The Murder Factory

5/29/2009

In September of 1907, James and Amy Archer bought a house on Prospect Street in Windsor, Connecticut and opened the Archer Home for the Elderly. She claimed that she had received her training at New York's Belleview Hospital and passed herself off as a nurse. Her patients referred to her as "Sister Amy" and described her as a good Christian woman.

Three years after opening up the home, James Archer died at the age of 52. Amy used the proceeds from the life insurance policy she took out on him weeks earlier to continue running the home.

Amy met a wealthy widow named Michael Gilligan, who not only expressed an interest in her but also investing in her nursing home. They were married on November 25, 1913. Three months later Michael Gilligan died of what was determined to be by the coroner, natural causes. Fortunately for Amy Archer-Gilligan, not before he named her as sole beneficiary of his estate.

Sister Amy offered her patients a proposition that was too good to pass up and many jumped at the chance. They would pay a $1000 insurance premium up front which guaranteed them lifetime care, no matter how long they lived.

Between 1911 and 1916 there were 48 deaths at Archer Home. Far above the annual average for this type of facility, which was said to be around 8 to 10. In each case, Sister Amy would explain to the local medical examiner, Dr. Howard Frost King, that their deaths were due to old age. He signed off on each death certificate without question.

Franklin Andrews was one of the patient's who had agreed to the lifetime care contract. He moved into the Archer Home in September of 1912. He was in seemingly good health until the morning of May 30, 1914 when he woke up with a severe stomach ailment and by 11 pm he was dead. In his personal effects that were sent to his sister, Mrs Nellie Pierce, was a letter to Andrews from Sister Amy. In it she had requested a sizable loan from him in order to pay bills left by her late husband. Mrs. Pierce had discovered that shortly before his death, Andrews had withdrawn $500 from his bank and given the money to Sister Amy.

Her suspicions about the circumstances surrounding her brother's death would lead to a yearlong investigation by the authorities.

On May 2, 1916, Franklin Andrews body was exhumed in order to perform an autopsy. Tests of his organs revealed enough arsenic to kill at least three men. Amy Archer-Gilligan was arrested for the first-degree murder of Franklin Andrews on May 8,1916.

The findings of Andrews autopsy led to the exhumation of four more bodies; her second husband Michael Gilligan and three of her patients - Charles Smith, Alice Gowdy, and Maud Lynch. All but one of them had arsenic in their system. Mrs Lynch had been poisoned by strychnine.

Sister Amy went on trial for Andrews murder in June of 1917. She was found guilty and sentenced to hang. On April 30, 1918, Sister Amy was granted a new trial after her attorney successfully argued that the prosecution should not have been allowed to introduce in to evidence the poisoning deaths of other individuals besides Andrews.

During her second trial, Amy Archer-Gilligan agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder. She was sentenced to life to be served at Wethersfield Prison. She was later transferred to Connecticut Hospital for the insane where she died in 1962, at the age of 94.



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