Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wicked Wednesday - Death by Oatmeal

I'm very interested in genealogy, so I occasionally spent time doing Google searches on various family members to see what I can turn up.  Sometimes I find something worthwhile, sometimes I find nothing.  Occasionally, I find something that has nothing to do with anyone actually related to myself or my husband, but that is worthwhile anyway.

Case in point: While looking for some of Hubs' relatives, I searched some old newspaper archives using the keyword Sanderson.  In the archives, I found some curious information about the case of Rudolphus Sanderson (no relation as far as I can tell) who passed away in his bed.

1898:  It seems Rudolphus had been an infirm older gentleman with a younger wife.  While he lay in his sick bed, she was fond of entertaining - usually men other than her husband.  But she always made sure she took care of old Rudolphus - right up until the day he died.

Afterwards, the coroner discovered something amiss.  It seems that perhaps old Rudolphus had gotten some help shuffling off his mortal coil.  In fact, it appeared that somehow he may have been ingesting ground glass.

And since his loving wife brought him his food...

From what I managed to glean out of old newspapers that often aren't transferred well, the ground glass was in the oatmeal she brought his for breakfast every morning. 

Since I can't get the PDF's of the newspapers to load as I write this post, I really can't tell you whether she was convicted or not.  I think I remember reading she got away with it.  But I can't be sure.  (I may be thinking of another old murder I found.)

Think about it, though.  She fixed his meals, she brought him his meals, she stood to profit by his death - both by inheriting everything he owned and by gaining the ability to carouse without hindrance.  And it's not like ground glass is hard to come by.  Hell, you can make your own.  Means, motive, opportunity.  She had it all.

And after he was dead, she really did have it all.

What do you think?

Update 11/26/14 6:52am:  I finally got the newspaper archives to work this morning.  I couldn't find the end of the trial - which ran into early 1899 - but it seems like there was conflicting testimony from two different medical examiners.  One said Rudolphus had ground glass in his stomach at the autopsy.  The other said he died of natural causes.  The defense seems to have tried to explain away the presence of glass by asserting the glass - if it was there at all - fell off the jar the stomach was placed in when it was removed from the deceased.    Additionally, they tried to shift blame for the man's death from the wife to the prosecution's primary witness - the maid.  I still don't know if she was convicted, but as of January 10th, it was looking like the defense might've inserted enough reasonable doubt to get her off.


  1. I'd like to think she got sent to prison, but if she was used to entertaining men, I bet she fluttered her eyelashes and simpered at the judge. Acted like a meek & feeble female who couldn't possibly have done something so heinous and she probably got off. Maybe I'm just jealous cos I don't have those wiles and even if I did, they wouldn't work for me - ah the perils of being a short dumpling.

    1. I think she might've had a good lawyer and an easily swayed jury, Fran, but I still don't know.

      Eh, we don't need any wiles. We're awesome just the way we are. ;o)

  2. Sometimes you can find the most interesting stuff while researching relatives. My research led me to a cemetery in Philadelphia, but I couldn't find the cemetery. The address is now the tennis courts of Temple University. When I checked the archives, I found out that those graves that were not claimed (of which my family members would have been included), were used as filler for the Betsy Ross Bridge. Yikes!

  3. Iffy perked right up at this. No, no, bad Muse! You're drunk!

    I love finding stuff like this story, though. What did we do before the internet and Google? :)

    1. No, Iffy! Tuck this away for another time.

      I know what we did - we sat in libraries for hours pouring over old microfiche on those damnable machines.