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Season 1 (Episode 9) Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh

"If the deed could have been recalled, I would have done it with all my heart."  

-Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh (January 24, 1846)

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Confession of Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh
Fulton County Jail, Jan. 22, 1846
In presence of Judge Weston, Sheriff Thompson, J. W. Cady, Esq.,
Rev. James Otterson and Rev. David Eyster.
In the name of Almighty God, whose law I have broken, and in whose presence I must shortly appear, I testify that the facts herein set forth, contain the truth and nothing but the truth.
I was born in Bennington, Vermont, in July 1799; my parents having died when I was about five years of age. I was removed to Cambridge N.Y., my education was very limited. Throughout my life I have never regarded the Sabbath nor religion. I was married in my 20th year, after which I removed to Pennsylvania and remained there six years in the midst of a very rude community, there being no place of worship within 14 miles.
By this marriage I had four children. I then returned to the State of New York, and have lived there for the last 18 years within 5 miles of Johnston. My husband died in Sept. 1833 from dyspepsia and exposure. There is no foundation for the report that I had in any way hastened his death, nor did such a thing ever enter my mind.
I was married to John Van Valkenburgh in March 1834. He was addicted to liquor; misused the children when under its influence, and at such times we frequently quarreled. My two eldest sons had offered to purchase a place for me at the West, and to provide for me and the younger children, two of whom were by the last marriage.
This was so strongly opposed by my husband, that I was tempted to administer arsenic to him, thinking if he were out of the way I could do as I pleased with myself and the children. To this act I was prompted by no living soul.
I consulted with no one on the subject, nor was any individual privy to it. Mr. Robb's house in which I lived in the fall of 1844 was infested with rats, and having left home to visit Mrs. Zeiley, I stopped at Mrs. Mitchell's and had got her boy to procure some arsenic for the purpose of destroying them; some of this I gave them. John had been in a frolic for several weeks, during which time he never came home sober, nor provided any thing for his family. During this frolic he left home and was gone 8 days. Four days after his return, which was in the early part of January last, I first determined to destroy his life, and mixed the remainder of the arsenic in a cup of tea, which he drank, and which caused him to vomit immediately. He was never well after this, but failed very fast. Doctor Burdick attended him during this sickness which continued a number of weeks, and when I saw that he was recovering, as he threatened to prevent me from going to the west with my children, I got some more arsenic in the early part of March, through the Mitchell family, one portion which I administered to him in decoction with brandy; that is, I poured boiling water on it in a teacup, and after it had settled, mixed the water without the sediment with brandy. This mode of preparing it was intended to prevent its swimming on the surface and being discovered. I gave this about midnight on Monday, 10th of March, the week previously to his death, which took place on Tuesday 16th.
My terror was so great at the effects produced upon him, --his vomiting producing repeated fits of fainting, --I being entirely alone with him, expecting him every moment to die, and that a discovery of the cause would at once be made, --that if the deed could have been recalled I would have done it with all my heart.
I remained in the house until the succeeding Sabbath night, when being informed by Mr. Osborn that I should be taken up the next morning, I fled to Mrs. Wakefield's near Kingsboro, whither I was pursued the next day and brought back. In the course of the night, I again ran away and concealed myself in Mr. McLaren's barn, where I was found after being severely hurt by a fall from the mow. The next day after my husband's death, I was committed to prison, where I now remain, having, after a fair and impartial trial, been fully convicted and sentenced to endure the extreme penalty of the law.
And now, in full view of the dread tribunal before which I must shortly appear, I feel satisfied that nothing more than the strict justice has been done by the Judges, counsel and jury, against none of whom do I harbor a hard thought, nor against any of the witnesses on the trial. To my counsel who have spared neither labor nor expense both before and since my conviction; to my friends who have been indefatigable in endeavoring to alleviate the horrors of my present situation; to the ministers of the Gospel who by their instruction and prayers, have endeavored to prepare me to meet my God; and more especially to the Sheriff and every member of his family, through whose unwearied kindness not a desire has remained ungratified, I return my most sincere thanks; and if I have any enemies I freely forgive them, as I hope through the mercy of God in Christ to be forgiven. Two prominent causes have led to the awful catastrophe above exhibited: disregard in my part of the authority and laws of God, and drunkenness on the part of my husband, and I would wish to bear my dying testimony to the evils resulting from RUM SELLING AND RUM DRINKING, and a disregard for the institutions of religion.
Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh


On reflecting during the past night on the confession made by me yesterday, I find some particulars which are untrue, and which I now desire to correct.
With respect to my first husband I should have stated that about a year before his death I mixed arsenic, which I purchased several months previously at Mr. Saddler's in Johnstown, with some rum which he had in a jug, of which he drunk once, and by which he was made very sick and vomited, but it did not prevent his going to work the next day and continuing to work afterwards, until the next June. His feet and the lower part of his legs became numb after drinking this, which continued until his death, and his digestion was also impaired.
I always had a very ungovernable temper, and was so provoked by his going to Mr. Terrill's bar where he had determined to go and I had threatened that if he did go he should never go to another bar, and as he did go notwithstanding this, I put in the arsenic as I have said.

Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh
M. Weston M. Thompson
J. W. Cady D. Eyster
J. Otterson
(Confession source: Murderpedia) 

(Picture source: Chez Pluie)

(Picture source: The Spruce Eats)

*National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (7233) 

*National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-4-A-Child (800-422-4453)

 A local crisis center or women's shelter. It may be able to provide emergency shelter as well as advice on legal and support services.

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Ways you can help someone else in a situation of abuse.
Whether they/you intend to notify authorities, leave a partner, or stay safer in the relationship, you can prepare. 
You might:

•Make sure they have contact information for a local or 24/7 helpline
•Help them practice an escape
•Do research on legal aid in their area
•Provide them with information on protection orders
•Take them shopping for essentials to pack in a getaway bag
•Encourage them to begin gathering evidence of the abuse, if they have not already

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