Lyda Southard

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Lyda Southard
Lyda Southard.jpg
Born (1892-10-16)October 16, 1892
Keytesville, Missouri
Died February 5, 1958(1958-02-05) (aged 65)
Salt Lake City, Utah
Cause of death
Myocardial infarction
Criminal penalty
10 years to life imprisonment
Motive Life insurance
Victims 6
Span of killings
Country  United States
State(s) Idaho, Montana
Date apprehended
May 1921

Lyda Southard (October 16, 1892 – February 5, 1958) was an American serial killer. She was suspected of killing her brother-in-law, four husbands and a daughter, but was only convicted of killing her fourth husband, Edward Meyer.


Lyda Anna Mae Trueblood was born October 16, 1892 in Keytesville, Missouri.[1] The Trueblood family moved to Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1906.

Lyda married Robert Dooley on March 17, 1912. The couple settled with his brother Ed Dooley on a ranch in Twin Falls and had a daughter, Lorraine, in 1914. Ed Dooley died in August 1915; the cause of death was ruled ptomaine poisoning. Robert Dooley subsequently fell ill and died of typhoid fever on October 12, 1915.

She married William G. McHaffle in June 1917. Shortly afterward, Lyda's three-year-old daughter fell ill and died, prompting the McHaffles to move to Montana.[2] A year later, McHaffle suddenly fell ill of what was thought to be the flu and died in Montana on October 1, 1918. The death certificate ruled the cause of death as influenza and diphtheria.

In March 1919, she married Harlen C. Lewis and settled in Billings, Montana. He fell ill and died of another "flu bug" in July 1919. Lyda married for a fourth time in Pocatello, Idaho, to Edward F. Meyer in August 1920. He mysteriously fell ill of typhoid and died on September 7, 1920.[3]

Twin Falls chemist Earl Dooley, a relative of Lyda's first husband, began to study the deaths surrounding her. Along with a physician and another chemist, he soon discovered that Ed and Bob Dooley were murdered by arsenic poisoning. Twin Falls County Prosecutor Frank Stephan began investigation and began exhuming the bodies of three of Lyda’s husbands, Lyda’s 3-year-old daughter, and Lyda’s brother-in-law. Stephan discovered that some of the bodies contained traces of arsenic, while others were suspected of arsenic poisoning by the how well the bodies were preserved, and found her motive in the records of the Idaho State Life Insurance company of Boise.[3] All 4 of Lyda's husbands had held a life insurance policy where they listed her as the beneficiary. Lyda Trueblood was able to collect over $7,000 over the years from the deaths of her first three husbands.[3]

She was found by law enforcement in Honolulu, married for the fifth time to Navy petty officer Paul Southard. Following extradition to Idaho, she was arraigned on June 11, 1921.[4] Following a six-week trial, she was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to ten years to life imprisonment in the Old Idaho State Penitentiary.[5]

She escaped from prison on May 4, 1931[6] and took up residence in Denver, Colorado as a housekeeper for Harry Whitlock, a man she married in March 1932 but who ultimately assisted in her arrest in Topeka, Kansas on July 31, 1932.[7] She returned to the penitentiary in August 1932. She was released on probation in October 1941,[1] and received a final pardon in 1942.

Marriage and children[edit]

She was married seven times:

  1. Robert Dooley (March 17, 1912 – October 12, 1915)
  2. William G. McHaffle (June 1917-October 1, 1918)
  3. Harlen C. Lewis (March 1919-July 1919)
  4. Edward F. Meyer (August 1920-September 7, 1920)
  5. Paul V. Southard (?, divorced)
  6. Harry Whitlock (March 1932-?, divorced)
  7. Hal Shaw (possibly divorced)

Lyda gave birth to a daughter, Lorraine Dooley, in 1914; she died in 1917.

Death and afterward[edit]

Southard, by then known as Anna Shaw, died of a heart attack on February 5, 1958 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her body was interred at Sunset Memorial Park in Twin Falls, Idaho.


  1. ^ a b "Flypaper Lyda". TIME. 1941-10-13. 
  2. ^ Ronayne, D. (2002). 'Married 'Em And Buried 'Em'. Idaho Statesman, The (Boise, ID), Tuesday, July 9, 2002, Life, 03. Retrieved November 3, 2008, from America: NewsBank database
  3. ^ a b c Cipriani, Frank (1939-01-29). "Mrs. Bluebeard-She Always Got Her Man". Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  4. ^ "MRS. SOUTHARD ARRAIGNED.; Reaches Idaho From Hawaii to Answer for Murdering Fourth Husband". New York Times. 1921-06-12. 
  5. ^ "MRS. SOUTHARD GETS LONG PRISON TERM; Idaho Court Sentences Her to From Ten Years to Life for Slaying Husband". New York Times. 1921-11-08. 
  6. ^ "PRISON ESCAPE CLEW PURSUED". Los Angeles Times. 1931-05-06. p. 2. 
  7. ^ "ESCAPED WOMAN SLAYER SEIZED". Los Angeles Times. 1932-05-31. p. 2. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson, William C. (William Charles Anderson) Lady Bluebeard:The True Story of Love and Marriage, Death and Flypaper (Fred Pruett Books, 1994) [1]