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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Belle Letters May Identify Corpse

Belle Gunness was a serial murderess responsible for at least ten, and perhaps as many as forty or fifty deaths. She made a practice of enticing bachelors to her Indiana farm with advertisements in matrimonial columns, and then offing them.

Now Andrea Simmons wants to find out whether Belle is the same woman whose burned, headless body was found in the cellar of her farmhouse following a 1908 fire, or whether she escaped, as many suspect.

Simmons got permission from 63-year-old Suzanne McKay, a great-granddaughter of Nellie Larson, Belle’s older sister who lived in Chicago, to exhume the body. Because of the number of generations that have elapsed and the fact that McKay and her sister are descended from Larson’s son, Simmons said the forensic anthropology team decided not to use their DNA. The best DNA comparisons come from an unbroken line of female ancestors.

However, Belle’s letters to Andrew Helgelien, which once helped entrap him, could now help determine whether his killer got away with the farmhouse deaths, too. Some of the envelopes that Belle sent to Helgelien and his brother will be used to provide hoped-for DNA from dried saliva under the stamps and places where the envelopes are sealed. [Link]
For those who like this sort of thing, gruesome crime-scene photos may be found here.

Lee

You, Sir, are a bad influence on me. I have spent the last 3 hours! reading about this woman, and attempting to confirm parts of the story. I have neglected everything I should be doing. This is worse than those challenges you present! I think I need help, seriously. LOL

Chris

There are far worse addictive habits than genealogy, Lee. Such as poisoning strange men and hacking up their bodies.

Lee

LOL...OK, you got me there. But isn't she a fascinating character?

Chris

She's probably the most fascinating Norwegian immigrant ever. The Swedish-American community, on the other hand, never produced a decent serial killer.

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