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In the summer ofthe city of Dover, Delaware would be the site of a murder that would shock not only Delawareans, but also the rest of the country. It was the first time the U. S Postal service was used to commit murder. That is where the tale takes a strange turn. A turn that ends with two people dead, a city in shock, and a country entranced by the news and court proceedings that follow. Pennington, met and married John Dunning, a local newspaper reporter. The two settled in Dover and were living happily.
Dunning applied for and received a job offer that would take him, Elizabeth and their daughter to San Francisco, California. He began to drink heavily, he gambled away all of their money and he spent time with many different women. One such woman was Mrs. Cordelia Botkin. InDunning lost his prestigious job with the Associated Press. He was fired for embezzling money to pay his gambling debts.
InDunning was hired to cover the Spanish-American War. By this time, Botkin was separated from her husband, and she and Dunning were living together in a hotel. Dunning told Botkin he was leaving for good and that after his asment he planned on returning to his wife in Delaware. He kept the letters as they continued to arrive.
In August ofwhile sitting on the front porch of their Dover home, Mary Elizabeth received a package in the mail. It was addressed to her. Mary Elizabeth mistakenly thought it was from Mrs. Laura Corbaley, a friend she made while living in California.
Under the note was a box of chocolate candies. Mary Elizabeth and several other people on the porch that evening began eating the candy. They all became ill. Within several days both Mary Elizabeth and her sister Ida were dead. Grief stricken at losing his remaining daughters, their father, John Pennington thought something was suspicious. He sent a sample of the chocolates to a local lab.
It turned out the candies had been laced with arsenic. Murder trial Pennington hired a local detective, and the first person he wanted to speak with was Mr. John Dunning. Dunning, who was still reporting on the Spanish-American War, came back to Dover when he heard the news. Dunning was told of the circumstances and shown the letters Mary Elizabeth received over the years and the note accompanying the candy. Eventually a law was discovered they could use to try her. The family of Mary Elizabeth as well as other witnesses had to make the trek to San Francisco to provide testimony.
Handwriting experts were brought in, they compared the letters and the note that accompanied the candy. They were found to have both been written by Cordelia In Mrs. Cordelia Botkin was found guilty of murder. Again the trial was put on and the family again had to travel back to California to testify. Cordelia Botkin was found guilty a second time in and was sentenced to life in prison. She died in San Quentin prison in Her death certificate listed the cause of death as softening of the brain, due to melancholy. He died in Philadelphia intwo years before Cordelia.
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year old murder case still haunts Dover, Delaware