Women Who Kill Their Family Members by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.

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October 13, 54 AD — Roman emperor Claudius I died after being poisoned by his wife, Agrippina.
There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.

Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae

This is my ambition: to have killed more people, more helpless people, than any man or woman has ever killed.
Jane Toppan, convicted of poisoning nearly one hundred patients in a Connecticut nursing home shortly after Jack the Ripper killed five prostitutes in London.

Quoted from the introduction to Patricia Pearson's Woman as Predator chapter in her book When She Was Bad: How and Why Women Get Away With Murder.




Treatment of women by the justice system

Violent women

Violent female inmates and their victims

Women offenders

Sentence length

The twelve “female only” defenses

How individual women are given more power to kill than the entire U.S. Government

Do men kill women more than women kill men?




Consider the following story presented by Michael Fumento in his Battered Justice Syndrome article:

“Lynn Herndon Kent was asleep in bed four years ago when her husband Lamar put a pistol to the back of her head and blew her brains out. Shortly before, he had taken a life insurance policy out on her. Now, with her blood soaking into the pillow, he called a friend to have him hide the gun, then called the police and explained tearfully that Lynn had been killed in a robbery. They didn't buy it, Kent confessed, and a judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison and 15 on probation. But now Kent is free, because Florida Governor Lawton Chiles has granted him clemency.”

Are you outraged that such a thing could happen? Would you be less so were you to find out the names were switched, and that it was Lynn who did the killing and Lamar who did the dying? Yes, it was that which made the difference and why she was granted clemency.

The issue of domestic violence becomes bizarre when it is the woman who is accused. A seemingly invariable defense is that they were, in fact, the abused, and acted simply in self-defense. Consider the feminist mantras:

For women, violence is a necessary resource for self-protection.

In this country, women murder mainly as a means of survival.

The majority of women are in prison because men abuse them.

You're innocent. You're the victim.

Now compare these mantras with the facts. When it comes to the murder of intimates, as criminologist Coramae Richey Mann documented in her 1996 study of female killers, When Women Kill, murderesses are seldom helpless angels: 78% of the women in Mann's study had prior arrest records and 55% a history of violence. Only 59% claimed self-defense.

In When She Was Bad, on page 7 Patricia Pearson points out that:

“Women commit the majority of child homicides in the United States, a greater share of physical child abuse, an equal rate of sibling violence and assaults on the elderly, about a quarter of child sexual abuse, an overwhelming share of the killings of newborns, and a fair preponderance of spousal assaults...The sole explanation offered by criminologists for violence committed by a woman is that it is involuntary, the rare result of provocation or mental illness, as if half the population of the globe consisted of saintly stoics who never succumbed to fury, frustration, or greed. Though the evidence may contradict the statement, the consensus runs deep. Women from all walks of life, at all levels of power — corporate, political, of familial, women in combat and on police forces — have no part in violence.

It is one of the most abiding myths of our time.”

Treatment of women by the justice system


As for the perception that women who murder their husbands are treated harshly by the justice system, Dr. Mann found that few female domestic homicide offenders receive prison sentences, and that those who do rarely serve more than four or five years. Justice Department sources, report that women who kill their husbands were acquitted in 12.9% of the cases, while husbands who kill their wives were acquitted only 1.4% of the time. In addition, women convicted of killing their husbands receive an average sentence of only 6 years, while male spousal killers got 17 years.

If we are to solve the problem of uncontrolled violence against women or men, then the underlying causes must be isolated. For many years, a husband who found his wife en flagrante delicto could not be found guilty of murder for killing her. The current domestic violence laws are based to some extent on incidents in which the wife was flagrantly unfaithful, and killed as a result, so the law has reversed course.

Anyone who believes men are more violent than women should read The Gentler Sex with more than 150 pages of incredible acts of violence, rape, torture, murder, etc., all perpetrated by women. Or the horrifying examples of the murder and mayhem done by women documented in Patricia Pearson's two books, When She Was Bad.

While the The Gentler Sex examines news reports of women who kill and abuse from many other places in the United States and the world, the cases tabulated here are mainly drawn from Colorado. No doubt similar tabulations can be made for other states.

The good news is that in the United States homicides by intimates has been decreasing steadily along with all other crimes. According to Bureau of Justice statistics there has been a steady decline in homicide of intimates during the 1990's, especially male victims. Intimates are defined to include spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

    Table 88: Intimate homicides by gender of victim from 1976-2002in the United States




• The number of men murdered by intimates dropped by 71% in a linear fashion between 1976 and 2002 (Table 88).

• Note that in 1975 nearly as many men were killed by women as the reverse. Nowadays it is easier for her to call the police and have the cad thrown in jail. Saves a lot of hassle for the woman. So in that sense VAWA has been counted a success. However, the decline in men being killed by their female partners began long before the current domestic violence laws were passed and has continued steadily downward and there is absolutely no evidence that VAWA, or any other law, has affected this trend.

• The number of women killed by intimates has declined sharply in recent years after two decades of virtual stability. After 1993, the number declined reaching the lowest level recorded in 2001 and remained there in 2002.

The number of intimate victims killed has fallen regardless of weapon type, but the decline in the number killed with guns has been more pronounced than the decline in the number killed by other methods (Table 89). Clearly, gun control is not an answer to reducing intimate homicide further. Note also that the use of guns began decreasing years before the passage of the 1997 Federal law making it a felony to own or possess a firearm when under a restraining order.

And if homicides, and violence in general are decreasing, where is the need for ever more draconian laws and funding for ever more feminist programs? No wonder the feminist propaganda is at a fever pitch. Someone might notice they are superfluous.

    Table 89: Intimate homicide victims in the United States classified by sex and whether or not a gun was used as the murder weapon between 1976 and 2002.




The Bureau of Justice Statistics has also tracked intimate partner homicides by race and sex.

    Table 90: Homicides of intimates in the United States by gender and race of victim, 1976-2002.




Between 1976 and 2002 (Table 90):

• The number of white females killed by intimates rose in the mid-1980' s, then declined after 1993 reaching the lowest recorded in 2002, a 9% decline from the 1976 number.

• The number of intimate homicides for all other race and gender groups declined over the period; the number of black males killed by intimates dropped by 81%, white males by 56% and black females by 49%.

The data for intimate partner homicides are also available by race and relationship.

    Table 91: Intimate homicide rate in the United States by race, gender, and relationship, 1976-2002


Note: This chart refers to persons ages 20-44. The number of married or divorced persons is the population base used to calculate spouse and ex-spouse rates and the number of never married or widowed persons is the population base used to calculate boyfriend/girlfriend rates.



While homicides are tragedies in any case, whether intimate partners or not, the numbers for domestic violence are very small. Table 92 compares deaths from some common causes. In 2002 there were a total of 1,579 intimate partner homicides compared with an average of 36,000 Americans who die from the flu every year, or more than 20 times the number of intimate partner homicides. Or compare with the 14,000+ citizens who die from drunken driving every year. And citizens are obviously in much greater danger from medical caregivers than their intimate partners (Table 92). Thus, while we shouldn't ignore the problem of intimate partner homicides, it isn't the greatest danger our society, or most individuals face.

    Table 92: Comparison of death rates in the United States from some common causes

Cause of death

Number killed annually


Domestic violence homicides


Many male victims go unreported.

Drunk drivers



Common flu

36,000 average

Minimum of about 17,000 and may go much higher in some years.

Medical mistakes

195,000 average

An additional 1.5 million people suffer from adverse drug reactions, incorrect doses, and other medication errors.


Violent women


From a data set of 6,200 cases of spousal abuse in the Detroit area in 1978-79, McLeod (1984) found that men used weapons 25% of the time while female assailants used weapons 86% of the time. In such assaults, 74% of men sustained injury and, of the injured, 84% required medical care. He concludes that male victims are injured more often and more seriously than female victims.

While from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, Women in Prison, NCJ-145321, we find that:

• Murder is the most prevalent violent offense among female inmates.

• Violent women are more than twice as likely as violent men to commit the offense against someone close to them.

• Women in prison for homicide were almost twice as likely to have killed an intimate than men in prison for homicide.

• The average sentence for violent women is more than 3 years shorter than the sentence for men convicted of the same category of offense.

The number of women sentenced for a violent offense rose from 8,045 to 12,400 during the 5-year period 1986-1991. Murder, the most prevalent violent offense among female inmates in 1991, accounted for just over a third of the women sentenced for a violent offense.

Violent female inmates and their victims


• In 1991 nearly two-thirds of the women in prison for a violent offense had victimized a relative, intimate, or someone else they knew.

• Women serving a sentence for a violent offense were about twice as likely as their male counterparts to have committed their offense against someone close to them (36% versus 16%). Another third of the women, but more than half of the men, had victimized a stranger.

• Women in prison for homicide were almost twice as likely to have killed an intimate (husband, ex husband, or boyfriend) as a relative like a parent or sibling (32% versus 17%). Female inmates were more likely to have killed relatives or intimates (49%) than nonrelatives (30%) or strangers (21%) as shown in Table 93.

    Table 93: Relationship of women who kill to their victims for women in prison in the United States for their crime

Relationship of

victim to offender

Percent of females serving

a sentence for homicide









Known by sight only




Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice

Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin,

Women in Prison, NCJ-145321

Women offenders


In a December, 1999, report on women offenders , the Bureau of Justice Statistics has again examined the victim-offender relationship between male and female murderers in report NCJ-175688. Using data for all murders between 1976 and 1997, they found the victim-offender relationship differed substantially between female and male murderers. A breakdown is given in Table 94.

    Table 94: Relationship of victim to their murderer by sex of the offender.






28.3% (16,980)

6.8% (26,890)


1.5% (890)

0.5% (1,980)


10.5% (6,300)

2.2% (8,700)

Other family

6.7% (4,020)

6.9% (27,290)


14.0% (8,400)

3.9% (15,425)


31.9% (19,140)

54.6% (215,910)


7.2% (4,320)

25.1% (99,260)

Total number 1976-1997

13.2% (59,996)

86.8% (395,446)

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau

of Justice Statistics Special Report NCJ-175688 Table 7.

Note: Approximate number of victims in each category are shown in




Of 60,000 murders committed by women between 1976 and 1997, just over 60% were against an intimate partner or family member. Obviously, intimate violence is a primary objective when women kill, and killing their spouse leads the list in Table 94 with nearly 30% of all murders by women. Killing their boyfriend is their next priority. The number of children murdered by women is likely much higher than shown in Table 94 as infanticide is considerably under reported, and often undetected.

Among the 400,000 murders committed by men over the same period, only 20% were against family members or an intimate partner. Clearly, intimate violence isn't a primary motive when most men kill.

Ex-spouses are the safest group in Table 94. That would imply that it is safer to get out of an abusive relationship than stay in it despite claims to the contrary.

Among intimates, male spouses are at the highest risk from female murderers (Table 94).

For male killers, 80% of men's victims are strangers or acquaintances, Spouses and other family members are murdered in about equal numbers. Thus, the wife isn't usually the primary target, and men who kill aren't primarily killing intimates.

Sentence length


Overall, female prisoners had shorter maximum sentences than men. Half of the women had a maximum sentence of 60 months or less, while half of the men had a sentence of 120 months or less. Excluding sentences to life or death, women in prison had received sentences that, on average, were 48 months shorter than those of men (mean sentences of 105 and 153 months, respectively). An estimated 7% of the women and 9% of the men received sentences to life in prison or the death penalty.

    Table 95: Length of sentences for men and women

Maximum sentence length


Percent of inmates



Less than 36 months












180 or more






Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of

Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics

Bulletin, Women in Prison, NCJ-145321



For each category of offense, women received shorter average maximum sentences than men. For property offenses, female prisoners had a mean sentence 42 months shorter than men; for drug offenses, 18 months shorter; and for violent offenses, 39 months shorter.

George Wills cites cases where:

“In Canada, a woman was convicted only of second-degree murder after she stabbed to death her boyfriend following a quarrel. He had never abused her, but she is seeking a new trial because she says her history of being abused by other men means she should be able to cite the battered woman syndrome as a defense. In another Canadian case, the syndrome served not merely to establish a mitigating circumstance to reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter, but to produce the acquittal of a woman who shot her husband in the back of the head as he was leaving the room after threatening her. Such cases overturn the traditional rule that deadly force can only be justified by an imminent threat.”


The twelve “female only” defenses by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.

“Women Who Kill Too Much and the Courts That Free Them: The Twelve 'Female-Only' Defenses” excerpted from The Myth of Male Power by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.


(1) The innocent woman defense

Farrell starts with the innocent woman defense because it underlies all twelve defenses. At first he called this the “Female Credibility Principle” due to the tendency to see women as more credible than men because of being thought more innocent. However, even when women admitted making false allegations that they were raped or that their husbands abused them, for example, their admission that they lied was often not believed. Therefore, he found the belief in the innocent woman ran even deeper than the tendency to believe women.

(2) The PMS defense (“My body, no choice”)

In 1970, when Dr. Edgar Berman said women's hormones during menstruation and menopause could have a detrimental influence on women's decision making, feminists were outraged. He was soon served up as the quintessential example of medical male chauvinism. But by the 1980s, some feminists were saying that PMS was the reason a woman who deliberately killed a man should go free. In England, the PMS defense freed Christine English after confessed to killing her boyfriend by deliberately ramming him into a utility pole with her car; and after killing a co-worker, Sandie Smith was put on probation — with one condition: she must report monthly for injections of progesterone to control symptoms of PMS. By the 1990s, the PMS defense paved the way for other hormonal defenses.

Sheryl Lynn Massip could place her 6 month old son under a car, run over him repeatedly, and then, uncertain he was dead, do it again, then claim post partum depression and be given outpatient medical help. No feminist protested.

(3) The husband defense

The film “I Love You to Death” was based on a true story of a woman who tried to kill her husband when she discovered he had been unfaithful. She and her mom tried to poison him, then hired a mugger to beat him and shoot him through the head. A fluke led to their being caught and sent to jail. Miraculously, the husband survived.

The husband's first response? Soon after he recovered he informed authorities that he would not press charges.

His second response? He defended his wife's attempts to kill him. He felt so guilty being sexually unfaithful that he thanked his wife!

He then re-proposed to her. She verbally abused him, then accepted.

(4) The “ Battered Woman Syndrome” defense, AKA learned helplessness

Until 1982, anyone who called premeditated murder self-defense would have been laughed out of court. But in 1982, [Denver-based psychologist] Lenore Walker won the first legal victory for her women-only theory of learned helplessness, which suggests that a woman whose husband or boyfriend batters her becomes fearful for her life and helplessness to leave him so if she kills him, it is really self-defense — even if she has premeditated his murder. The woman is said to be a victim of the Battered Woman Syndrome. Is it possible a woman could kill, let's say, for insurance money? Lenore Walker says no: she claims, “Women don't kill men unless they've been pushed to a point of desperation.” Ironically feminists had often said, “There's never an excuse for violence against a woman.” Now they were saying, “But there's always an excuse for violence against a man... if a woman does it.” That sexism is now called the law in 15 states.

(5) “ The depressed mother” defense


Baby blues

Remember Sheryl Lynn Massip, a mother in her mid-twenties who murdered her 6-month old son by crushing its head under the wheel of the family car? Massip systematically covered up the murder until she was discovered. Then she testified that she suffered from post-partum depression, or “baby blues.”

Her sentence? Treatment.

Mothers do get the baby blues. As do dads. Were the husband to kill his baby, as Sheryl Lynn did, it is unlikely that we would just treat him for baby blues or Save the Marriage Syndrome. Why does her version of baby blues allow her to receive treatment for child murder, when he would receive life in prison for child murder, with or without baby blues?


The terrible twos

Josephine Mesa beat her 2-year-old son to death with the wooden handle of a toilet plunger. She buried the battered child in a trash bin. When scavengers found the boy outside her Oceanside, California apartment, she denied she knew him. When the evidence became overwhelming, she confessed.

The excuse? She was depressed. The child was going through the terrible twos.

The punishment? Counselling, probation and anti-depressants. She never spent a day behind bars.

(6) The “Mothers don't kill” defense

ITEM: Illinois. Paula Sims reported that her first daughter, Loralei, was abducted by a masked gunman. In fact she murdered Loralei. But she got away with it. So when her next daughter, Heather Lee, disappointed her, she suffocated her, threw her in the trash barrel, and said another masked gunman had abducted her daughter. It wasn't until the second “masked gunman” abduction that a serious search was conducted. Only the serious search led to evidence. Might Heather Lee be alive today if mothers did not have a special immunity from serious investigation?

Or see the case of Marybeth Tinning in Patricia Pearson's book When She Was Bad: How and Why Women Get Away with Murder. Marybeth killed nine (9) of her own children and wasn't caught until the ninth one died.

(7) The “Children need their mother” defense

ITEM: Colorado. Lory Foster's husband had returned from Vietnam and was going through mood-swings both from post traumatic stress syndrome and diabetes. They had gotten into a fight and he had abused her. So she killed him.

Even the prosecutor did not ask for a jail term. Why not? So Lory could care for the children. Lory was given counselling and vocational training at state expense.

The most frequent justification for freeing mothers who kill their children is that their children need them. Moreover, if mothers were freed because “children are the first priority,” then fathers would be freed just as often. But they are not. Even when no mother is available.

(8) The “Blame the father, understand the mother” defense

ITEM: Ramiro Rodriguez was driving back from the supermarket. His daughter was sitting on his wife's lap. As Ramiro made a left turn, a van crashed into the car and his daughter was killed. Ramiro was charged with homicide. The reason? His daughter was not placed in a safety seat. Ramiro explained that his daughter was sick and wanted to be held so his wife decided to hold her. Yet only Ramiro was charged. The mother was charged with nothing. Ramiro was eventually acquitted after protests over the racism. No one saw the sexism.

(9) The “My child, my right to abuse it” defense

A million crack-addicted children since 1987, but only sixty of the mothers have faced criminal charges. One was convicted. That conviction was reversed by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Three percent of infants in Washington D.C. die from cocaine addiction, but no mothers go to prison. The right to choose means the right to kill — not a fetus but a child.

Should the mother who addicts her child to crack have any more rights than any other child abuser or drug dealer?

How can we give a normal drug dealer a life sentence but claim that a mother that deals drugs to her own child should not so much as stand trial?

If we feel compassion for the circumstances that drove her to drugs, where is our compassion for the circumstances that drove the drug dealer to drugs, the child abuser to abuse, the murderer...?

(10) The plea bargain defense

Once a woman is seen as more innocent, her testimony is more valued, which leads to prosecutors offering the woman a plea bargain in crimes committed jointly by a woman and a man.

And if a District Attorney is up for reelection, the Chivalry Factor allows him to look like a hero when his office prosecutes a man, or portray him as a bully if he should put a woman behind bars.

(11) The Svengali defense

A beautiful woman dubbed “The Miss America Bandit” conducted an armed robbery of a bank. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a minimum of four and a half to five years in federal prison. The federal judge gave her two years because she told the judge that she was in love with her hairdresser and he had wanted her to rob the bank.

The judge concluded, “Men have always exercised malevolent influence over women, and women seem to be soft-touches for it, particularly if sex is involved... It seems to me the Svengali-Trilby relationship is the motivating force behind this lady...the main thing is sex.” [Svengali is a fictional character said to have hypnotic qualities of persuasion over the innocent Trilby.]

(12) The contract killing defense: Defend self by hiring someone else

When Farrell did the first review of his files in preparation for a section on contract killing, he was struck by some fascinating patterns.

• First, all of these women hired boys or men.

• Second, their targets were usually husbands, ex-husbands, or fathers — men they had once loved.

• Third, the targeted man usually had an insurance policy significantly larger than the man's next few years income.

• Fourth, the women often were never serious suspects until some coincidence exposed their plot.

• Fifth, the women usually chose one of three methods by which to kill: she (1) persuaded her boyfriend to do the killing (in reverse Svengali style); (2) hired some young boys from a disadvantaged background to do it for a small amount of money; or (3) hired a professional killer, thus usually using money her husband earned to kill him.

An example, Dixie Dyson tucked in her husband for his last night's sleep. She had arranged to have a lifelong friend and a boyfriend pretend to “break and enter,” then rape her, kill her husband, then “escape.” She would collect the insurance money. At the last moment, the lifelong friend backed out, but the boyfriend and Dixie managed to kill Dixie's husband after 27 stabbings. They were caught. Dixie “cut a deal” to reduce her sentence by reporting the boyfriend and his friend. The friend who backed out got 25 years for conspiracy.

Deborah Ann Werner was due one third of her dad's estate. She asked her daughter to find some boys to murder him by plunging a knife through his neck.

Diana Bogadanoff hired two young men to kill her husband on an isolated nudist beach, while she watched. After he was shot through the head, she reported the killers but produced no motive for the murder — no money was stolen and she was not sexually molested. Diana did not become a suspect until an anonymous caller contacted a nationwide crime hotline. The caller coincidentally heard about the murder on the radio and remembered a friend describing just such a murder he had refused to do...on an isolated nudist beach while a woman named Diana watched. Without this tip, Diana would never even have become a suspect.

How individual women are given more power to kill than the entire U.S. Government


Taken together, the twelve female-only defenses allow almost any woman to take it upon herself to “exercise the death penalty.” The government is not allowed to take it upon itself to kill someone first and declare him or her an abuser later — only a woman can do that to a man.

Do men kill women more than women kill men?


The six blinders

1. A woman is more likely to poison a man than shoot him, and poisoning is often recorded as a heart attack or accident. [This will skew the figures]

2. Contract killing is also less detectable because it is premeditated and often hired out to a professional. When it is discovered the Department of Justice registers it as a “multiple offender killing” — it never gets recorded as a woman killing a man. [This will skew the figures]

3. The money factor. Women who murder husbands or boyfriends usually come from middle class backgrounds The money allows the best lawyers, more acquittals, therefore fewer female murderers to become Justice Department Statistics.

4. The Chivalry Factor,

5. and the Innocent Woman Factor prevent many women from becoming serious suspects to begin with.

6. The Plea Bargain Defense sometimes leads to the dismissal of charges.

When the six blinders are combined, we can see how we have consciously and unconsciously kept ourselves blind to women who murder men. A distortion of statistics is created by the Six Blinders. But a distortion of perception is created by the media's tendency to make it international news when men murder women (the University of Montreal Murderer, the Hillside and Boston stranglers) and, unless the man is famous, to make it local news when a woman murders only a man.

In brief, it is impossible to know the degree to which the sexes kill each other. The only thing we know for certain is that both sexes kill more men than they kill women.

Warren Farrell, Ph.D.



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Last modified 9/13/18