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.
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
“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”
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
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.