May 1, 1952
Earle Dennison poisons her 2-year-old niece to claim the insurance money on a policy she had taken out on the toddler
Dennison’s young niece, Shirley Weldon, was visiting when Dennison gave her an orange drink laced with arsenic. After the toddler became ill and vomited, Dennison gave her a bottle of Coca-Cola, also laced with arsenic. Shirley was taken to the hospital in Wetumpka, and her prognosis seemed grim. Dennison left the hospital upon hearing the news of Shirley’s unlikely recovery, and drove to her insurance agent to pay the premium on the little girl’s life as the policy was about to lapse. Shirley died within hours of the policy renewal.
Should Dennison’s plan have gone unnoticed, she would have made $6,500. For reference, the average price of a new car in 1952 was $1,700, and the average rent was $80 a month. However, the scheme was transparent and she became a suspect immediately. Dennison attempted to commit suicide by overdose but was saved long enough to stand trial, be found guilty, and be executed by electrocution in 1953. She has the distinction of being the first white woman executed in Alabama.
Newspaper article clipping: The Montgomery Advertiser, August 15, 1952