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Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Poisoner - Jealousy because her husband showered all his affections upon his eight children
Number of victims: 4
Date of murder: June/October 1913
Date of arrest: October 1913
Date of birth: 1866
Victim profile: Four of her stepchildren
Method of murder: Poisoning (arsenic)
Location: Bosque County, Texas, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life imprisonment on December 23, 1913

Ellen Etheridge (1912-1913) was 22 years old when she married a Texas millionaire and inherited an instant family of 8 stepchildren. She became incurably jealous of her husband's devotion to their children and poisoned (arsenic) 4 of them, two at a time, about six months apart. Autopsies revealed poisoning in the latter pair, and she was arrested and confessed. She was sentenced to life imprisonment.


Etheridge, Ellen

A solid family background and religious training did not spare the second wife of Texas rancher J.D. Etheridge from pangs of jealousy. When they were married in the spring of 1912, she thought the wealthy widower admired her for herself. 

It soon became apparent though, that he was more concerned with finding someone who would cook his meals and clean his Iarge Bosque County home, northwest of Waco. Ellen warmed his lonely bed and tended house, but she began to feel neglected as her husband showered his affection on the children -- eight in all -- who were the living images of her lamented predecessor. Jealousy gave way to envy, then to hatred. 

During June of 1913, Ellen launched her plan to thin the herd, employing poison to eliminate a pair of the offensive children. On October 2, two more died, but the coincidence was too extreme. Authorities were curious, and poison was discovered by post-mortem tests. In custody, the second Mrs. Etheridge confessed her crimes and drew a term of life imprisonment.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans


Ellen Etheridge, Texas Serial Killer Who Murdered 4 Children - 1913

“Slew Four Step-Children. – Woman Says Jealousy of Her Husband’s Affection Prompted Her to Act.”

The New York Times

Oct. 16, 1913

Waco, Tex., Oct 16. – Mrs. Ellen Etheridge, second wife of J. D. Etheridge, a farmer, of Bosque county, confessed she murdered two of her stepchildren last June and two on Oct. 2 by administering poison, according to a statement given out by H. K. Dillard, prosecuting attorney of Bosque.

Jealousy because her husband showered all his affections upon his eight children was assigned by the assigned as the reason for her act.

Mrs. Etheridge was married to her present husband last Spring. She is a daughter of the Rev. John Walker of Matagorda County.


“Woman Gets Life - Sentence Mrs. Ellen Etheridge Convicted Of Poisoning One Of Her Children Today.”

Corsicana Daily Sun

Dec. 23, 1913

Meridian, Texas, Dec. 23. – Mrs. Ellen Etheridge today was convicted of poisoning her step-child and sentenced to life imprisonment. She still awaits a trial on the charge of killing three other step-children by the poison route.


“Aged Woman Faces Longest Sentence, of Any Convict Now in Penitentiary of Texas; Entered Pen 17 Years Ago”

Denton Record-Chronicle

Feb. 21, 1930

HUNTSVILLE, Tex., Feb. 21 – A-64-year-old woman, Mrs. Ellen Etheridge, has a longer sentence than any other convict in the Texas prison system.

Seventeen years ago Mrs. Etheridge was found guilty in Bosque county of murder of four of her stepchildren and attempted murder of a fifth and assessed four life sentences and one of five years.

The woman allegedly poured lye down the children’s throat. The fifth child, a boy of 13, ran for medical treatment and later was the state’s leading witness.

When she arrived at the Goree state farm for women, four miles south of here, Mrs. Etheridge’s complexion was fair and her hair was dark. Today her hair is streaked with silver and her shoulders are stooped.

A model prisoner during the long confinement, Mrs. Etheridge still hopes for a pardon that she may die a free woman. She is given the privilege of roaming the woods and farm without a guard. She returns to be locked behind the bars. In her spare time she makes lace and sells it to the public, acquiring in this way enough money to have her body sent home if she should die in prison.



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