Connecticut · Female Killers

Woman who killed 3 husbands, 8 children dies in prison

May 16, 1878
Wethersfield, Connecticut
“Derby Poisoner” Lydia Sherman dies in prison

Sherman had been serving a life sentence at the time of her death, having been convicted of the murders of 3 husbands, 6 biological children (the youngest being 9 months old), and 2 step-children (the younger had recently had his second birthday).

She somehow successfully avoided suspicion with the deaths of the first 2 husbands men and 8 children, but upon the death of her third husband suspicion was aroused. His body was exhumed and during examination he was found with enough arsenic in his digestive tract to kill 3 men. With this new information, more of Sherman’s victims were similarly tested. Each were confirmed to have been murdered by arsenic poisoning.

Sentenced to life in prison in 1872, she was kept in an unlocked cell owing to her deteriorating health. Sherman cleverly managed to escape this unlocked and unguarded cell in 1877, taking around $30 (roughly $683 in 2018) she had made from working for other convicts.

Sherman rented a hotel room under an assumed name though she told the hotel landlady, whom she befriended, yet another name. Police were alerted and Sherman was questioned about an item in her possession bearing the name “Lydia.” She told police the item didn’t specifically say “Lydia Sherman,” though police never mentioned the surname. She was returned to her cell and even expressed her gratitude for returning, likely weary from the stresses of concealing her identity. Sherman died of cancer at the age of 54.

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