Tales from the Morgue: A mother's desperate fight for life

2012-09-28T12:15:00Z Tales from the Morgue: A mother's desperate fight for lifeJohanna Eubank, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 28, 2012 12:15 pm  • 

Tales from the Morgue present a story that reminds us of the perils of living in a rural area in a time when travel was slower, phones were not in every home and neighbors were too far away to hear a call for help.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Thursday, May 6, 1926:

 

 

MOTHER BITTEN BY SNAKE KILLS SELF, 2 BABIES
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GRIM STORY OF TRIPLE DEATH ON DESERT TOLD IN WOMAN'S DYING NOTE
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Husband Finds Bodies and Letter Telling Why Wife shot Children After Agony Decided Her to Kill Self
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NEAREST NEIGHBOR SEVEN MILES AWAY
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'Bury Children and Me in Same Casket' Last Plea; Accident Happened Sunday Night, Murders and Suicide Tuesday
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CASA GRANDE, Ariz., May 5 (Special to Arizona Daily Star)— After suffering 48 hours of intense agony from a rattlesnake bite and knowing she was going to die, Mrs. Celia Peterson Cox, 23 years old, shot and killed her two children, Dorothy Elizabeth, three years old, and Doris Abbie, four months old, and then killed herself at their ranch home 23 miles southeast of Casa Grande, probably last night.

A four page blood-stained letter found beside Mrs. Cox's body by her husband, Evans J. Cox, on his return home today, told in detail all of the struggle the woman made to save her life and those of her children. She heard a noise in the chicken yard Sunday night and went to investigate. She was bitten by a rattlesnake on the right ankle, she wrote, and then returned to the house where she tied a tourniquet above the wound and did the best she could to cauterize it. The pain grew more intense, she wrote, and realizing her condition was serious she emptied the chambers of a double barreled shotgun in the hope i would be heard by someone passing. The nearest neighbor lived seven miles away.

When this failed to bring a response she fired a Winchester rifle and this also failed to bring any relief. Then, realizing that there was almost no chance for her to summon aid and rather than leave the babies alone on the desert, perhaps also to be bitten by snakes, she decided to kill them and herself.

Dorothy Elizabeth was the first to go. The mother, using a .22 calibre rifle, shot her twice in the breast, then placed a single shot in the breast of her baby and finally fired a shot directly into her own heart.

"Bury the babies and me all together in the same casket" she wrote. By the time she had concluded her letter, she was growing weak and it showed in her handwriting.

Immediately after the discovery of the bodies, her husband went to Casa Grande for help and the Reilly Undertaking company of Tucson and Coroner McMurphy of Casa Grande were notified. The coroner impanelled a jury which decided that the case was a plain one of murder and suicide. The undertaker prepared the bodies and shipped them to Phoenix were they will be buried today.

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HAD CUT ARTERY IN FIGHT FOR LIFE

CASA GRANDE, Ariz., May 5 (By Associated Press).— A grim tale of a triple death, written on four bloodstained pages, was uncovered here today with the finding of the bodies of Mrs. E. J. Cox and those of her two children, aged four months and three years. The woman had killed the babies to keep them from dying on the desert after she had decided to kill herself because she could no longer stand the suffering induced by a rattlesnake bite.

The husband of the woman found the bodies today at noon when he returned to his homestead 23 miles southeast of here near the Green reservoir. Mrs. Cox had shot her children through the heart. A four page note addressed to Cox bore the explanation. Parts of the note were written Sunday night, Monday and Monday night. Toward the last Mrs. Cox became so weak that her writing was almost illegible.

Mrs. Cox was bitten on the foot by a rattlesnake when she went into her backyard Sunday night, the note disclosed. She tried vainly to stop the pain with home remedies, and finally slit the wound with a knife to cleanse it of poison. Physicians who examined the body stated that in her effort to alleviate the pain she had cut an artery.

The scribbled message to her husband said that the wound was bleeding profusely and that she was becoming very weak. Desperately she tried to start their automobile and go to the nearest neighbor, seven miles away, but she was to weak to crank the motor. The discharge of a rifle and shotgun into the air failed to attract attention of neighbors so, despairing of saving her life, the woman fired a rifle shot into the hearts of her children and then took her own life. She believed, the note ran, that they would die for want of food on the desert. Mr. Cox was at work on a ranch near here and was not due home for several days.

 

The Morgue Lady cannot imagine the shock and grief that would have greeted Mr. Cox upon his return home.

In this day and age, we take our cell phones and other communication devices for granted. It wasn't that long ago that a telephone in a private home was a luxury, albeit one that could have saved the lives of these people.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Tales from the Morgue is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library - also known as News and Research Services - for 18 years before becoming an online content producer for StarNet. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@azstarnet.com.

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