Sunday, March 13, 2011

Belle Gunness

It's said that women are not capable of committing crimes as vicious as ones that some men commit. Belle Gunness is a prime example of the kind of woman who could do this and is said to have killed over forty human beings. Belle was born in Norway in 1859 and made her way to America in 1881. Three years into her life in America she married Mads Sorensen and the couple opened a candy store together. This candy store later burned to the ground with rumors of arson as part of it's destruction. In 1900 Belle's husband died. The first doctor that examined his body claimed that he was poisoned. Sorensen's family insisted that it was Belle's fault and wanted her to be investigated. However, there was noaction taken and Belle happily accepted the $8,500 in insurance money. With this money Belle and her children moved to La Porte, Indiana where she purchased a farm. Belle also gave birth to two other children but they died from suspected poisoning (Ashford, 2009).

Soon after this move, part of Belle's property burned down and she was once again entitled to insurance money. In April of 1902 Belle married Peter Gunness. One week after her marriage with Peter, his infant daughter was poisoned and died. Peter, himself, was killed shortly after the two married. Belle claimed that a piece of machinery fell from a shelf and smashed in his skull. Belle was also suspected for this death, but was never proven guilty. She collected another $3000 from the death of her second husband (Ashford, 2009).

After a very brief mourning for Peter, Belle began searching for men through personal ads. The ones she met never stuck around, until Ray Lamphere. Ray became Belle's lover and when accusations continued to arise about the death of Belle's previous two husbands, he helped her fake her own death (Montaldo). On April 28, 1908 Belle's farm house was set fire and burned to the ground. Found inside were four bodies suspected to be Belle and her three children. However, as the investigation of the fire continued more and more suspicions were raised. One clue that set investigators off was the fact that a piano that was kept in the down stairs parlor was found on top of the four bodies. This would be impossible seeing as how the fire took place at four in the morning and the family would be asleep on the second floor. It was later discovered that the victims were killed and then placed in the basement before the fire took place ("The legend of," 2008).

Another clue that the fire victim was not Belle and her family was that the adult woman who's body was recovered was said to weigh around 160 pounds. However, Belle weighed over 280 pounds. Also found in the fire were various bones, teeth, and personal belongings such as men's watches that belonged to her victims (Ashford, 2009). Soon after the fire, Ray was arrested and brought in for questioning. A witness claimed that they saw Ray running away from the scene as the house burst out in flames. Ray tried playing dumb, acting shocked and asking if Belle and the kids were okay. Ray was then charged with four counts of murder and arson ("The legend of," 2008).

Ray was imprisoned and became very sick in jail. When he was near death he came clean about the whole thing. He told police about the body that was supposed to Belle's explaining that it was really the body of the maid that Belle dressed in her clothing. He told police that Belle was still alive and running and that she had planned everything to escape going to jail. Ray also told the police that Belle had killed about 42 people with either poison or by hitting them in the head with a cleaver. She would then cut up the bodies and bury them or feed them to her pigs. It was also estimated that Belle had gained over $250,000 in all her crime sprees (The legend of," 2008). Belle was never caught and never brought to justice for her crimes. Her date of death is marked as April 1908, the final day she was seen alive (Ashford, 2009).


Ashford, Jenny. (2009, May 10). Female serial killer belle gunness. Retrieved from heep://www.

Montaldo, Charles. (n.d.). Bell gunness. Retrieved from p/gunness.htm

The legend of bell gunness. (2008, June 11). Retrieved from

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