Antoinette Scieri


Antoinette Scieri

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1924 1926 St. Gilles

Little is known of Antoinette Scieri's early life, aside from the fact that she was born in Italy and emigrated to France as a child. In the early days of World War I, she worked at a casualty clearing station in Doullens, there beginning a long life of crime. She stole cash and jewelry from the wounded, also forging signatures on letters to their families, requesting money through the mail. Jailed for the theft of an officer's paybook in 1915, she was released the following year. Celebrating her freedom, Antoinette married an Italian soldier named Salmon, bearing him two children before he discovered her flagrant infidelity and left her flat. Next, she took up with an alcoholic brute named Joseph Rossignol, who beat her regularly. Several times she had him jailed on charges of assault, but they were always reconciled. She bore another child, outside of wedlock, and in 1920 they moved to the village of St. Gilles, in southern France. Billing herself as "Nurse Scieri," Antoinette began shopping for elderly patients who needed her care... at a price. With Nurse Scieri on the scene, St. Gilles experienced a rash of sudden deaths among the elderly and ailing. Antoinette lost five patients before the murder machine hit high gear, in December 1924, and from that point there was no turning back. On December 11, a 58-year-old spinster named Drouard died in Scieri's care. Christmas Eve saw the death of Madame Lachapelle, her final convulsions ascribed to "ptomaine poisoning ." When Lachapelle's husband collapsed two days later, Antoinette blamed a heart attack, and a friendly physician agreed. Joe Rossignol welcomed the new year in typical fashion, mauling his common-law wife in a drunken rage, but this time he had gone too far. When Antoinette served up a bowl of mussels, Rossignol consumed them greedily - and died two hours later. According to the testimony at her trial, Scieri watched his death throes, then went out to celebrate her freedom with a drunken orgy. Nurse Scieri's next patients were Marie Martin, 67, and her sister, Madame Doyer. When Antoinette prepared a pot of coffee, Madame Doyer found it bitter, pouring hers down the sink when the nurse's back was turned. Martin drank hers down and shortly died, a circumstance that started ripples of suspicion in St. Gilles. The last to die was Madame Gouan-Criquet, an ailing septuagenarian whose health declined rapidly under Antoinette's "nursing." The victim's husband notified police of his suspicions, and a bottle was found beneath the dead woman's bed, containing a mixture of ether and the herbicide pyralion. The bodies of Joe Rossignol and several other victims were exhumed for autopsy , and all contained huge doses of pyralion. In custody, Scieri openly confessed her crimes and tried to implicate a neighbor, who was later cleared by the police. On April 27, 1926, she was condemned to die upon conviction for a dozen homicides, the judge informing her: "You have been called a monster, but that expression is not strong enough. You are debauched. You are possessed of all the vices. You are also a drunkard, vicious, and a hypocrite. You have no shame. I do not believe judicial history contains the records of many criminals of your type." Scieri shrugged and laughed as sentence was pronounced, aware that there had been no execution of a woman in France since the end of World War I. As expected, her death sentence was soon commuted to life imprisonment , and she subsequently died in jail.