|Family|| Unnamed husband|
J.D. Etheridge (husband)
|Location||Bosque County, Texas|
|Appearance||Too Close for Comfort|
Ellen Etheridge (maiden name unknown) 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 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.
By 1912, Ellen was a 46 year old broke widow living with her parents. The family was poor and she didn't have a very good education. She didn't socialize, was described as dark, sullen, and kept to herself.
Ellen's sister Maddy got her a job as a housekeeper for J.D. Etheridge, who had nine children of his own. But the delivery of the ninth child resulted in death of Etheridge's wife the next day.
Shortly thereafter, J.D. Etheridge married Ellen. Not liking to share J.D. with the children, she thought the wealthy widower admired her for herself. Ellen warmed his lonely bed and tended house, but she began to feel neglected as her husband showered his affection on the children. Ellen became severely jealous. She planned to get rid of the children.
In July 1913, Ellen began using Lye, a ingredient in laundry detergent, feeding it to two of the children. The children suffered intense burning sensations, pain, vomiting and diarrhea. She said it was probably diphtheria, a common infection in those times. The two boys died but Ellen wasn't going to stop to eliminate the remaining seven children and have J.D. Etheridge to herself.
Four months later, she sent Oscar, 5, Richard, 9, and Pearl, 7, to collect the mail. Because it was a long walk to the mailbox, she anticipated they would return thirsty. She took this time to make cornbread and buttermilk contaminated with arsenic, a common household product.
All three children soon suffered from pain and nausea. Four hours after consuming the arsenic, Oscar and Richard died, because they drank all of the buttermilk while Pearl did not drink much. She survived.
While child death was common back then, four deaths in one family raised suspicious. The family doctor suspected Ellen was the culprit. Taking action to save the remaining five children, he called the sheriff. The police searched the home, finding a trunk under Ellen's bed that contained a packet of arsenic.
In custody, Etheridge admitted she killed the children. Surprisingly, J.D. supported his wife, believing she was innocent. Ellen was convicted on four counts of murder and served 18 years in prison.
It is suspected that she murdered J.D. Etheridge's wife to get her out of the way.