Born in 1912, William Archerd cherished a lifelong
fascination with medicine. Lacking the cash and self-discipline required
for medical school, he sought work as a hospital attendant, learning
what he could of drugs and their effects through practical experience.
During 1940 and '41, Archerd worked at Camarillo State Hospital, in
California, serving in departments where insulin shock therapy was used
to treat mental illness. In 1950, he pled guilty to illegal possession
of morphine in San Francisco, receiving five years probation. A second
offense revoked his probation, and Archerd was confined to the
minimum-security prison at Chino; escaping in 1951, he was swiftly
recaptured and transferred to San Quentin. By October 1953, he was free
Archerd's "bad luck" extended into other
aspects of his life. Married seven times in fifteen years, he lost three
wives to mysterious bouts of illness between 1956 and 1966. If that were
not enough, his friends and other relatives were also dying.
On July 27, 1967, Archerd was arrested in Los Angeles,
charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
The victims included:
his fourth wife, Zella, who collapsed two months after their marriage,
on July 25, 1956; a teenage nephew, Burney Archerd, dead at Long Beach
on September 2, 1961; and wife number seven, authoress Mary Brinker
Arden, who died on November 3, 1966. As charged in the indictment,
Archerd was suspected of injecting each victim with an overdose of
insulin, thereby producing lethal attacks of hypoglycemia.
At least three other victims were suspected in the
murder series. Archerd's first known victim, according to police, was a
friend named William Jones, who died in Fontana, California, on October
12, 1947. Archerd's fifth wife, Juanita, had also displayed classic
symptoms of hypoglycemia at her death, in a Las Vegas hospital, on March
13, 1958. Another of Archerd's friends, Frank Stewart, died in the same
hospital two years later, on March 17, 1960.
On March 6, 1968, William Archerd was convicted on
three counts of murder, the first American defendant convicted of using
insulin as a murder weapon. His death sentence was affirmed by
California's Supreme Court in December 1970.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial
Killers - Hunting Humans
Aug. 11, 1967
With his china-blue eyes, wavy white
hair and deferential manner, William Dale Archerd, 55,
is the very antithesis of a Bluebeard.
If the Los Angeles County district
attorney's office is right however, the sometime hearing-aid
salesman's penchant for marriage was matched only by his
preference for murder.
Last week he was in jail facing
charges that he killed his nephew and two of his seven
wives; the investigation also implicated him in the
deaths of a third wife and two male friends. The
suspected weapon: insulin.*
The list of Archerd's wives,
relatives and acquaintances who have died after
manifesting symptoms of insulin poisoning is indeed
The first was William Jones Jr., 34,
in 1947, who died the day after Archerd paid a visit to
his hospital sickbed. The motive, if any, is unknown.
The second-and certainly the weirdest
case-was that of bride No. 4, Zella, 48, who died in
1956. Two months after their marriage, Archerd told
police in the Los Angeles suburb of Covina, two burglars
entered their house. With guns in one hand, hypodermic
needles in the other, said Archerd, they injected both
himself and Zella with a drug, then made off with $500
in cash, overlooking jewelry and other valuables.
Archerd was unaffected by the unsought medication, but
his wife went from convulsions into a coma and died. If
they found anything odd in such a story, Covina police
found no cause for arrest. Kindly Uncle William.
The third unfortunate, in 1958, was
Juanita Plum Archerd, wife No. 5. Two days after their
marriage in Las Vegas, Juanita was taken to the
hospital, suffering from what was described as an
overdose of barbiturates. She died the next day of a
condition that looked strangely like insulin poisoning.
Frank Stewart, 54, was the fourth, in 1960.
Taken to the hospital after
apparently faking a fall in an airport rest room to
collect on insurance, Stewart was visited by the ever-solicitous
Archerd—and died after the usual convulsions that night.
Archerd, recipient of the insurance, tried but failed to
collect. At about this time, Archerd's brother Everett
died at his job, and Archerd and his mother were
entrusted with $5,000 for Everett's son, Burney, 15.
In August 1961, Burney was taken to
the hospital, where he reported that he had been hit by
a car, though an investigation showed no such accident
had taken place. Burney nonetheless remained in the
hospital, where he was visited by his kindly Uncle
William. He died soon thereafter. Symptoms: those of
insulin poisoning. Archerd's mother, co-trustee of the
$5,000, herself died three weeks later of causes not
disclosed by the investigation.
himself James Lynn Arden—took
Bride No. 7 (marriages Nos.
1, 2, 3, and 6 ended in
divorce or annulment). His
new wife was Mary Brinker
Post, 59, a widow with grown
children, a successful
author of short stories and
novels for the women's
market (Annie Jordan,
Prescription for Marriage),
and a public relations woman.
admitted in a coma to Pomona
Valley Community Hospital
last November and died next
day of hypoglycemia—shortage
of blood sugar. Her death
was one coincidence too many,
and the Los Angeles County
sheriff's department finally
put eight detectives on the
trail of Archerd, who had
been convicted of peddling
narcotics in the early '50s.
More than 25 years ago, it
turned out, he had worked as
an orderly in the insulin-shock
ward of a state mental
If Archerd is convicted, he
will be only the second
known insulin murderer. The
first, English Male Nurse
Kenneth Barlow, was
sentenced to life
imprisonment in 1957 for the
murder of his wife by
insulin injection. A natural
hormone, insulin helps to
control the body's use of
sugar for energy. Injected
into diabetics, it lowers an
abnormally high bloodsugar
level. Too great a dosage,
however, can bring the sugar
content down to the danger
point, bringing on
convulsions, coma-and death.
M RACE: W TYPE: N MOTIVE:
"Bluebeard" slayer of wives/others, via insulin injections.
Condemned on three counts, 1968; commuted to life, 1972.