The 10 most infamous female serial killers:
Lavinia Fisher: Lavinia Fisher has the dubious distinction of being the first female serial killer in the United States. Her killings were so long ago-she was born in 1792 and died in 1820-that records of her youth and origin are lost. She and her husband owned and operated a hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 19th century, and they gained notoriety when men started disappearing. It is believed that Lavinia would poison the guests and her husband would return later that night to finish the job. They were both hanged. What a couple.
Aileen Wuornos: Aileen Wuornos was a Florida based prostitute and killer who murdered seven customers in 1989-1990 and whose actions were later chronicled in documentaries and feature films. She had a phenomenally rotten childhood, she was allegedly beaten and raped, and she conceived at 13 after a stranger assaulted her, and she subsequently gave birth and had the baby placed up for adoption. She started turning tricks at 15, when she was kicked out of her house. After small crimes and arrests, she kept working the roads as a prostitute, killing her first john, 51-year-old Richard Mallory, in November 1989 in what she would later claim was self defense. She killed several more men, and she was eventually caught after getting in a minor accident while driving one of her victim’s cars. She was executed in October 2002. Just a evil woman.
Belle Gunness: Belle Gunness was a strong and brutal woman who tallied more than 40 victims in her day. Born in Norway in 1859, she emigrated to the U.S. and married and settled in Chicago. Her husband and some of her children died under sad and mysterious circumstances, and when she began dating again, her suitors-wealthy men drawn in by her charms-started disappearing. She had a hired hand named Ray Lamphere who did some dirty work for her, though she eventually turned him out and even managed to turn authorities onto him as a possible threat. Despite her habit of killing men, she managed to have the final laugh. In April 1908, her home went up in flames, and investigators found the bodies of her children next to a headless corpse under the wreckage. However, the dimensions of the headless body didn’t match Gunness’ actual figure, and she was declared missing. Authorities started digging up her land and turned up plenty of corpses, but never found her. I hope Belle met with a gruesome ending.
Jane Toppan: In 1901-1902, after she was in custody, Jane Toppan confessed to dozens of murders. She was extremely dangerous and more than a little unhinged: she would spend the rest of her life at Taunton State Hospital, dying in 1938 at the age of 81.Toppan grew up in an orphanage and then as a servant. Her killing spree started in 1885, when she was training to be a nurse. She took to experimenting with patients, using different combinations of medicines and chemicals to tweak their nervous systems and slide them between life and death. She later admitted to being aroused by the process of killing. Toppan got away with her deeds for awhile, especially when she entered private practice, after which she started racking up more victims by killing her landlords and later he foster sister. After killing an elderly man named Alden Davis and two of his daughters, the Davis family requested a toxicology investigation, which turned up traces of the poison Toppan had used. She was eventually charged with multiple murders, but she was found not guilty and declared insane. Ya think!
Velma Barfield: Velma Barfield has another claim to infamy besides being a serial killer: she was the first woman to be executed in the U.S. after the death penalty was reinstituted in 1977. She was put to death for the murder of Stuart Taylor, her boyfriend; she’d been using his checking account to forge checks and buy prescription pills, and she poisoned his beer to knock him off, though she played at nursing him back to health for a few days. She was caught when an autopsy turned up trace of arsenic. She also confessed to killing her mother in the same manner. All told she killed five people, but she spent so much time on death row that she found religion and became a devout Christian. Go Figure.
Amelia Dyer: Amelia Dyer in infamous for killing hundreds of victims. The truly gruesome part is that her victims were infants. Dyer, born in England in 1838, earned her money in the baby farming system, taking in children whose mothers couldn’t afford to feed or raise them and nursing them in exchange for a fee. Babies were killed through neglect and starvation, though many were murdered more quickly to allow for greater turnover and higher profits. Dyer was trafficking in pure evil. She even dodged the bullet once after investigators started checking out the number of deaths on her watch; she only did time for neglect. She was eventually found out by police, and though she was only convicted of one murder, it was clear from the pattern of disappearances and the evidence in her home that she had been doing this for years. Here’s a candidate for mother of the year.
Nannie Doss: Nannie Doss was a lethal wife: all told, she murdered four husbands and a boatload of other relatives, including her sisters, two of her kids, and her own mother. She killed her second husband by poisoning his whiskey the day after he raped her. After her third husband died, his house mysteriously burned own, and the insurance money went to Doss. Her fourth marriage was a two-fer: she murdered her mother when the elderly woman came to live with her, and then she killed her husband a few months later. It wasn’t until her fifth and final husband died that Doss was caught. After he was briefly hospitalized for a digestive tract issue, Doss poisoned him to collect the life insurance. The man’s sudden death after being released tipped the doctor’s off to foul play, and sure enough, they found arsenic in the man’s body. Doss confessed to all the murders but, because she was a woman, wasn’t put to death. She died in prison in 1965, at age 59. A lovely, loving wife, for sure!
Bertha Gifford: Bertha Gifford’s story in another one built on poison and infidelity. Born around 1876, Gifford lived in Missouri and gained a reputation for her desire to care for sick friends and family, many of whom subsequently died. Enough of them died before their time to arouse suspicion, and Gifford was eventually arrested for murder. An exhumation of several bodies led to the discovery of arsenic in the corpses, and Gifford’s game was over. Like all serial killers, regardless of gender, Gifford was deliberate and wide ranging, and she murdered almost two dozen people. She was found not guilty thanks to an insanity plea, and she spent the rest of her life in a mental hospital. What a sweetheart!
Jeanne Weber: Although she only live to 36, and she died by her own hand in prison, Jeanne Weber was a notorious killer at the turn of the 20th century. She started her killing spree by murdering her sister’s children, killing an 18-monh old girl and her 2-year-old sister in rapid succession. Doctors declared the deaths accidental. She was also to play on her gender and the public’s willingness to forgive a distraught woman her heinous crimes: Although she was found trying to choke her nephew, she was acquitted when the defense said she was grief-stricken over the death of her own child. (A death she was responsible for.) She was eventually charged with murder and sentenced to imprisonment in an asylum in 1908. Two years later, she hanged herself in her cell. No one was ever able to diagnose the mix of hate and insanity that had plagued her.
Dorothea Puente: After several marriages, Dorothea Puente started committing fraud in the 1960s by dating older men and cashing their benefit checks. She did time for these crimes, but it didn’t dissuade her at all. In the 1980s. Puente ran a boarding house for the elderly and collected their mail, after which she would cash the checks for her tenants and pay them out in a smaller stipend. Tenants started dying and disappearing. In the fall of 1985 Puente had a handyman dump a box she said was filled with junk near a river; when a fisherman reported the curious item, police opened it and found the remains of an old man. Another missing tenant led police to investigate Puente’s facility. The investigation showed that she had been killing her tenants and burying them out back. Puente was sentenced to life in prison. She died there in March 2011 at age 82. Geez, what a wretch!