Lyda Southard was known as Flypaper Lyda, Lady Bluebeard, and the black widow. She married several men and they all kept mysteriously dying. It was eventually discovered that some of the bodies contained traces of arsenic poisoning and Lyda was the beneficiary on all of the life insurance policies. She was eventually convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to ten years, but she got a guard to help her escape. Luckily, her next husband realized who she was before she murdered him. He was able to set up a plan with the police, so they could catch her again.
Lyda (LIda) Southard was born as Lyda Anna Mae Trueblood on October 16th, 1892 in Keytesville, (Keetsville) Missouri. She was a good citizen in her community and when she was growing up, she was known as one of the prettiest and most popular girls in her school. She is known as Flypaper Lyda, Lady Bluebeard, and the black widow. She is also one of the first known female serial killers.
On March 17th, 1912, Lyda married Robert Dooley and they lived with Robert's brother, Ed Dooley. Ed had a ranch in Twin Falls, Idaho. In August 1915, Ed died and the cause of death was ruled ptomaine (TOmaine) poisoning, which is food poisoning. Lyda says he ate salmon from a can that had been open for quite some time This happened shortly after he took out a life insurance policy and the beneficiaries were Robert and Lyda. Next, Robert got Typhoid fever and died in October, 1915. A few months later, Lyda's daughter, Lorraine, died at the age of two from drinking dirty well water. Lyda was the only person left and she collected life insurance policies on each person shortly after their death. I will say, there is some dispute regarding the death of Lyda's daughter. She either died first, before Ed, died after Ed and Robert, or died after Lyda married her next husband. I chose to go with the one that was cited most.
Two years later, Lyda met William G. McHaffle and they got married. The couple ended up heading to Montana to start over. A year later, William McHaffle got influenza and died in October, 1918. Lyda didn't waste much time and ended up marrying Harlen C. Lewis in March, 1919. Harlen was a car salesman and he ended up getting sick within 4 months of their marriage and he died from gastrointestinal issues.
Lyda went back to Twin Falls and got a job at a cafe. Everyone in the community loved her and said she had a bright presence. We all know that Lyda doesn't like to be alone, so she married Edward F. Meyer and he was a rancher in Idaho. I know this sounds strange, but he mysteriously fell ill of typhoid on September 7th, 1920.
There was one person that believed the deaths surrounding Lyda were quite suspicious. A chemist, Earl Dooley, was a relative of Lyda's first husband. He teamed up with a physician and another chemist and they discovered that Ed and Bob Dooley were murdered by arsenic poisoning. Twin Falls County Prosecutor Frank Stephan began an investigation and started exhuming the bodies of Lyda's husbands, daughter, and brother-in-law. Some of the bodies contained traces of arsenic and other bodies were suspected of arsenic poisoning because the bodies were preserved so well. It didn't take long to figure out what the motive would be after they found out that Lyda was the beneficiary on all of the life insurance policies.
Police found Lyda in Honolulu and she was married to Paul Southard and she was extradited back to Idaho. The trial took six weeks and Lyda was convicted of second-degree murder and was sentenced to ten years in prison in the Old Idaho State Penitentiary. Lyda must have been pretty good at sweet talking because a guard became infatuated with her and helped her escape, except, Jack died before the big escape happened. She ended up escaping on May 4th, 1931. That night, Lyda cut the bars on her cell window with a saw that Jack had given her. He had also set up a ladder made of plumbing pipes and he made a rope of torn blankets. Once Lyda got over the prison wall, a getaway car was waiting for her. An ex-con, David Minton who was released from prison 3 weeks prior, was there to pick her up. It was later discovered that David visited Lyda in the prison two nights before the escape and the two had exchanged love letters for several weeks.
Police searched for the couple and found that Lyda used David for the escape and she ended up leaving him once they got to Colorado. David was pretty pissed about being used and he sang like a little bird. He was of course, arrested for helping Lyda escape.
Next, Lyda became a housekeeper for Harry Whitlock in Denver, Colorado. The two got married in March 1932 and he ended up assisting in her arrest in July of this year. Harry ended up figuring out Lyda's true identity and he worked with the police to cook up a plan. He had Lyda go to the post office in Teopeka, Kansas and police were there waiting for her. At this time, she was going by the name Fern Zellars Rains and had dyed her hair black and replaced her two front teeth with gold ones. By this time, she had been free for 15 months. After Harry turned Lyda in, he had the marriage annulled and applied for the $500 reward that was offered for her arrest. He did say that she was a model wife, but remembered that she suggested he take out a life insurance policy, but he hadn't gotten around to it yet.
Lyda, was of course returned back to prison and she was doing great at getting people to do things for her. She was allowed to leave prison grounds to visit her sick mother and she was left unguarded for hours at a time. They figured, she already escaped, it's out of her system, she won't do it again. Lyda was able to go to a nearby resort, and to the theater. The warden, George Rudd, admitted that he allowed Lyda certain liberties and he eventually resigned from his position.
On October 2nd, 1941, Lyda was released on a six month probation and a year and half later, she received full pardon. She moved to Oregon to live with her sister for a few years and she eventually went back to Twin Falls and married Hal Shaw. If you're keeping count, this is husband number seven and he disappeared without a trace two years later.
On February 5th, 1958, when Lyda was 65 years old, she was going by the name Anna E. Shaw and ended up dying of a heart attack while carrying groceries. She was buried at Sunset Memorial Park in Twin Falls, Idaho.