Cordelia Botkin – Kills lover’s wife and sister with chocolates.

Cordelia Botkin

Cordelia Botkin

Cordelia Botkin was the estranged wife of a prominent businessman in San Francisco in the last decade of the 19th century. She (41 years old) met John Dunning (31) when his bicycle broke down in the park. Botkin made very obvious sexual advances, and consequently Dunning (who was married to a former congressman’s daughter) entered into a torrid affair with her. He eventually left his wife and fell into a life of gambling, sex and alcoholism – all fuelled (and financed) by Botkin.

Cordelia Botkin in 1904.

Cordelia Botkin in 1904.

He eventually decided to end the affair and return to his wife, a fact of which he informed Botkin. Not wanting to be left alone, she sent a box of poisoned candy to Dunning’s wife made to look like a gift from a friend. Dunning’s wife and five friends and family members ate the chocolate. Four recovered but the wife and her sister died. The remaining chocolates were tested and found to be laced with arsenic. The trail of the candy eventually led back to Botkin, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. In a strange twist to the tale, the judge who sent her to jail saw her out shopping in town a few weeks later; an investigation uncovered the fact that Botkin was exchanging sexual favours in order to be allowed to leave jail whenever she wanted. She died in jail at the age of 56. Her cause of death was: “softening of the brain due to melancholy.”


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