Author S. Kay Murphy will return to the Tri-County Senior Center Monday, Sept. 25, to meet and greet locals and talk about her book, “Tainted Legacy,” about her infamous great-grandmother, Bertha Gifford.
The Pacific Scenic Regional Library will host the 6 p.m. event.
On her website Murphy said she had missed her friends, cousins and readers, and was looking forward to the visit.
Bertha Gifford was said to have murdered her mother-in-law, brother-in-law and an estimated 18 other people as she presented herself as a caregiver of the ill.
In the end, it was the murder of her husband’s friend and two young sick boys left in her care while their father worked that brought charges against her.
Gifford lived in the two-story white frame house one mile south of the Bend Bridge in rural Pacific at the time her last victims died. She purchased the arsenic in Pacific.
Gifford was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in an asylum for the criminally insane. Her 1928 trial in Union drew an estimated 1,000 spectators.
Newspapers across the country dubbed her the first U.S. female serial killer.
Gifford always proclaimed her innocence, saying she administered the arsenic because of its healing qualities and, in fact, often took it herself.
“The forensic term ‘serial killer’ had yet to be added to our lexicon in 1928,” Murphy said. “If it had, that term might have been heard at my great-grandmother’s second grand jury hearing.
“When I discovered that I had an ancestor who had spent the last years of her life in an institution for the criminally insane, I was compelled to determine why, for several reasons,” she added. “First, because I love a good mystery, and her guilt had never been fully established.
“Second, because of an admitted romantic notion that I just might clear her name, if that were warranted,” she said. “And last, because I needed to know more about my history so that I could understand more about myself.”
Murphy also will speak about her book Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Sullivan Scenic Regional Library, 104 W. Vine St.