Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Belle Gunness

Violence Begets Violence

Katherine Ramsland

Belle Gunness
Belle Gunness

In a communication from Norway, Hans Jorgensen offered more information about Belle Gunness because he was aware of her background when she lived there. As a 17-year-old girl, he said, Belle became pregnant with a boy from a farm in Selbu, where she was employed. Her family was quite poor, and she was trying to earn money to purchase a ticket to go to the United States. The farm was a long way from her family.

Although this boy was a rich man's son and she was just a poor farmhand, they went to a local dance event, and then went for a walk on the beach. The boy was aware of Bell's condition, and not wishing to be forced into a future with her, he beat her badly, causing her to miscarry and lose the baby. No one knew how far along her pregnancy was at the time, which indicates that she was not showing. Since she had no family in the immediate area, she was forced to deal with her situation by herself. She was terribly frightened by her ordeal, and people who were acquainted with her indicated that, from that day on, her personality changed dramatically.

"In a small place like Selbu was and still is," Jorgerson said, "this was of course something people talked about, like a fire in the woods."

A month later, the boy died. People believed he'd had stomach cancer, but with the quality of medical care and the state of diagnostics at the time, in light of Belle's future acts, it might have been poison. In that case, this would have been her first murder, not that of her first husband, and the boy's brutal treatment of her might have influenced her violent streak. It's possible that after she experienced his rejection and his unfair behavior, she grew angry enough to set her mind on doing whatever she needed for herself, no matter what the cost to anyone else.

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