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Serial Killer Index Short List
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Serial Killer Index
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  TRUEBLOOD Lydia USA ... ... ... 5+
1915 1919 ID MO MT
A classic "black widow," Lydia Trueblood would stop at nothing to collect the life insurance on her many mates. It took six years, and half a dozen victims, for detectives in a two-state killing zone to realize that sometimes arsenic -- not diamonds -- is a girl's best friend. Lydia was born in Keytsville, sixty miles northeast of Kansas City, in the central flatlands of Missouri. Members of her family were friendly with another local clan, the Dooleys, and as time went by, young Robert Dooley fell in love with Lydia. She seemed to share his feelings, and when Lydia moved on to Twin Falls, Idaho, her would-be suitor followed close behind. They married there in 1912, and settled down to plan their future, with a sharp eye on security. It was arranged for Robert and his brother, Edward, to secure a life insurance policy. In the event that either brother died, $1,000 would be paid to the surviving Dooley, with a like amount to Lydia. On August 9, 1915, Edward Dooley fell suddenly ill; his death, days later, was ascribed to typhoid, and his brother sadly split two thousand dollars with the grieving Lydia. On August 10, while Edward clung to life and all around him prayed for his recovery, a second life insurance policy was written in the names of Robert Dooley and his wife. Upon the death of either, the survivor would receive $2,000. "Typhoid fever" struck again in late September 1915, and by sundown on October 1, the widow Dooley had a decent nest egg in the making. Recently encumbered with a child, she cast about for remedies, and Providence was smiling. Barely six weeks passed before the infant "drank from a contaminated well" and died. A mandatory period of mourning left the widow Dooley hungry for companionship. She found a viable solution in the person of William McHaffie, a waiter in her favorite Twin Falls restaurant. They wed in 1917, and he took out a $5,000 life insurance policy, with Lydia as beneficiary, before they pulled up stakes and moved to Hardin, in Montana. The marriage was a short one; "influenza" claimed McHaffie one year later, but his policy had lapsed because McHaffie failed to pay the second premium, and Lydia collected nothing for her pains. She moved to Denver, where she married Harlan Lewis during May of 1919. They set up housekeeping at Billings, Montana, and Lewis purchased a $5,000 life insurance policy in June. Disaster struck in mid-July, a sudden case of "ptomaine poisoning" eliminating husband number three. This time, the check came through. On August 10, the three-time widow married Edward Meyer in Pocatello, Idaho. She called herself "Anna McHaffie," but the change of name did not foreshadow any change in modus operandi. On August 11, Lydia applied for a $10,000 life insurance policy in Edward's name, but it was disapproved, for reasons never clarified. (In retrospect, perhaps the industry was waking up to Lydia's uncanny run of luck.) The Meyers settled on a ranch in the Snake River region, where Edward was taken ill on August 25. He was transported to the hospital, where doctors praised his chances of recovery, but on September 7 he was dead. Post-mortem tests discovered arsenic, but after brief preliminary questioning, detectives set the widow Meyer free. She fled to California, seeking other prey and sanctuary while behind her, Idaho authorities were busy with petitions for the exhumation of her other victims. One by one, the test results were positive. The Dooley brothers had been murdered, as had Lydia's own child. Montana officers began to sniff around the Lewis and McHaffie cases, curious about the lethal widow's long run of coincidence. While Twin Falls prosecutor Frank L. Stephen built a case, his quarry picked up husband number five, Paul Southard, in Los Angeles. They married in November 1920, and she tried to sell him on the notion of a life insurance policy, but he declined. A seaman in the navy, Southard saw no need for coverage beyond the normal government provisions. Southard had been transferred to Pearl Harbor shortly after wedding Lydia, and Honolulu officers were privileged to pick her up when warrants finally arrived from Idaho, on May 12, 1921. Returned to Boise for her trial, she drew a term of life imprisonment and subsequently died in jail.
Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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