Read the following case studies and answer the questions.
Date of Crime –1966-1967
Location – Cordele, Georgia
Victims – The Gibbs Family
In 1966, 35-year-old Janie Lou Gibbs was living a seemingly normal life in Cordele, Georgia with her husband, Charles. The couple had three sons together: Roger (19), Melvin (16), and Marvin (13). However, the family would soon suffer a series of tragedies. On January 21, shortly after eating a meal prepared by his wife, Charles Gibbs collapsed and died. After examination doctors blamed his death on an undiagnosed liver disease. Nine months later, Marvin died in a similar fashion with liver disease listed as the cause of death. A few months after that, Melvin Gibbs suddenly passed away of what was initially believed to be hepatitis.
Janie Lou Gibbs soon became a grandmother after Roger’s wife gave birth to their first child, Ronnie. However, less than a year later, both Roger and Ronnie would be dead. When he was only one month old, Ronnie passed away of an apparent heart condition. Roger’s kidneys stopped working three weeks later.
After four family deaths in less than two years, authorities finally became suspicious. The bodies of the Gibbs family were exhumed and studied by toxicologists. Full screening for poison (not commonly performed) were issued and the chemical study of the victim’s bodies revealed trace amounts of arsenic in the systems of each of the Gibb’s men. Increased amounts of arsenic were present on hair and nails samples from each man. Janie had been using rat poison to murder her entire family. As her husband and sons died she was then able to collect over $31,000 in life insurance payouts on each family member.
After her arrest, Janie was declared insane and sent to a state mental hospital until 1976. When she was found competent to stand trial, Janie received five life sentences for her crimes. She eventually suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was released on a medical reprieve to live in a nursing home until her death in 2010.
In 1975, Audrey Marie Hilley lived in Anniston, Alabama with Frank, her husband of 24 years, and their two children, Carol and Mike. Throughout much of 1975 Frank was often very ill. Finally one day after being checked into the hospital, he passed away. The official cause of death was infectious hepatitis.
Audrey Marie wound up collecting on a $31,000 life insurance policy. No one had any suspicions about Frank’s death so a thorough poison inspection was never requested. Suspicions did begin years later, when Audrey Marie decided to take out large insurance policies on her two children. In 1979, Carol Hilley started suffering from some of the same nauseous symptoms which befell her father. Marie kept giving Carol injections which were supposed to alleviate the nausea, but they only made her more ill.
When Carol was admitted into a hospital, one of the doctors began to suspect that she was being poisoned. Tests revealed that she had dangerously high levels of arsenic in her body. This prompted an exhumation of Frank Hilley. A thorough toxicology report of the exhumed revealed high levels of arsenic in his body as well. Samples of his hair and toenails showed over one hundred times the normal levels of arsenic in the human body. It became clear that Marie had been strategically murdering her family to collect on their life insurance policies. Containers of unlabeled rat poison were found in Audrey Marie’s purse and kitchen cupboard.
After she was arrested, Marie was released on bond and escaped to Florida. She started a new life under the name “Robbi Hannon” and married another man, but her life from this point onward became increasingly bizarre with strange alibis and stories to attempt to cover up her past and odd behaviors. Police finally captured Audrey Marie Hilley in 1982. She received a life sentence for the murder of her husband and an additional twenty years for the attempted murder of her daughter. She tried to escape from prison five years later and was found wandering in the woods, suffering from hypothermia. She died of heart failure soon afterwards.
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