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Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Poisoner of family members "to get even"
Number of victims: 8
Date of murder: 1918 - 1924
Date of arrest: April 19, 1925
Date of birth: February 16, 1897
Victims profile: Viola Cooper (daughter of her first husband’s sister) / John Weldman (her first husband) / Wilhelmina Weldman (her mother-in-law) / Minnie Weldman, 8 (her daughter) / Clifford Cooper, 4 months old (infant brother of Viola Cooper) / Ruth Brock, less than a year old (daughter of a relative) / Delores Sorenson, 1 (daughter of her second marriage) / An unnamed infant
Method of murder: Poisoning
Location: Dannebrog, Howard County, Nebraska, USA
Status: Found mentally insane. Committed to the state mental asylum. Died on June 24, 1941

A string of mysterious deaths surrounds a Nebraska woman

Della Sorenson kills the first of her seven victims in rural Nebraska by poisoning her sister-in-law's infant daughter, Viola Cooper. Over the next seven years, friends, relatives, and acquaintances of Sorenson repeatedly died under mysterious circumstances before anyone finally realized that it had to be more than a coincidence.

Two years after little Viola met her demise, Wilhelmina Weldam, Sorenson's mother-in-law, was poisoned. Sorenson then went after her own family, killing her daughter, Minnie, and husband, Joe, over a two-week period in September.

Waiting only four months before marrying again, Sorenson then settled in Dannebrog, Neb. In August 1922, her former sister-in-law came to visit with another infant, four-month-old Clifford. Just as she had done with Viola, Sorenson poisoned the poor child with a piece of candy. The unfortunate Mrs. Cooper, still oblivious to what was happening, came back again in October to visit with yet another child. This time, Sorenson's poison didn't work.

Early in 1923, Sorenson killed her own daughter, Delia, on her first birthday. When Sorenson's friend brought her infant daughter for a visit only a week later, the tiny infant was also poisoned. After an attempt on Sorenson's second husband's life left him sick--but not dead--authorities began to think that there might be a connection between these series of deaths.

Finally, in 1925, Sorenson was arrested when she made an unsuccessful attempt at killing two children in the neighborhood with poisoned cookies. She confessed to the crimes, saying, "I like to attend funerals. I'm happy when someone is dying." Sentiments like this convinced doctors that Sorenson was schizophrenic, and she was committed to the state mental asylum.


Della Sorenson, Nebraska Serial Killer: “I had a feeling of elation and happiness” - 1925

Gave Poison To Children And Husband

Nebraska Mother Admits Long List of Crimes to Police Following Arrest - Killed Mother-In-Law Slayer Mentally Unbalanced and Will Be Sent to State Asylum

The Bismark Tribune

Apr. 20, 1925

St. Paul, Neb., April 20. – Mrs. Bella Sorensen, 28, who yesterday confessed the killing by poison of seven persons, including two of her own children and her husband, probably will never be tried on charge of murder.

County Attorney Dobrey announced last bight that an investigation had shown that Mrs. Sorensen was mentally unbalanced and that she would be placed in the State Insane Asylum. If she should be released from the institution "within two or three years" the attorney said, the murder charges could be revived.

The investigation into the series which led to Mrs. Sorensen's arrest Saturday and subsequently her confession, was started three weeks ago following the serious illness of two small children whom Mrs. Sorensen is alleged to have given some poisoned cookies.

In her signed confession yesterday, Mrs. Sorensen related how she had killed two of her own children, a baby, Delores, and her three-year old daughter, Minnie; the former because her "crying and fretting" irritated her, and the latter because she was ill with St. Vitus dance and "I could do nothing for her."

Her husband, Joseph Weldam, she said, she poisoned after a quarrel.

Mrs. E. Wilhelmina Weldam, Mrs. Sorensen's aged mother-in-law, died of poison given by the accused woman, according to her confession, in the summer of 1920, because "she was feeble and childish and a burden. I wanted to get her out of the way."

Two children of Mrs. Wetzel Cooper, Mrs. Sorensen’s sister-in-law were slain because, Mrs. Sorensen said, she had offended their aunt by “gossiping about her.” The first of these, a little girl, was killed in July, 1918. The second, a four months old baby, was put to death in August, 1922.

“Every time I gave poison to one of Mrs. Cooper’s children, I said to myself, “Now I’m going to get even with you (Mrs. Cooper) for what you have said about me,” the confession said.

On the 20th of February, 1923, came the last of the slayings attributed to Mrs. Sorenson. This was the death of Ruth, baby daughter of Mrs. Christina Brock, whom Mrs. Sorenson confessed she had poisoned “because I felt sorry for the poor child, because its mother did not care for it.

“After the death of my little daughter, Minnie,” the poison slayer said. “I had a feeling of elation and happiness. Then, after I got to thinking about what I had done, I was afraid and tried to hide it. I had the same feeling after the death of every one of those I poisoned.”


Woman Remorseless After Taking Eight Relatives’ Lives by Poison

The Sioux City Journal

Apr. 28, 1925

Omaha, Nebr., April 29. – “They bothered me, so I decided to kill them.”

This is the only explanation Mrs. Emmanuel [Della] Sorenson has offered authorities regarding the eight murders she admits committing.

Mrs. Sorenson, a dull, commonplace woman, is 25 years old. Her home is a bleak, frame dwelling in Danneborg, Nebr. in this house she killed all of her victims, using poison.

The persons she murdered were all her relatives, through blood or marriage, and three were her own children.

It is Nebraska’s most sensational murder case in many years. It closely parallels the case of Mrs. David Cunningham, who is being held in Chicago for the murder of her husband and five children.

Both used poison. The crimes of both were committed at intervals and escaped detection for a long time.

Mrs. Sorenson’s first victim was little Viola Cooper, daughter of her first husband’s sister. The baby died July 23, 1918.

Her first husband, John Weldman, was her next victim. He passed away of poison in 1920. John Weldman’s mother. Mrs. Wilhelmina Weldman, died a short time later from the same cause.

Mrs. Sorenson’s other victims, in the order of their deaths, were:

Minnie Weldman, 8, daughter. She died September 7, 1921.

Clifford Cooper, 4 months old, infant brother of Viola Cooper. August 20, 1922.

Ruth Brock, less than a year old, daughter of a relative. February 20, 1923.

Delores Sorenson, one year, daughter of her second marriage. February 19, 1924.

Another child, an unnamed infant, sometime in 1924.



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