Bertha Gifford's first husband was Henry Graham (which would make him my great-grandfather) Recently I met a cousin with whom I am related through the Graham family. (Thank you, thank you, Ancestry.com.) Before we met, she had already learned of Henry's infamous wife and had read the new, independently published version of my book, The Tainted Legacy of Bertha Gifford.
When we met for lunch, Laurie didn't know anything about me other than what she'd read on my blog and that we shared great-great-grandparents. As we chatted about the book, though, I was struck by how similar our perspective on it was. She kept going back to the so-called "confession," the statement Bertha gave to Sheriff Georg regarding her personal use of arsenic as a medication and how she had administered it while acting as a volunteer nurse. Laurie's thought was this: If her intent had been murder, why would she readily volunteer this information? Wouldn't she instead try to deny it?
I come back to that point frequently myself, and I'm also quite sure that what Sheriff Georg asked her to sign was a statement summarizing what she'd said. Not until the statement was given to the press was it characterized as a "confession." Yep, we've all seen those true crime shows—48 Hours, Dateline, Cold Case Files—in which the perpetrator sits for hours in a small interrogation room being questioned repeatedly, and we all hope to see the moment in which the guilty individual will finally cave and come clean. This was not the case with Bertha. Sheriff Georg put her in a room alone and simply left her there for hours. I'm guessing by the time he finally returned and asked her for a statement about her use of arsenic, she was anxious to comply so that she could get back home to the farm and her husband, her son and her granddaughter (my mother). She never expected to be arrested based on the contents of that document.
Let me repeat what I've said countless times before: I make no attempt to exonerate her. I just want people to think through all of the known facts before making a judgment about her.