Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another Google Alert makes my jaw drop - Part 4!!

To read the entire series you can return to Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

The Trial Heard Around the Country

Weekly Gazette Stockman (Reno, Nevada)

SAN FRANCSICO, Nov. 12, 1898 – The date of the trial of Mrs. Cordilia Botkin accused of the murder of Mrs. John P. Dunning, of Dover, Del., by means of a box of poisoned candy sent through the maile, has been set for December 5th. The indictment, charging her with crimes was read to her to-day and when asked to answer the charge she replied, “Not Guilty.”

Chief of Police Lees has prepared a strong case against the accused woman and confidently believes she will be convicted.

The Sandusky Star (Sandusky, Ohio)

Trial Proceeding Smoothly.

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 15, 1898 – The trial of Mrs. Cordelia Botkin is becoming more interesting to that part of the public which takes as interest in such proceedings. Never has a murder trial of such import progressed so rapidly in a San Francisco courtroom. Witnesses are subjected to but slight cross-examination as a rule and the attorneys on both sides rarely protest against the admission of evidence.

John Dunning, the man Cordelia was in love with had cheated on his wife and at times Cordelia with other women in San Francisco.  When called as a witness at the trial he was asked to reveal the names of the other women, when he refused he himself was sent to jail!
Proceedings in the Noted Dunning Poisoning Case.

SAN FRANCISCO Dec 20, 1898. – When the trial of Mrs. Botkin was resumed to-day, John P. Dunning, who had spent the night in jail for refusing to divulge the names of women with whom he had been intimate, was called to the stand. When asked if he was ready to furnish the desired information he replied that he would do so only when it was shown that some woman other than Mrs. Botkin was connected with the murder of his wife and her sister. Judge Cook remanded him to the custody of the Sheriff.


The Jury Returns a Verdict Of Murder in the First Degree.

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 31, 1898-Mrs. Cordelia Botkin was convicted last night of the murder of Mrs. John P. Dunning. At twenty minutes past 10 o’clock the jury, which had been out since 5 p.m., came into court with a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. Mrs. Botkin, however, escapes the gallows, for the jury decided to fix her punishment at imprisonment for life.

The verdict was a complete surprise. It was not for one moment thought that a conclusion would be reached so quickly.

Mrs. Botkin took her fate stoically. She betrayed no sign for many moments. But when the court-room had been cleared and the full realization of what had occurred struck home to her, she gave way, but soon recovered and was taken to jail.

The Marion Star (Marion, Ohio)

Dec 31, 1989 –
…The courtroom was cleared when just after Mrs. Botkin had announced to the deputy sheriff in a clear voice that she was ready to go with him to prison, occurred the only sensational incident of the evening. The condemned woman attempted to rise, when her highly strung nerves seemed to relax and suddenly she fell back into the arms of Mrs. Roberts. It was thought she had fainted but in a moment a glass of water revived her and she resumed her usual appearance, though the intense nervous strain was still apparent in the twitching of her facial muscles and the quick movement of her fingers drummed on the table. In a few minutes she apparently shook off all signs of excitement and quietly accompanied the deputy sheriff out of the courtroom.

Fort Wayne News (Fort Wayne, Indiana)

Dec 31, 1898


Accepts the Verdict of the Jury With the Utmost Composure.

When the detective read the warrants to Mrs. Botkin that woman displayed mild surprise, but did not seem at all shocked.  In fact, she had been looking forward to this very event.
“Well,” she said’ “the excitement has worn off at last and I am now prepared for anything.”

Mr. Botkin was present when his wife was placed under arrest, but he seemed confident of her innocence, and affectionate words were exchanged between them, the husband assisting the wife in packing up the things she would probably need after she had been placed in confinement.

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 31. – Mrs Botkin passed a bad night.  She sobbed continuously and was hysterical some of the time.  She still declares she is innocent,  she declares that the failure to convict in two recent murder trials in San Francisco influenced the jury, and she was made the scapegoat of public opinion. 

The Mountain Democrat, (Placerville, California),

Jan 14, 1899 – Welcome H. Botkin, husband of Mrs. Cordelia Botkin, who was convicted of murdering Mrs. J. P. Dunning, has closed his office in Stockton, where he was acting as manager of the Stockton Grain and Stock Exchange, and will go East to get away from the unpleasant notoriety.

Blurb in a society section of the GAZETTE

January 18th, 1899-Admirers of Mrs. Botkin are requested by the Memphis Appeal not to send her any candy. She doesn’t like it.

The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin)


Another Hearing in Noted Criminal Case at San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO, CAL., Feb. 28, 1903 – The district attorney’s office contemplated putting Mrs. Cordelia Botkin On trial for the second time next week for the alleged murder of Dover, Del., women but a further delay in the famous case appears inevitable. Preparations to bring the famous case to trial again have been in progress for many months, but the death of Chief of Police Lees, who was active in the first trial, and several other things have combined to necessitate the long delay. Meanwhile the Delaware parties interested in the case have been complaining of the numerous postponements and the legislatures of that state last week took official action upon the apparent inactivity of the California authorities in the matter.

Mrs. Botkin, who is spending her fourth year in jail, has lost none of her beauty in prison. She has comfortable quarters in jail and is said to be happy in the hope that her second trial will result in her acquittal. The arrest and trial of Mrs. Botkin four years ago attracted national attention owing to the many novel and interesting features of the case.
It's interesting to note that the above article talks about Cordelia's comfortable accomodations at the county jail.  It seems Cordelia was given a private room with her own bed and personal items.  She also exchanged sexual favors with the guards and was allowed to leave at her own will and go shopping in town!  This arrangement was discovered one day when the judge who found her guilty and sentenced her to live in prison saw her on a streetcar, out shopping!

Trial of the Botkin Murder Case Resumed This Morning

SAN FRANCISCO, March 21, 1904. – The second trial of Mrs. Cordelia L. Botkin, charged with the murder of Mrs. John J. Dunning at Dover, Delaware. In August, 1898 by means of poisoned candy, was resumed in Judge Cook’s department of the superior court at 10:15 this morning.

At the request of the defense all witnesses were excluded from the court room. Judge Cook also ordered from the court room all children and minors, of whom a number were present, accompanied by women. Judge Cook declared it was no place for children.


SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 21, 1907 - Mrs. Cordelia Botkin, convicted of the murder by poison of Mrs. Deane and Mrs. Dunning at Dover, Del., will have to wait tree months longer before getting an opportunity of having her case review by a higher court. Ever since her conviction she has been making an effort to have the sentence of life imprisonment set aside and the case to have been heard in the appellate court today, but by agreement of the attorneys the hearing was put over until the next calendar, which will be fully three months hence.

After the earthquake, Mrs. Botkin who had been kept in the county jail pending the decision of the appellate court, was taken to the state penitentiary at San Quentin because she feared for her personal safety and was obliged to dispense with some of the comforts she had enjoyed at the county prison.
After the San Francisco earthquake, the jail Cordelia had been staying in was damaged to the point of being dangerous.  Cordelia was moved to San Quentin where she would live out her natural life after being found guilty again upon the close of her second trial.

Part 5 will discuss the drastic changes that occur after Cordelia's moves to San Quentin.........


  1. Still enjoyable reading. This story has everything!

  2. After reading of her plush accommodations, I look forward to seeing what the "drastic changes" were!

  3. What a gold mine of articles, very interesting.

  4. The story and the woman amaze. Lurid's the best adjective that comes to mind. What a find!