A string of mysterious deaths surrounds a
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
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
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
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
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,
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,
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.
SEX: F RACE: W TYPE: N
MO: "Black widow" poisoner of family members "to
DISPOSITION: Ruled insane and committed to asylum,