Idaho November 10, 2017
America’s First Female Serial Killer, Lyda Southard, Terrorized A Small Idaho Town
Idaho is the perfect place to live for many reasons, including the lack of violent crime in our communities. Here in Idaho, we aren’t accustomed to stories of gruesome murder because it just doesn’t happen here that often. However, that doesn’t mean Idaho is free of a violent past. In fact, most people aren’t aware that one of the nation’s first female serial killers originated here in Idaho. She terrorized a small Idaho town when she started a killing spree that lasted over a period of years. The story of Lyda Southard, also known as Lady Bluebeard, is full of twists and turns and you won’t believe it happened right here in Idaho.
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Lyda Southard is probably one of the most infamous women in Idaho history. Although her crimes happened nearly a century ago, the terrible legacy she left behind will never be forgotten.
By the time of her death in 1958, Lyda was responsible for the deaths of four of her husbands, a brother-in-law, and her own daughter. What makes Lyda's story so bone-chilling is the fact that her victims were so willing to trust her. She was considered a good citizen in her community. Growing up, she was even considered to be one of the prettiest and most popular girls in her school. On the outside, there's nothing that would suggest that Lyda was in fact a cold-blooded killer.
The town of Twin Falls, Idaho is known today for a variety of things, namely its close proximity to the epic Snake River Canyon.
The Perrine Bridge is a popular spot for photography, sightseeing, and BASE jumping. Not to mention, the mighty Shoshone Falls is located right outside of the town which attracts hundreds of tourists to the area all year long.
However, Twin Falls was also the main stage for Lyda Southard's terrible crimes.
It all began in 1912 when Lyda, at the age of 21, married a man named Robert C. Dooley and moved to a farm in Twin Falls. Together they lived with their infant daughter and Robert's brother, Ed Dooley. In 1915, Ed mysteriously died right after taking out a life insurance policy which would be payed to Robert and Lyda. Just a few short months later, Robert died as well. A few months after that her daughter, Lorraine (only two years old), also died. Lyda stated that her daughter's death was probably from drinking dirty well water. Lyda collected the life insurance money of each person in her family.
Two years after the death of her first husband, Lyda married a man named William McHaffie. At this point, Lyda convinced her new husband that they should move to Montana. William died in Hardin, Montana under similar mysterious circumstances. A year after that, Lyda married another man, Harlan Lewis, who died two months later. Lyda collected the insurance money on both husbands before leaving Montana and returning to Twin Falls.
In Twin Falls, Lyda got a job at a cafe where she met her next husband, Ed Meyer. No one suspected anything out of the ordinary. Lyda was actually a beloved member of the Twin Falls community, and everybody enjoyed her bright presence at the small cafe where she worked. Just shortly after the marriage, Ed fell extremely ill and never recovered. His death was the one that prompted suspicion among the community. Nobody could wrap their minds around how a strong and healthy man like Ed would suddenly get sick and die. The exhumation of his body was ordered for further inspection, which ultimately led to the discovery of arsenic in his body.
The sheriff assigned to the case, Virgil Ormsby, began tracing Lyda's past whereabouts and ordered the exhumation of the other three husbands' bodies. They all contained traces of arsenic poisoning. Law enforcement immediately began their search for Lyda, who fled Twin Falls when suspicions about her began to arise.
She was eventually caught and arrested in Honolulu, Hawaii where she had married
another man. Lyda's trial got national recognition, even gracing the cover of The New York Times. Lyda had now gained the moniker of Lady Bluebeard, and was sentenced to 10 years to life which was to be served at the Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise.
However, Lyda's story doesn't end here.
During her time spent in the Women's Ward at the penitentiary, she befriended a fellow prisoner named David Minton. When Minton was released from prison, he helped Lyda escape on May 4, 1931. The two made their way to Denver, Colorado before splitting up. In Denver, Lyda married another man, Harry Whitlock, and continued to live there until she was eventually recaptured by authorities one year later. Lyda remained in prison until she was paroled in 1941. Once out of prison, she married again (for the seventh time). He eventually disappeared years later, but his disappearance was never proven to be linked to Lyda.
Lyda died in 1958 of a heart attack in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Her body was transported back to Twin Falls where it remains today in Sunset Memorial Park. Nearby are the graves of her daughter, McHaffie (her second husband), Meyer (her fifth husband), and the man who assisted in finally stopping her, Virgil Ormsby.
Did you know the story behind this infamous Idaho serial killer? If you thought this story was fascinating, be sure to check out our article on
The Small Idaho Town That Was Victim To One Of The World’s Most Infamous Bank Robbers.