June 23, 1902
Jane Toppan is found not guilty by reason of insanity for the morphine overdose murders of 31 patients
Toppan tended to the Davis family who were afflicted with a bout of bad luck: Captain and Mrs. Davis and their 2 adult daughters all died within 6 weeks of each other under mysterious circumstances. So mysterious that the husband of the last victim demanded investigation into their deaths. Toppan attempted to suppress this demand, but the Massachusetts State Police were also suspicious of the deaths and continued with autopsies. By the time it was concluded the deaths were by poisoning, Toppan had already fled from Boston.
She was apprehended in New Hampshire but not before murdering her foster sister. She confessed to all the murders and gave details to more, bringing her confirmed victim count to 31. Toppan claimed another 70, stating she wished “to have killed more people — helpless people — than any other man or woman who ever lived,” but the details she provided weren’t enough to allow authorities to confidently attribute these murders to her.
Toppan’s history of suicide attempts as well as her father’s insanity (he had been committed to an asylum for attempting to stitch his eyelids shut) helped ensure a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. She spent the rest of her life in the Taunton Insane Hospital, dying there in 1938 at the age of 84.
(Article from The St. Paul Globe. July 6, 1902)