years, who was the only other witness in yesterday's slow-moving session before Superior Judge Dudley W. Windes.

He testified he "first discovered Gonzalez ill in his home here February 28 and that he "seemed worse" on every one of several subsequent visits." On a visit March 31. he said, he asked Gonzalez if he didn't want to go to a hospital.

"Mrs. Gonzalez immediately poke up and said, 'I wouldn't take him to any hospital,' " Henderson testified. The witness said that the sheepherder suggested to his wife that "I can't get well here" and that she replied:

"If you can't get well here you can't get well any place. If you're going to die anywhere, you'll die right her."

Henderson said that Jose Garcia, a long-time friend of both Gonzalez and his wife, also tried to persuade her to let the sheepherder go to the hospital, but that she refused.

She refused, Henderson said. even after he had taken an ambulance to the house and offered to pay ail expenses, including for a private nurse.

~ "Progressively Worse" ~

Dr. Pohle testified Gonzalez went to his office February 20 about seven days after he became ill and that he treated him almost entirely through March, but that, the sheepherder "became progressively worse."

He said he signed the death certificate, assigning the cause as "poison by mercury."

Elbert R. Thurman and James H. Garcia, deputy county attorney, contend that Mrs. Gonzalez systematically poisoned her husband to collect his $1,782 life insurance. She previously admitted collecting $2,000 insurance in the death of a former husband, in whose remains similar poison was found.

Grey Garcia, defense attorney and uncle of the prosecutor, indicated in questioning of jurors that he will contend Gonzalez died because of improper administration of a poisonous medicine.

The testimony was translated from English to Spanish for the benefit of Mrs. Gonzales at request, of the defense attorney, who said she can neither speak "nor understand English. However, the interpreter. P. N. Estrada, sat at counsel table with Mrs. Gonzalez and the translation did not slow proceedings materially yesterday.

[“Murder Trial Moves Slowly,” Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Az.), Jun. 25, 1941, p. 10]

FULL TEXT: Mrs. Concepcion Gonzalez, mother of a 20-year-old girl, told a jury yesterday that her husband himself took the calomel in quantities that led to his death here April 2 and her arrest on a first-degree murder charge.

The jury will begin tomorrow deliberating whether she should be sent to the state’s gas chamber as a poisoner for insurance or freed from jail as an unfortunate little woman twice widowed by mercury poisoning.

The 39-year-old defendant is accused of murdering her 57-year-old sheepherder husband, Tiburcio, for his $1,782 insurance and Elbert R. Thurman and James H. Garcia, deputies county attorney, are asking that her life be forfeited.

She told the jury she gave her husband only the kindest care; that she never administered any medicine to him; and that he had been rubbing calomel on a sore on his gums for a considerable time.

She insisted she refused only to permit him to be taken to the county hospital.

Twice during her testimony, she complained of being so ill that Superior Judge Dudley W. Windes recessed trial so she might leave the courtroom. She testified through an interpreter, Don Ramirez.

Greg Garcia, an uncle of one of the prosecutors, said he will call two or three more rebuttal witnesses when trial resumes at 9:30 a. m. tomorrow. Judge Widnes decided to hold the trial tomorrow in spite of the fact Mondays usually are devoted to calling of calendars.

[“Woman Tells Jury of Death,” Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Az.), Jun. 29, 1941, sec. 2, p. 2]

FULL TEXT: A jury which deliberated 90 minutes yesterday, acquitted Mrs. Concepcion Gonzalez, 39 years old, of the charge that she murdered her husband, Tiburcio, last April in order to collect his $1,782 insurance.

The jurors took three ballots, all favoring acquittal.

After 10 days of trial before Superior Judge Dudley W. Windes, the verdict was read at 3:50 p. m. Mrs. Gonzalez smiles broadly for a moment, then buried her face in her handkerchief and gave way to unrestrained sobbing.

One of the jurors said the venireman agreed that the state failed to prove that Mrs. Gonzalez fed her husband medicine containing mercury poison and on the contrary they were satisfied he had been using such medicine for years.

They believed, he said, that the large amount of mercury a toxicologist recovered from Gonzalez’ vital organs had accumulated from lone use of the medicine.

Gonzalez died in the family home, 909 East Jefferson street, April 2, six weeks after he arrived here for a brief vacation from sheepherding.

[“Murder Jury Frees Woman,” Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Az.), Jul. 1, 1941, p. 4]

CALOMEL – Side effects

It became popular in the late 18th century to give calomel in extremely high doses, as Benjamin Rush normalized the heroic dose. This caused many patients to experience many painful and sometimes life-threatening side effects. Calomel, in high doses, led to mercury poisoning, which had the potential to cause permanent deformities and even death. Some patients experienced gangrene of the mouth generated by the mercury in the medicine, which caused the tissue on the cheeks and gums inside the mouth to break down and die. Some patients would lose teeth, while others were left with facial deformities.  High doses of calomel would often lead to extreme cramping, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea, however, at the time, this was taken as a sign that the calomel was working to purge the system and rid the disease. Calomel was often administered as a treatment for dysentery; the effects of calomel would often worsen the severe diarrhea associated with dysentery and acted as a catalyst in speeding up the effects of dehydration. One victim was Alvin Smith, the eldest brother of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was also used by Charles Darwin to treat the severe gastrointestinal infection that presumably began the inductive phase of his documented Crohn's disease. Eventually, it was determined that calomel was causing more harm than good, as the side effects were often worse than the illness it was being used to treat; because of this, calomel was removed from medical supply shelves. [Wikipedia]

Mercury poisoning – Mercurous chloride: Safety considerations

Mercurous chloride is toxic, although due to its low solubility in water it is generally less dangerous than its mercuric chloride counterpart. It was used in medicine as a diuretic and purgative (laxative) in the United States from the late 1700s through the 1860s. Calomel was also a common ingredient in teething powders in Britain up until 1954, causing widespread mercury poisoning in the form of pink disease, which at the time had a mortality rate of 1 in 10. These medicinal uses were later discontinued when the compound's toxicity was discovered.

It has also found uses in cosmetics as soaps and skin lightening creams, but these preparations are now illegal to manufacture or import in many countries including the US, Canada, Japan and the European Union. A study of workers involved in the production of these preparations showed that the sodium salt of 2,3-dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid (DMPS) was effective in lowering the body burden of mercury and in decreasing the urinary mercury concentration to normal levels. [Wikipedia]




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

[66-1/3/21; 117-11/1/21]

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