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Serial Killer Index Short List
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Serial Killer Index
serial killers by name [t] amazon
  TOPPAN Jane 1854 1938/08/.. USA ... ... ... 31+
Jolly Jane 1880 1901 NE
Verdict/Urteil/Verbleib: 40 years in Asylum (US)

Born Nora Kelly, in Boston, during 1854, Toppan lost her mother in infancy. Her father, a tailor, soon went insane, and was confined to an asylum after he was found in his shop, trying to stitch his own eyelids together. His four daughters lived briefly with their paternal grandmother, before they were relegated to a local orphanage. Abner Toppan and his wife, from Lowell, Massachusetts, legally adopted Nora during 1859, changing her first name to Jane. The girl excelled in school and seemed completely normal prior to being jilted by her fiancee, years later. After that, she twice attempted suicide and suffered through a period of odd behavior that included efforts to predict the future through analysis of dreams. (A sister, Ellen, joined their father in the lunatic asylum after suffering a mental breakdown in her twenties.) Briefly stabilizing during 1880, Jane signed on as a student nurse at a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Once again, she excelled in her class work, but supervisors and colleagues were disturbed by her obsession with autopsies. Dismissed after two patients died mysteriously in her care, she left the hospital without her certificate, forging the paperwork necessary to find work as a private nurse. Over the next two decades, she was hired by dozens of New England families, caring for the ill and elderly in several states, but few of Toppan's patients managed to survive her "special" treatment. On July 4, 1901, an old friend, Mattie Davis, died under Jane's care at Cambridge, and Toppan accompanied the body home to Cataumet, Massachusetts, for burial. Retained as the family nurse by patriarch Alden Davis, Jane finished off his married daughter, Annie Gordon, on July 29. The old man's death, a few days later, was blamed on "a stroke," and his surviving daughter, Mary Gibbs, was pronounced dead on August 19. Mary's husband demanded an autopsy , and lethal doses of morphine were found in the three latest victims, but Jane was not finished, yet. Before her arrest in Amherst, New Hampshire, on October 29, she fed a lethal "tonic" to her foster sister, Edna Bannister, and she was working on another patient when police cut short her medical career. In custody, Toppan confessed to 31 murders, naming her victims, but students believe her final tally falls somewhere between 70 and 100 victims. No accurate list of her hospital victims was ever compiled, and various New England families avoided the scandal by refusing official requests for exhumations and autopsies. At trial, Jane's lawyer grudgingly conceded eleven murders, staking his hopes on a plea of insanity . Toppan cinched the case with her own testimony, telling the court, "That is my ambition, to have killed more people -- more helpless people -- than any man or woman who has ever lived." Declared insane, Toppan was confined for life to the state asylum at Taunton, Massachusetts, where she died in August 1938, at age 84. She was remembered by her keepers as "a quiet old lady," but older attendants remembered her smile as she beckoned them into her room. "Get some morphine, dearie," she would say, "and we'll go out in the ward. You and I will have a lot of fun seeing them die." [ReadOn]

Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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