Sure, there was the issue of Etheridge’s offspring. Not the issue, necessarily, but the number. J.D.’s first wife had given birth to eight children before passing on, and so Ellen found herself an instant family when she moved in with J.D. Nothing a strong, 22-year-old couldn’t handle, right? After all, she and J.D. loved each other.
Except maybe J.D. loved his children more. Maybe Ellen was just there as a handy mother substitute, married to fill J.D.’s bed and to keep his children in line. Neglected and lonely, Ellen stared disbelievingly at the way J.D. interacted with his children, showering them with love and affection and leaving nothing for her.
Enraged by her neglect and overwhelmed by her stepchildren, Ellen conceived a wild and dangerous plan: She couldn’t handle eight stepchildren, but surely she could keep up with six?
In June 1913, two of Ellen’s stepchildren died.
In October 2013, two more died.
A fifth stepchild, 13 years old, escaped from Ellen and ran for medical treatment after Ellen tried to pour lye down his throat. He was a leading witness in the trial that sentenced Ellen to life imprisonment.
In her later years, Ellen was allowed to walk the woods alone and unsupervised, and made and sold bits of lace to save money to have her body shipped home for burial.