Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Mass Murderers: Major Cases and Motives

A Woman Scorned

Map: Trail Creek Indiana
Map: Trail Creek Indiana

Four people died in the fire in 1986 that consumed the home of Roland and Betty Kirby in Trail Creek, Ind.  The victims were soon identified as the Kirbys and two people who were visiting them, Terry Ward and Eugene Johnson.  The fire turned out to have been the result of arson, which turned these deaths into murder, so investigators looked around for motive and someone to arrest.  The first step in the process was a victimology: Who among the deceased had an enemy?

It turned out that Eugene Johnson had a wife, Patricia, to whom he had been married for 22 years.  Terry Ward was his mistress, and Patricia had confronted him in a bar the night before about being with her. Several people had witnessed the altercation, so it wasn't difficult to believe that she was a viable suspect.

The police learned about another man, Roger Griffen, who was an associate of Patricia Kirby's and when they questioned him, he admitted that he had driven her to the Kirby home.  Patricia likewise confessed committing the murders by starting a fire.  Griffen and Johnson were both charged with four counts of first-degree murder.  Griffen tried to plead this down to assisting with a criminal, but the court disallowed it.

It was clear at her trial that Patricia had been angry enough at her husband and his girlfriend that she had wantonly taken the lives of four people.  In just over an hour, the jury found her guilty.  She received four sentences of forty years, to be served concurrently.  Griffen got ten years for being her accomplice.

Another homicide committed by females that involved five victims at once was among the most sensational in U.S. history.  They, along with one male, were apparently responding to the leadership of a demented, self-proclaimed prophet.

 

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