Another notorious incident in the state of Missouri that I considered including in my forthcoming book tentatively entitled Murder and Mayhem in Missouri
but decided not to include is the story of Bertha Gifford, a mass murderer at Catawissa, Missouri, in the early part of the 20th century. Catawissa is a small community in Franklin County a few miles south of I-44 near Pacific.
Bertha was a 53-year-old farmer's wife who was known in the Catawissa community for caring for and feeding the sick. She was also said to be a regular visitor at funerals. In August of 1928, it was discovered that she had been doing more than feeding and caring for some of her patients. She was arrested for having poisoned a boy and a man with arsenic by putting it in their food. She admitted to the deeds after being arrested and also admitted to killing a third victim, another child, by the same method. She said she did it to try and comfort them. Although indicted for the murders of only the man and the first child, she was, after further investigation, suspected of 18 or 19 murders in all, beginning in 1911.
Bertha was tried for murder at Union in the fall of 1928 and found not guilty by reason of insanity. She was committed to the mental instituion at Farmington and spent the rest of her life there, dying in 1951.