Idaho’s First Female Serial Killer: Lyda Southard “The Black Widow”

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Idaho- Lyda Southard, Idaho’s first female serial killer. She was accused of poisoning her spouses, a brother-in-law, and even her own daughter. Her motive? Getting insurance money. According to https://www.onlyinyourstate.com, “In the early 1900s, Lyda’s multiple marriages kept ending in the death of her husbands — along with the demise of her daughter, Lorraine, from her first marriage to Ed Dooley. The picture perfect family lived in Twin Falls before the deaths occurred; after the killings, Lyda remarried and moved to Montana. A few nuptials and funerals later, Lyda returned to Idaho and remarried in Pocatello.” 

She commited her crimes in 1915- 1920, during this time, she was known as many things. The two most popular were “The Black Widow” and “Flypaper Lyda.” She supposedly has 6 victims, all she killed by poisoning them with Arsenic. According to https://www.healthline.com, ““Arsenic poisoning, or arsenicosis, occurs after the ingestion or inhalation of high levels of arsenic. Arsenic is a type of carcinogen that’s gray, silver, or white in color. Arsenic is extremely poisonous to humans. What makes arsenic especially dangerous is that it doesn’t have a taste or odor, so you can be exposed to it without knowing it. While arsenic is naturally occurring, it also comes in inorganic (or “man-made”) formulas. These are used in agriculture, mining, and manufacturing. Arsenic poisoning tends to occur most often in areas of industrialization, whether you work or live there. Countries that have high levels of arsenic-containing groundwater include the United States, India, China, and Mexico.”

According to https://localwiki.org/boise/Lady_Bluebeard-Lyda_Southard, “Twin Falls chemist Earl Dooley, a relative of Lyda’s first husband, began to study the deaths surrounding her. Along with a physician and another chemist, he soon discovered that Ed and Bob Dooley were murdered by arsenic poisoning. Twin Falls County Prosecutor Frank Stephan began the investigation and began exhuming the bodies of three of Lyda’s husbands, Lyda’s 3-year-old daughter, and Lyda’s brother-in-law. Stephan discovered that some of the bodies contained traces of arsenic, while others were suspected of arsenic poisoning by how well the bodies were preserved, and found her motive in the records of the Idaho State Life Insurance company of Boise. All 4 of Lyda’s husbands had held a life insurance policy where they listed her as the beneficiary. Lyda Trueblood was able to collect over $7,000 (today, that would be about 180,52,) 7over the years from the deaths of her first three husbands.