Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: 1932 - 1935
Method of murder: Poisoning / Drowning
Location: Colorado / California
A most unusual killer, Robert S. James was a Bluebeard who murdered two wives and his accident prone nephew in order to cash in on insurance policies. What makes James so unique are the methods he employed, including motor accidents, drowning, and rattlesnakes.
James’ first wife, Winona Wallace, died in 1932. After unsuccessfully trying to kill Winona in a staged auto wreck, James took her home and drowned her in the bathtub, blaming a concussion received in the accident. He then cashed in a large policy.
For his next murder, James again used an auto wreck, and this time it worked. After tampering with the brakes on his car, James loaned it to his nephew, Cornelius Wright, who was on leave from the navy. Wright managed to drive the car off a cliff, killing himself. Again, James profited from a life policy.
James third murder was his most exotic yet. After tying his new wife, 26-year-old Mary Busch, to the kitchen table, he forced her foot into a box containing deadly rattlesnakes. Mary was bitten but didn’t die. Impatient to get things done, James dragged her out into the garden and drowned her in a pond.
This time though, James had overstepped the mark. After investigators learned of the other suspicious deaths connected to him, he was arrested. Found guilty of murder at the subsequent trial, James was sentenced to death. He was hanged at San Quentin State Prison in California.