Seven Deadly Women… and their methods.

There is a popular idea that poison is a woman’s preferred weapon. It’s an old idea that has probably come to popular thinking via Game of Thrones, there are however some statistics that support this idea.

It’s a few years old now, but data from the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (Supplemental Homicide Report 1999 – 2012) indicates that women are around six times more likely to use poison as a murder weapon than men.

Unsurprisingly, guns are by far the preferred killing method for both genders.

A little over a third of all murders committed by women use guns.


Dumped and Deadly

Shannon Griffin was a highly qualified physicist and NASA training specialist. Early retirement due to an injury saw her retiring at the relatively young age of fifty to a small farm in rural Missouri.

Her career Air Force husband Rosco was not quite ready for retirement and took a job in Kansas… four hundred kilometres away. Great strain was applied to a relationship that was already in some difficulty.

Following the sudden suicide of one of Rosco’s close friends and colleagues from the Air Force, Rosco seeks grief counselling from respected psychiatrist Irina Pescariu.

Shannon quickly became aware that Rosco’s attentions and affections were elsewhere. This drove her down a dark path and the four hundred kilometres to Kansas to confront her husband’s mistress, with a gun.


Sex as a Weapon is a classic song by Pat Benetar.

It would probably be a little misleading to suggest that Patricia Tito used sex as a weapon, she used it as a tool for financial gain. Prosecutor Laura Falco explains.

Patricia quickly became romantically involved with wealthy self-employed oil man Chris Shufflin and uses her preferred tool to extract as much money as possible from this seemingly inexhaustible well. Her plans don’t transpire quite how she would’ve wanted.

Chris, who has quite a few years on Tricia suffered a stroke and found himself out of work, leaving Tricia with, what they say in the oil business, a dry hole.

Now that the money has gone, the selfish and manipulative Tricia leaves Chris.

Chris soon recovered from his stroke, has moved on from Tricia and found love again with a woman a little closer to his age, Judie Winn, a secretary at an oil company.

Chris and Judie are very happy together which infuriates an increasingly desperate Tricia.

Investigative journalist M. William Phelps and Sergeant Rod Johnson of Shreveport Police explain.

A vengeful and scorned Patricia Tito feels that the only way to get things back as they used to be is to remove the other woman from the equation. Tito had left threatening, profanity filled messages on Judie Winn’s home phone and on Chris Shufflin’s mobile.  She stated very clearly in one message: “Let me tell you something, partner, when I get a hold of Judie Winn, ain’t nobody on God’s green earth … going to be able to make her f—— recognisable”.

Apart from her weapon, as described in the classic rock song, Patricia Tito also had a gun.


Manisha Patel is still in the news and this story is a little closer to home.

Manisha Patel and Niraj Dave went on dates to restaurants and movies, studied for the same course, bought a car together and shared a single bed.

The Sydney couple made life plans together. Sadly, some things don’t last.

After Manisha and Niraj lovers decided they were not suited for marriage, they had a drunken fling that resulted in pregnancy, and Manisha had an abortion in March 2012.

During what was a very distressing and emotionally charged time for Manisha, Niraj came straight out and told Manisha about a new woman in his life, Purvi Joshi, who was moving from India to Sydney to become his wife. Manisha appeared to be okay about just being friends and over the following months, Manisha helped Niraj find a new unit for the new couple and handed over the keys to the car they’d bought together.

Manisha stood by as Niraj became increasingly distant and eventually Niraj’s new love Purvi arrived from India and moved into the unit with him.

Court reporters Louise Hall and Stephanie Gardiner provide a little insight into how Manisha would’ve been feeling upon the arrival of Purvi.

Manisha Patel was found by a jury in July 2015 to have fatally stabbed Purvi Joshi, in a unit in Kyeemagh, in Sydney’s south, in the early hours of July 30, 2013.

She was sentenced in September 2015 to a maximum term of 24 years in jail, with a non-parole period of 18 years.

In 2017 the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal upheld Ms Patel’s appeal against the conviction and ordered a new trial.


Midlife Murder

Connie Sanders Ford of Granby Missouri became involved with John Jordan following the death of her husband. Connie had been finding life difficult since her husband’s death and found solace in the arms of her handyman, John. After a short and somewhat torrid affair, Jordan sought to end the tryst. This desire to end the relationship was not reciprocated by Connie. Investigative Journalist M. William Phelps and former FBI profiler Candice Delong provide us with an insight into Connie’s anger with John calling it off.

Connie Sanders Ford ultimately confronted John Jordan to express her discontent with him ending the relationship, with a gun.


Mary Elizabeth Cassidy… Knowles, Russell, Leonard, Wilson, is sometimes known as the Merry Widow of Windy Nook. All the gentlemen whose surname she briefly shared, died in what could be described as a pattern. She is arguably one of the United Kingdom’s most infamous serial killers and has the ignominy of being the last woman sentenced to death in Durham, in 1958.  The sentence however was not carried out as it was commuted to a life prison sentence.

Mary married her first husband John Knowles around in 1914. They settled at a house in Windy Nook, Gateshead, where they lived happily for forty years. In 1955, a boarder, John Russell moved in to Mary and John’s Windy Nook home. Soon after, Mr Knowles, who had been ill for some time, died. Mary waited about five months before marrying her lodger. Her second husband and former boarder, Mr Russell, passed away about a year later.

The attending physician declared that both men had died of natural causes and Mary inherited a very modest £42.

In June 1957, Mary married a retired estate agent Oliver Leonard. He died less than two weeks into their marriage, leaving her £50.

She soon married her fourth and final husband, Ernest Wilson.

Ernest’s estate included the relatively large amount of £100, a life insurance policy and a bungalow. Poor Mr Wilson was dead within a year. As the local undertaker was measuring up the late Ernest, Mary jokingly asked him for a trade discount for providing him with plenty of business.

The undertaker didn’t laugh, and Mary did not even bother to attend the funeral.

Mary had become the centre of local gossip, concerning both the frequency at which her spouses died and her unusually cheerful attitude towards this disturbing pattern. It was this morbid humour that ultimately brought her under the scrutiny of the law.

In keeping with the statistics, poison was Mary’s preference.


In 2011 Jeanne Herrington returned home to discover her husband, Michael Gabel’s body and a suicide note.

This is a complex and terrifying story of a man’s struggle with gambling, a woman’s fight with hoarding and some serious money issues. It should come as no surprise that a great many disputes between couples are borne from financial woe.

If it were put to music, the ballad of Jeanne and Michael  would not only be sad it would be surreal. Candice Delong talks about the last few minutes of Michael Gabel’s life.

This was complicated. Nothing was as it seemed and neither guns or poison were used.


Death Watch

A first impression of Martha Grinder would be reminiscent of a character from a Louisa May Alcott story. This is not a joyful period piece about a little woman.

Martha was born in 1815 and died in 1866 and was known rather colourfully as The Pittsburgh Borgia. Martha was supposed to have suffered terribly from one of the nineteenth century’s favourite and subsequently disproven mental illness, monomania. That is, an overwhelming fixation on some single thing or idea.

The press at the time became captivated by this woman and her crimes, a woman who, under the guise of helping her sick neighbours, without apparent motive, poisoned them. What also fascinated a hungry and sensationalist press was the absence of any object; love, greed, vengeance, anything. Monomaniacal Martha was just singly fixated on killing.

Mary was ultimately undone by an investigation into the death of her neighbour Mary Caroline Caruthers.

“Quite prostrated” by her impending demise, Martha was reported to have spent her last days in a powerful opiate haze. It is said however that she composed herself sufficiently for an unexpectedly calm walk to the scaffold.

Martha too, preferred poison.


We may never fully understand what drove these seven Deadly Women to commit the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins; especially in the case of Martha Grinder who hanged over a century and a half ago. Statistics are all very interesting, but each case and the circumstances surrounding them are even more fascinating – these are real and often troubled lives and real and tragic deaths. Whatever the method used, murder is always a crime of passion.


By: R. Whitaker