Jolly Jane was a serial killer known for her terrible murder of patients. Here at Robert J. Debry, we have created this blog to help inform about and analyze the lives and crimes of killers like her.
- An Irish Immigrant youngest of four girls in her family.
- At the age of one, her mother died of tuberculosis
- In 1863 Their father, Kelly, took Delia and Jane to the Female alyssum Orphanage.
- The Toppans took her as a servant and changed her name from Honora to Jane.
- In 1887 she was accepted by the nursing school at Cambridge Hospital in Boston.
- Jane secured a post at Massachusetts General Hospital later in her life.
Where the nickname emerged:
Earned her nickname “Jolly Jane” for her friendly, outgoing personality toward doctors and patients.
By Jane’s count, she killed at least a dozen people during her time as a student nurse.
In 1895 Jane was in Wendell Street in Cambridge with an elderly couple called Israel and Lovey Dunham. She decided Israel was “feeble and fussy,” So she killed him. It was thought he suffered a heart attack, however.
One day Jane took her foster sister Elizabeth to the beach for a picnic and laced her sister’s water with strychnine sending her into a coma.
Oramel, Elizabeth’s husband, was told Elizabeth was seriously ill; ruled as an apoplectic stroke. Elizabeth died the following day.
Jane went to win over her foster sister’s Husband, Oramel Brigham. She killed Brigham’s housekeeper, 77-year-old Edna Bannister, to impress Oramel Brigham with her housekeeping skills. Brigham told her he didn’t want her there.
One of Jane’s friends Myra Connors, the matron of St John’s Theological School at Cambridge, had a job Jane desired. Soon Myra Connors died. ( ruled as a case of peritonitis that had gotten worse since Jane had arrived to nurse her.) Later, Jane took Myra’s Job.
The Davis’s Alden and Mattie had been renting to Jane since 1896. The Wife, Mattie Davis, decided to go to Boston and confront Jane in person to pay the due rent.
When Mattie arrived, Jane gave her a glass of water laced with morphine. Mattie went into a coma. Jane told the doctor that Mattie had eaten a piece of cake when she arrived and had diabetes; the cake had sent her into a coma.
After the death of his wife, Mattie Jane Toppan took care of Alden Davis. She killed him and two of his married daughters, Minnie Gibbs and Geraldine Gordon. Aldens’ passing was ruled as “grief,” and one of his daughters, Minnie, led as “exhaustion.”Then Jane murdered the last daughter Genevieve with arsenic.
WHY SHE DID IT
- She was getting a sexual thrill from climbing into bed with her suffering patients.
- She claimed she started her killing spree because a boyfriend dumped her when she was 16.
- Claims, “If I had been a married woman, I probably would not have killed all of those people,”
- She aspired “to have killed more people than any other man or woman who lived.”
- One of her killings, which was of her Foster sister Elizebeth, was done so she could marry Oramel Brigham, Elizabeth’s husband.
Minnie Gibbs’ father-in-law suspected the sudden deaths of an entire family were no coincidence. The father-in-law consulted a toxicologist on Minnie’s body. It was revealed that she died of morphine and atropine poisoning.
Police arrested Jane Toppan in Amherst on Oct. 29, 1901.
Jane was only arrested for the murder of Minnie Gibbs.
With this motive set out, the papers soon found more and more evidence of Jane’s involvement in other events.
Jolly Jane Toppan went to trial for murder in the summer of 1902. She confessed to her lawyer that she killed at least 70 people, though only 31 were proven.
She then was sent to an asylum for the rest of her days, ruled insane.
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