Lydia Sherman (1 Viewer)


Lydia Sherman

Years of crimes 1864 - 1871
Place - Connecticut, USA
Vitcims - 12+

Born in Burlington in 1824, Lydia Sherman (her final married name) was orphaned at the age of nine and raised by an uncle. She left town in 1840, and moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, where she met her first husband, Edward Struck, a widower with six children. They moved to Manhattan, where Struck joined the police force, and had seven more children together. After eighteen years of marriage, Struck was discharged and became depressed. Lydia poisoned him with arsenic "to put him out of the way."

Finding herself unable to single-handedly support at least a half-dozen young children, she poisoned baby William, four-year-old Edward and six-year-old Martha Ann, in a single day. When fourteen-year-old George became chronically ill, she laced his tea with arsenic, and when twelve-year-old Ann Eliza had recurrent chills and fevers one winter, Lydia poisoned her as well. Lydia's oldest daughter, eighteen-year-old Lydia, died of natural causes two months after the last of her siblings was poisoned.

Hired by a storekeeper to care for his invalid mother in Stratford, Connecticut, Lydia was recommended as a housekeeper to a wealthy farmer, Dennis Hurlburt. He hired her, married her within days, and was dead of poisoning within months, leaving her with $10,000.

Finally, widower Horatio Sherman came calling, wanting to hire Lydia as a housekeeper and nurse for his baby. When he upped the ante to marriage, she accepted, but after they were married, Horatio drank heavily, abused her and wasted her ill-found inheritance. In an effort to gain his attention and affection, Lydia poisoned baby Frankie, then sixteen-year-old Ada. When Horatio remained unchanged, she put arsenic in his brandy bottle.

Having poisoned three husbands and seven children, Lydia Sherman went on trial in 1872 and was convicted of second-degree murder. Dubbed the "Modern Lucretia Borgia," "Poison Fiend," "Borgia of Connecticut" and the "Queen Poisoner," She spent the rest of her life in prison, and though her remarrying habits were later surpassed by Marguerite Burton, no Burlingtonian since has equaled her body count.

Perhaps the most infamous female poisoner in 19th Century America, Lydia Struck Sherman was an attractive housewife with a disarming manner. She killed every person she met with only one thought in mind—profit. Sherman collected insurance monies on various families and lived in high style in New York’s tenderloin district.

Sherman married Edward Struck, a New York policeman, the union producing six children. Struck became a drunkard after being dismissed from the police department, and, tired of working to feed her large family, Sherman purchased ten cents worth of arsenic in the spring of 1864.

When the druggist asked if she intended to use the poison to kill rats, the woman replied: “Rats? My goodness, yes, we’re alive with rats!”

Sherman then poisoned her husband of seventeen years and, and later murdered her six children. Although the weapon was arsenic, New York City doctors attributed the seven deaths to various illnesses. The killer collected insurance on each of her victims.

The killing of seven persons took time, but Lydia Sherman was in no hurry. She murdered her six children, ranging in ages from nine months to fourteen years, over a two-year period, from 1864 to 1866.

Moving to New Haven, Connecticut, Sherman married elderly Dennis Hurlbut, a wealthy farmer, on November 22, 1868. After slowly poisoning the old man, she collected his estate.

By April 1870, Sherman was low on funds and she went to work as a housekeeper for Horatio Nelson Sherman of Derby, Connecticut. She soon persuaded the elderly Sherman to marry her. A short time later she poisoned his two children, Frank and Addie and then, when he became an alcoholic after their deaths, she systematically poisoned Sherman until he died on May 12, 1871.

The Shermans’ physician, Dr Beardsley, was not as indifferent to the Sherman deaths as the New York physicians who had haphazardly examined Lydia Sherman’s previous victims. Beardsley became suspicious and called in other doctors to perform autopsies on the family.

Finding poison, they called police, but Lydia Sherman had fled to New York. She was tracked down by detectives and returned to Connecticut, where she stood trial.

Sherman confessed to at least eleven murders, though she may have killed as many as fifteen others. Sherman, called “America’s Queen Poisoner”, was found guilty of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in Wethersfield Prison, where she died on May 16, 1878.

In her confession, Lydia Sherman took an almost lackadaisical attitude toward her many killings. In the instance of Edward Struck, she said: “I gave him the arsenic because I was discouraged. I know that that is not much of an excuse, but I felt so much trouble that I did not think about it.”
New York Times Art. From Jan. 11th 1873

Bea Kiddo

Forum Dabbler
Back then I wonder, did men ever poison people or was it only women?

They did, but poison.. and more specifically arsenic, was by far a "woman's weapon of choice". Particularly in Victorian times. It became insanely popular because of it's availability for cosmetic and household use, and also because the deaths were so easy to slip under the radar. Symptoms of poisoning mimicked a host of common and often fatal illnesses during the period. In addition, women would usually dampen any suspicions that might arise because they would typically "nurse" their victims right into the grave. The poisoning spree was finally curtailed somewhat in the mid 1800's when more viable means of testing became available to medical practitioners.

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