2002 Journal of Criminal Justice and
Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 9(2) (2002) 33-54
WICKED STEPMOTHER?: THE EDNA
MUMBULO CASE OF 1930*
This article examines the role of gender and the
stereotype of the "wicked stepmother" in the 1930 murder case of
Edna Mumbulo in Erie, Pennsylvania. In
April 1930, Edna Mumbulo was charged with the murder of her stepdaughter
Hilda. It was alleged that Edna
deliberately set fire to the eleven-year old girl with the hopes of obtaining
the girl's $6,000 estate and receiving the sole affections of the girl's
father. Edna Mumbulo's case was
the most sensational murder case in Erie to that date.
It is asserted in this article that the facts of the case were seen
through the distorted lens of the "wicked stepmother" stereotype.
As a result, Edna was convicted of the crime.
Eight years later, the presiding judge of the case, with the conviction
that there was reasonable doubt, helped secure her release.
Using newspaper accounts, court records, family histories, and census
data, the author recreates the alleged fire, hunt, trial, and public
On March 24, 1990, Edna Deshunk Mumbulo died of old
age. At age 99, she had not been
the oldest resident at the Erie County Geriatric Center, but she may have been
the most famous — if they had only remembered.
In the following days, Edna’s body was taken from St. Vincent’s
Medical Center in Erie, Pennsylvania, where she had died, to St. Joseph’s
Cemetery in Perry, New York. There,
in the small local cemetery grounds, in a plot freshly dug, despite the frozen
ground, Edna was buried.
Edna Deshunk Mumbulo was a mystery to those people
who surrounded her; to those who came in and out of her life just before her
dying days in 1990. She was,
likewise, a mystery to the people who she encountered in 1930. Edna Deshunk Mumbulo was not simply a little old lady, frail
and sweet. Edna was the Torch
Killer of 1930.
Female murderers, like Edna Mumbulo, blended into the American public with
great ease. They were not big, hulking monsters like many of their male
counterparts, nor were they old, hooked nose witches rubbing their hands with
maniacal glee. On the surface,
they looked average, non-threatening. Edna
Mumbulo was just one such murderer. But,
it was that commonness that perplexed the Erie public.
Murder was alarming and incomprehensible.
The murder of a child, however, was frightening and shocking.
It was gruesome. The thought of a gruesome, grisly crime being
committed by an ordinary woman elevated the Mumbulo Torch Killings to a new
[End Page 33]
The literature on female murderers is rich.
Likewise, the number of different theories about female killers
abounds. One theory, as expressed by Elicka Peterson in her article
“Murder as Self-Help: Women and Intimate Partner Homicide,” suggests that
low status in society and low social control led to decreased access to social
control. In turn, the inability
to control one’s life and the inability to tap into resources to assist in
the control of life crises prompted some women to resort to lethal violence as
a means of restoring a semblance of control to their lives.
In effect, Peterson argues that homicide was a last-ditch effort to
take back their lives.
Elizabeth M. Suval and Robert C. Brisson might add to this
self-help theory that included in that loss of social control is an absence of
economic control. In their work,
“Neither Beauty Nor Beast: Female Criminal Homicide Offenders,” they argue
that socio-economic deprivation was a contributing factor in women’s
homicides. This theory is countered, however, by the work of Eric Dowdy and N.
Prabha Unnithan. Their study of
Texas female killers suggests that there is little evidence to support the
conclusion, at least in Texas, that economic distress motivated the homicide
Much of the literature being produced today focuses on the personal
background and characteristics of those women convicted of homicide.
In “Convicted Women Who Have Killed Children: A Self-Psychology
Perspective” by Susan Crimmins, Sandra Langley, and Henry H. Brownstein, the
authors describe 42 New York State cases where mothers killed their own
children. Overwhelmingly, they
argue, women who kill their children have a background pattern of repeated
damage to self. Mothers who kill,
they suggest, were consistently subjected to physical and sexual
victimization, suicide attempts, and substance abuse.
They suffered low self-esteem, relied heavily upon an abusive and
dysfunctional spouse, and experienced a sense of self-worthlessness.
Totman’s conclusions were strikingly similar.
In her 1978 work, The Murderess: A Psychological Study of Criminal
Homicide, she argued that female murderers came from destructive
relationships. They may have been mothers, but they came to that role
reluctantly. Being a mother was
simply an unwanted fate and was perceived as a burden on their personal life
and a dramatic and tragic shift from how they envisioned themselves.
The frustration with this new burden of responsibility drove some women
to no longer see their children as family members in need of care and
nurturing, but as obstacles to their personal happiness and irritants.
But, these women, because of the nature of their abusive and
destructive relationships, could not confide in their partner.
They had no one with whom to share their feelings.
As a result, Totman suggests, they removed the unwanted child by
killing that child.
Edna Mumbulo, Erie’s Torch Killer of 1930, fit this
But Edna might equally fit the image of the struggling stepmother, which
carries with it the myth of wickedness and cruelty.
The literature on the stereotyping of stepmothers is equally abundant
as that of female killers.
Negative connotations about stepmothers have been in
existence as early as the 15th century.
Those myths remain in existence today. The story of Cinderella locked in a tower on the eve of the
Great Ball, Snow White’s poisoning, and Hansel and Gretel’s abandonment in
the woods all came at the hands of the “wicked stepmother.” The stepmothers in those fairy tales are depicted as the raw
incarnation of “evil” and all
that is “wicked.” They are
portrayed as individuals “devoid of all human goodness.”
These myths are quickly assimilated into the slate of
cultural standards. Stephen
Claxton-Oldfield and Bonnie [End Page 34] Butler, in their work “Portrayal
of Stepparents in Movie Plot Summaries,” have amply demonstrated the
pervasiveness of the negative stereotypes associated with stepmothers in
popular contemporary media forms.
Yet, contrary to popular myth, most stepmothers are not “wicked”
or “evil.” In fact, as
Marianne Dainton has noted in her work, “Myths and Misconceptions of the
Stepmother Identity,” despite “fairy tales’ depiction of stepmothers as
evil hags, real stepmothers look just like real mothers.”
In the end, the prevalent myth about stepmothers continues to
assert that the non-biological mother cannot nurture and care for a child as
well as the biological mother. Thus,
Edna Mumbulo’s role as “stepmother” may have influenced the public’s
perception of her love for her daughter and, as a consequence, her innocence
have suggested that the stereotype and creation of the “wicked stepmother”
myth have gone much further than just labeling women, and have played a
central role in the deterioration of those stepfamilies.
Gerda Schulman’s landmark work in 1972, “Myths that Intrude on the
Adaptation of the Stepfamily,” argued that negative “step” images
created additional problems for stepfamilies.
Mark Fine’s work, “Perceptions of Stepparents: Variations in
Stereotypes as a Function of Current Family Structure,” has further
demonstrated the power of negative stereotypes and the expectations of those
stereotypes to adversely affect already strained relations between
stepchildren and stepparents. Simply put, women internalized the messages and stereotypes
about stepmothers long before they entered a relationship that required them
to assume the role of stepmother. And,
these women’s fear of being linked to that negative image has fostered
unnatural relationships and great expectations of “instant love.”
The dynamics of a stepfamily have been only further complicated, as
many have noted, by the prevalence of the “evil stepmother” stereotype.
Thus, the problem of natural jealousies and the ill-feelings of having
been separated from the natural mother are further exacerbated by this “stepmother”
So, while the Erie public may have unjustly convicted Edna
Mumbulo because of her stepmother status, the strains within the family may
have been heightened, in part, because of that same stereotype. Those strains, jealousies, and deflated expectations may have
compelled Edna to commit the horrific act.
Strayer’s article, “Trapped in the Mirror: Psychosocial Reflections on the
Mid-Life and the Queen in Snow White,”
sums up the problems associated with stepmothers well.
“Folktales,” Strayer writes, “are privileged in
reducing complex issues to essentials, such as ‘good’ and the ‘bad’.”
While those essentials, in some cases, may serve the public
in a positive way, the stepmother stereotype has been harmful.
The Erie public, having consumed a lifetime of fairy tales and myths,
organized the known facts of the Mumbulo case into the “wicked stepmother”
framework. In doing so, they
condemned a woman to prison.
BACKGROUND: EDNA MUMBULO
Edna was born December 1, 1890, in North Baltimore,
Ohio, to George Shunk and Mary Agnes Arbogast.
George had been a glassblower for a small company run by Philip
Arbogast, Mary’s father. Several
branches of the Arbogast family were well-known in southwest Pennsylvania and
West Virginia for their glass-making skills.
George and Mary met through that industry.
Their fourth child was Edna. When Edna was a small child, the
family moved from their home south of Toledo to Pittsburgh’s Homewood
District. There, as Catholics,
they joined the Holy Rosary Catholic Church where Mary played the organ for
Sunday Masses and [End Page 35] her eight daughters served as members
of the church choir. Around 1906,
however, Edna strayed from her faith and fell in love with a local boy named
Harold Van Sickle. By her
sixteenth birthday, Edna was the mother of twins.
Unable to care for the twins, the children were sent off to live with
her older sister. Nonetheless,
Harold and Edna were married. After
only ten months of marriage, however, Harold died.
With his death, Edna “had to go to work.”
She held various jobs between 1907 and 1909, including working as a
bundle wrapper for Kaufman’s Department Store in Pittsburgh and as a
freelance dressmaker in the city.
In 1910, with nearly the entire family in tow, George, Mary,
and Edna moved to the small town of Coudersport in northern Pennsylvania.
By the mid-1920s, Edna had relocated from Coudersport
to New Berlin, New York. New
Berlin is around 50 miles north of Binghamton in the heart of central New York
State. There, she found work in
the silk mill. One of Edna’s
co-workers at the silk mill was Ralph Mumbulo. Very quickly, over the course of 1926-1927, the two formed a
friendship. Despite her new job
and new friends, Edna was plagued by family problems.
Her elderly father, who was closing in on 90 years old, was without
home and assistance. “Pap,”
as he was called by his children, bounced around from child to child. With his mind rapidly failing, he was increasingly a burden
on those family members who cared for him.
By 1927, it was Edna’s turn to care for her father.
“Pap” lived with her in New Berlin for one year before returning to
another of Edna’s siblings in Arkansas.
It was during her father’s stay that she and Ralph solidified their
Their relationship was an “illicit alliance.”
Ralph was married. In August, 1927, Ralph was brazen enough to introduce Edna to
his eight-year old daughter, Hilda. Hilda’s
mother, Edith Chapen Mumbulo, died suddenly in late 1928.
In the wake of her death, Hilda received an estate valued at over
$6000, the bulk of which she would receive when she turned twenty-one.
By the time the estate papers were formally recorded and the family
apprised of the nature of the settlement, the country found itself amid an
economic tailspin. The silk mills
temporarily closed and both Edna and Ralph were released from their jobs.
For several months, the threesome (Ralph Mumbulo, daughter Hilda
Mumbulo, and Edna Shunk) “tin-canned” their way across the United States.
Ralph took day jobs while Edna continued to find work as a dressmaker.
Finally, on November 8, 1929 (just a little over a week after the Stock
Market Crash), the threesome found their way to Erie, Pennsylvania.
In Erie, the three set up house in a second-floor
apartment at the corner of 6th and Lighthouse on Erie’s East
Side. Ralph found work at the
Standard Stoker Company in Erie as a welder while Edna designed and made
dresses out of their apartment. She
also earned extra money (and the trust of her neighbors) by babysitting their
children. Together they yielded
less than twenty-five dollars per week. The
cost of food and rent ate up much of those earnings.
Despite the low income, the Mumbulos (as all three were now called)
could afford to buy a new Ford automobile.
Bought on credit, the purchase of the new Ford will later be viewed
with suspicion. Hilda was
enrolled in Wayne School and quickly developed friends from among her
classmates. Over the course of
the next four months, Edna and Hilda endeared themselves to their neighbors.
Edna, however, was growing disillusioned over her
relationship with Ralph. She had
not been able to care for her twin boys twenty years earlier and now, as she
approached her fortieth [End Page 36] birthday, she was saddled with
the care of an eleven year old girl who was not biologically her own.
Ralph worked hard at the forge and she spent her days in the apartment
alone or with Hilda. The
conditions in the apartment were clean, but crowded.
It was, by design, a one-bedroom apartment, but because of Edna’s
desire for privacy, the sitting room adjacent to the kitchen was converted
into a bedroom for Hilda. The family, as a result, was forced to spend their time in
the apartment either in their own bedrooms or together in the 8 by 14-foot
kitchen. The existing tensions
between the three were exacerbated by the crowded living conditions.
Moreover, Ralph freely spent their limited money on Hilda.
He frequently sent her to the movies and bought her new clothes.
Edna, as a result, grew jealous of Hilda.
On at least one occasion, Edna threatened to leave Ralph because she
believed he thought more of his daughter than he did of her. The tensions between Ralph and Edna were further compounded
by their growing economic problems. The
bills were adding up — food, rent, the car — and they all needed to be
paid. “Pap,” back in
Arkansas, needed money. And Hilda
wanted more. The problems seemed
insurmountable. In the back of
both of their minds, however, there was a chance — a $6000 chance.
On the morning of March 21, 1930, Edna seized her
chance. The second floor of the
Pittsburgher Apartments was just coming alive with activity around 5 a.m. when
Hilda awoke crying. She sniffed
and snuffled and returned to a half-sleep.
By six o’clock Edna had risen and begun preparing breakfast for
Ralph. Bacon, toast, and coffee
were quickly devoured. He ate in
big exaggerated bites as he rushed to finish dressing for work.
By 6:40 a.m., he was off to Standard Stoker.
Edna and Hilda were alone. Had
she planned what she was going to do next?
Had she thought out all of the implications of her acts?
Or was it impulse? From
her bedroom, she brought a jug of gasoline that she had purchased the day
before. What then ensued remains a mystery. By 7 a.m., the apartment building was engulfed in smoke.
Little eleven-year old Hilda was in flames.
She was, as a physician later reported, “literally cooked alive.”
When Nina Hickson, the apartment manager, arrived “there
was considerable smoke” pouring from the apartment. The apartment building was in jeopardy. The flimsy composition walls that separated the families were
potential fuel to the growing flames. Hickson
quickly exited to procure a pail of water.
In the meantime, a Mumbulo neighbor, Frank Fisher rushed to what he
believed was an empty apartment. As
he stood in the doorway, Mrs. Hickson returned with two pails of water.
One pail was emptied onto the larger fire and as she was about to dump
the second onto the smaller fire underneath a chair, she spied little Hilda
standing in the kitchen corner, her underclothes in flames.
She doused the young girl and ran back for more water.
As she exited the apartment, she nearly collided with another
neighbor, John Blossey. Blossey
found Hilda now sitting on a kitchen chair, her nightgown burned entirely off.
Hilda was motionless.
“Why are you sitting there?” Blossey asked.
“I can’t see to get out,” she replied.
The fire and smoke had blinded the girl.
And, as one might suspect, she was traumatized.
She was not only traumatized by the fire and its devastating impact
upon her, but also devastated by the fact that Edna, who was practically her
stepmother, had apparently committed the [End Page 37] devastating act.
Blossey, afraid to touch the girl’s scorched body in fear of
inflicting greater pain, led her into the hall.
She whispered to Blossey, in her faint child’s voice, “don’t let
Then, little Hilda collapsed onto the floor.
By 7:14 a.m., the firemen from Station Number 5 arrived onto the scene,
quickly followed by a medic. The
remaining embers of the fire were extinguished.
But, the firemen found unquestionable traces of gasoline poured all
over Hilda’s bedroom. Dr.
Nathan Shuser, the medic, found Hilda on a neighbor’s cot.
She was unconscious and was “badly burned about the face and body….” It was apparent to Shuser that her condition was critical so
she was promptly loaded into the ambulance and taken to Hamot Medical Center.
Throughout it all, Edna screamed and cried.
“Save my baby!
Save my apartment!” she cried.
Sadie Donovan, a neighbor, cornered the woman.
“Are my furs safe?” Edna asked.
Donovan was shocked. “Are
my furs safe?”
Donovan asked Edna how the fire had started, unaware
that the answer stood before her. Edna
avoided the questions and tried to push past Donovan for the stairwell.
Donovan prevented her descent.
“How did the fire start?” Donovan asked again.
“Mind your own business,” Edna replied, “or I’ll
sock ya’ in the jaw.”
She then shoved Donovan and ran to the street below.
There, the tenants of the building gathered beside her. Among them were
neighbors Eliza Summerville and Ethel Luther who, once the fires were
extinguished, led Edna to Mrs. Hickson’s apartment where they knelt in
prayer. Sadie Donovan remained on
the street, anticipating the arrival of Edna’s husband, Ralph.
He arrived around 7:30 a.m.
“Where are they?” he asked.
Sadie pointed. He found Edna in Mrs. Hickson’s apartment and Hilda in the
process of being loaded onto her stretcher.
He backed down the stairs slowly as the firemen and Dr. Shuser carried
her to the street. As the
emergency workers did their business of loading and securing Hilda into the
ambulance, Ralph disappeared. Sadie
Donovan, her suspicion fully aroused, followed Ralph into the apartment
building. She stood in the
doorway of the smoke-filled apartment and watched Ralph as he “hurriedly
searched for certain papers….” When
he realized that he was being observed, he grew indignant.
your own business, woman!” he barked. Donovan
withdrew, a thousand thoughts rattling in her brain.
Ralph scurried about the apartment, quickly rummaging through drawers
until he at last found the papers he had been seeking.
He then rushed past Donovan in the stairwell and to the ambulance on 6th
Street. With the papers tucked
into the bib of his coveralls, Ralph jumped aboard the ambulance and, with
Hilda, raced to Hamot Medical Center. [End Page 38]
The crowds quickly dispersed.
A neighbor took Edna from the Lighthouse Apartments and the scene of
the crime to one of Edna’s relative’s home in Wesleyville, Pennsylvania.
She would return only once more to the site of the fire and then it was
only to pack her bags.
late morning, on the day of the fire, Hilda was dead.
Blossey, the neighbor to whom she had spoken the words — “don’t
let me die," had failed to help her.
The firemen and Dr. Shuser had been unable to save her.
She had been burned to a crisp. Her
once soft skin was burned pink. Her
face was taut with the evaporation of skin moisture.
She died of burn trauma at Hamot Medical Center around eleven o’clock
in the morning. Between her
arrival at the hospital shortly before eight o’clock and her death at
eleven, Ralph Mumbulo was not at the bedside of his dying daughter.
His last words to her – as he left her that morning – were, “I’ll
see you in heaven, Hilda.” Instead,
he visited the offices of the Erie Insurance Company where he inquired as to
the status of his life insurance policy on Hilda.
Ralph never returned to the hospital. He was not present when Hilda died. In fact, at the moment she died, Ralph was still in the
offices of the Erie Insurance Company.
The police reports at the time of the initial investigation reported that
Hilda had risen from her bed to light the gas stove when suddenly she was
engulfed in flames. Yet, there
was no evidence of scorch marks or smoke damage in the kitchen where she was
alleged to have started the fire. It
was, as the Erie Daily Times later reported, “singularly free from
smoke.” Instead, the fire
damage was restricted to Hilda’s bedroom.
On the right wall of her bedroom, the wall closest to the apartment
corridor, a “ghastly smudge” was found on the apartment’s “dismal”
yellow walls and ceiling. Yet,
Assistant Fire Chief Lawrence Scully reported that their efforts to determine
the “exact cause were futile.”
Coroner Dan Hanley investigated the fire site and viewed the
body of Hilda Mumbulo and then
promptly signed an “investigation completion card.”
The fire was out and the excitement over, or so the Mumbulos thought.
Edna and Ralph reportedly could not stay in the apartment the next day.
“The memories of their child’s death” were unbearable.
Instead, they remained in the home of their Wesleyville relatives.
On March 24, Reverend Carl Blackmore presided over the funeral service
of Hilda Belle Mumbulo at the Hanley-Schaller Chapel on the corner of 13th
and Peach Street.
The next day, Ralph and Edna packed up their belongings and
vacated their apartment. The two
drove east to New Berlin to bury Hilda and start anew. As Hilda was buried and friends and family of Ralph
gathered around their grieving son, Edna stood emotionless, stoic in the face
of the tragedy. Hilda’s burial
was supposed to be the end of the story.
It was supposed to be the closure to a tense and horrific experience.
It was not.
THE HUNT AND TRIAL
Back in Erie, the investigation reopened.
John Blossey had his suspicions. At
his General Electric workplace, he confided to his boss that he thought the
fire was deliberately set. He was
not alone. The Mumbulo’s neighbor, Lester Hatch, went so far as to meet with
Coroner Hanley to discuss the nature of the fire and relate to him the
behavior of Ralph and Edna during the fire.
How was it that the fire was entirely confined to the bedroom if the
fire started in the kitchen? Hanley consulted with the local police reports and met with
Assistant Chief Scully. The
firemen were admittedly suspicious, but the case had been closed so they did
not speak up. [End Page 39] Hanley
read the police reports and interviews with Edna.
In her testimony to the police, she claimed a different story than what
she had originally told neighbors and Dr. Shuser. In her report to the police, she claimed that the fire
started when she was cleaning a dress in gasoline.
The day before the fire, she said, she babysat a neighbor’s child and
the child accidentally soiled her dress.
She bought gas that day to clean it, but did not get around to actually
cleaning the dress until the day of the fire.
She had, she argued, taken a can of gasoline out of her bedroom and
filled a washpan in the kitchen. She
then rubbed the soiled dress in the gasoline and, according to her, it
immediately exploded in flames. In
a panic, she tried to throw the pan of flaming gas out the kitchen window, but
a clothesline full of freshly laundered linens hung outside her window.
Fearing that she might set the linens on fire, she went through the
doorway separating the kitchen and Hilda’s room, and threw the flaming pan
toward the window there. The
window, however, was closed. Hilda,
she said, caught on fire as the pan of flames dropped onto her.
It was an accident, Edna claimed to the police – a horrible accident.
On March 31, dissatisfied with Edna’s explanation and the pattern of
the fire evidence, Coroner Hanley advocated for a reopening of the case.
Investigators returned to the site of the fire and took more detailed
notes, mapped out the apartment, and took photographs.
Assistant District Attorney Otto Herbst contacted the apartment
manager, Nina Hickson, and arranged for the city to rent the damaged apartment
in order to secure the investigation site.
If there was foul play in the fire, Herbst believed, he could not
afford to have the crime scene repaired.
The burn damage needed to be preserved.
The day after the case was reopened, local Erie authorities began searching
for Ralph and Edna. Detective
LeRoy Search and Assistant City Detective Harry Russell were employed to lead
the investigation. By April 2,
1930, the citizens of Erie were fascinated with the speculation about the
couple’s whereabouts. The Erie
Daily Times headline read: “Continue Hunt for Parents.”
They knew they were not staying in their old apartment or with their
relatives in Erie, but the local officials in New Berlin could not find them.
Detective Russell went to New Berlin to see for himself.
He hoped that he might ascertain clues about their location by visiting
with family members there and visiting the site where Hilda was interred.
He returned the following day to consult with Assistant District
Attorney Herbst and Assistant District Attorney Mortimer Graham.
Meanwhile, New York State Troopers scoured the Oneonta Mountains near
New Berlin in hopes of locating the two.
After nearly a week of hunting for the elusive couple, Herbst was
convinced that their flight was evidence of guilt and that enough evidence,
albeit circumstantial, had surfaced to merit his swearing out of an arrest
warrant. Appearing before
Alderman Eugene Alberstadt, Herbst leveled the charge of murder against Ralph
Mumbulo and his common-law wife Edna Deshunk.
By the time authorities caught up with Ralph and Edna, however, they were no
longer involved in a simple common-law marriage; they were legally married
within the state of Pennsylvania. On
April 3, 1930, as Detective Russell searched New Berlin, Ralph and Edna were
driving south from the area back into the state of Pennsylvania.
They crossed the border and in the small town of Montrose, they were
married. Their marriage protected
them. For Edna, the wedding not
only legitimized their life together over the last two years, but sealed the
“lips of her husband.” Pennsylvania
law prevented an individual from being forced to present damaging testimony
against a spouse. Edna had
silenced the only individual who may have truly known the intention of the
fire. After their wedding, the
two drove back north into New York [End Page 40] and to their hometown
of New Berlin. By the time they
arrived, Russell had already returned to Erie to meet with his superiors about
a course of action. Rather than
stay with family, who they likely suspected knew about the case by now, Ralph
and Edna checked into a local hotel.
the meantime, Russell was dispatched back to New Berlin and began inquiring at
other locations in the area. On
the morning of April 5, he visited the local hotel where Edna and Ralph were
staying. The hotel manager
escorted him to the couple’s room only to find that they had fled (and did
so, of course, without paying their bill).
Russell knew he was close. The
days of hunting for the couple, Detective Russell and Assistant District
Attorney Mortimer Graham located Ralph and Edna.
The couple was questioned, but let go, as the warrant had not reached
the two officers and they had no legal authority to hold them.
Nonetheless, the government officials kept a close eye on the two.
When the warrant arrived two days later, on Saturday April 5, the
Mumbulos were promptly arrested in the town of Edmeston where they had been
staying with family. Edna, a
bride of only three days, was hysterical when the charges were read.
She collapsed several times as she was escorted from the house to the
police car. Ralph, when confronted by Chenango County Sheriff Rexford
Ormsby, denied his identity.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
“What are you trying to do, hang a murder on me?”
she had calmed down, Edna, likewise, tried to elude the authorities’
questioning. “What is
happening?! What is happening?!” she cried.
two were immediately taken to the Chenango County Jail in Norwich, New York.
There, Chenango County District Attorney Frank Barnes confronted Edna.
She denied all charges to Barnes, but admitted that she had bought gas
the day before the fire in order to clean a dress.
Barnes calmly took her statement and then, over the phone, translated
it to Erie County Assistant District Attorney Otto Herbst.
Herbst began to assemble his case against the couple by drawing up
extradition papers, assigning his associates a variety of smaller tasks, and
making the preparations for his trip to Norwich.
While the Mumbulos were arrested on Saturday, April
5, Herbst did not arrive in the town until Wednesday, April 9.
In the meantime, the couple had contacted local attorneys Percy Thomas
and Ward Truesdale. They were not formally retained until Wednesday.
When they were retained and all relevant authorities had been apprised
of the situation, Thomas and Truesdale petitioned for the release of Edna and
Ralph. They argued that the
accused were not a real threat to society and that they had family in the area
with whom they could stay at no expense to the court.
Chenango County District Attorney Barnes countered that they were, in
fact, threats and that they had proven their unreliability and
untrustworthiness in their weeklong flight from the law and their inability to
pay the local hotel charge. Municipal
Judge Nelson P. Bonney refused the petition for release and so Edna and Ralph
remained behind bars. [End Page 41]
Over the course of those first days in jail, between
her arrest on April 5 and the first hearings on April 10, Edna’s mood
fluctuated. At times she sat in
her cell motionless, stoic-faced, and somber.
Then, she broke into fits of tears and stormed the perimeter of her
cell. Bordering on collapse, she
begged and yelled for a dose of the opiates which had been administered to her
since her arrest on Saturday. The
jail physician had, in fact, given Edna a sedative each night to help her
sleep. The dose was strong enough
that after only one minute she was fast asleep.
Chenango County officials intimated that Edna’s hysteria was the
result of her lack of drugs. In
effect, the jail physician suggested that she was a drug addict and that she
was “craving opiates.” Later,
however, Dr. George Manly retracted those remarks, but said that something was
“preying on Mrs. Mumbulo’s mind.”
On April 9, in a separate room in the county
courthouse, Sheriff Ormsby, Chenango County District Attorney Frank Barnes,
and Erie County Assistant District Attorney Otto Herbst questioned Edna.
Observers later reported that the questioning was, in fact, a “severe
When first asked what had happened on the day of the
fire, Edna broke into tears. As
she sobbed, she began to tell her version of the story.
“After Ralph went to work, I brought the jug of
gasoline from my bedroom into the kitchen and poured about half of it into a
pan. While I was rubbing it,
there was a sudden flash and flames rushed toward the kitchen window,” she
“Why didn’t you throw the pan of burning gasoline
out the kitchen window in your apartment, instead of running through Hilda’s
bedroom with it?” Herbst asked.
“A string of wash blocked my path,” she
explained, “so I turned into the bedroom toward the window.”
“Why?” Herbst retorted.
“I couldn’t, I couldn’t,” she cried.
The interrogation team took notes.
“Why is Ralph being questioned?
He wasn’t even there?”
“Tell me, Mrs. Mumbulo, why didn’t you save
Hilda?” Herbst asked.
“Don’t ask me that! Don’t ask me that!” she
“I loved her as my own and if I had another chance,
I’d give my life for her.”
“But why didn’t you help her?” Herbst pressed. [End
“I don’t know… I ran out of the room and it
seemed to me Hilda ran in the other direction,” she replied. “Why are you doing this?” she asked.
Herbst and the others simply looked at her.
By then the four were joined by Dr. Manly.
Looking to the physician, Edna asked, “Can I please have some more
Herbst responded, “You’ll get all you want when
you tell what we want to know.”
Edna’s hands shook.
She turned her head downward.
“I did everything for her,” she said. “Denied
myself that she might have good clothes.
Provided money for her entertainment and now you say I killed her.”
She continued to shake, her hands stroking each other
in nervousness and stress. Dr.
Manly and Assistant District Attorney Herbst watched her hands.
There were no signs of burns. No
evidence of a sudden flash that must have come close to her hands, which had
not only been near the burning pan, but in the gas within the pan.
There was no evidence of any burn or scarring.
The interrogation team spent hours asking the same
questions and fleshing out greater details about Edna's relationship with
Ralph. Over and over, they
rehashed the questions. What took
minutes to occur, the sudden instant of the flash and the fire, was played
time and time again over the course of the day.
All parties involved were exhausted.
While the interrogation team worked on understanding
the incident, the assistant district attorneys in both Erie and Chenango
Counties began the process for extradition.
Official papers were sent to Governor John Fisher in Harrisburg and
Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Albany.
Fisher received the extradition papers on April 9, signed them the
following day, and had them immediately sent back to Erie.
The attorneys in Erie then sent them to Albany.
It was not until April 14 that Roosevelt signed the papers.
In doing so, the prosecution was given a green light to transport Edna
and Ralph back to Erie.
In the meantime, however, the city of Norwich, the Chenango
County seat, filled with reporters. The
Chenango Hotel in Norwich, one reporter noted, was the site of
“vigorous gossip” about the case.
The Mumbulo Case had captured their full attention.
Rumors circulated about the intent of the murder and the details as to
how the fire started.
April 10, the day upon which Fisher signed Pennsylvania’s extradition
request, Edna and Ralph’s defense attorneys filed for a habeas corpus
hearing. The Writ of Habeas
Corpus process was typically a long affair.
Observers expected that this stage alone might take up to three weeks.
Assistant District Attorney Herbst, naturally, opposed the writ.
He wanted the couple in an Erie courthouse as soon as possible.
On April 11, the hearing proceeded with New York Supreme Court Justice
Abraham Kellogg presiding. After
three days of arguments, filings, and objections, Judge Kellogg rejected the
defense’s writ. The defense
team quickly prepared an appeal to the writ denial.
The submission of the appeal to the Appellate Division of the New York
State Supreme Court automatically blocked the extradition process.
So, while both Governors had signed the papers for extradition, the
court system prevented the execution of that [End Page 43] extradition.
The appellate hearing was set for May 13 in Albany. It appeared that Edna and Ralph would have to remain in the
Chenango County Jail one more month. Herbst
was frustrated at the delays and the costs they were incurring upon the city
of Erie. The situation for Ralph
and Edna did not look good. To
compound their problems, the Buffalo Finance Company repossessed the Mumbulo’s
new Ford automobile. The company
argued that they had violated the terms of their contract by taking it out of
April 25, 1930, Edna and Ralph gave up the fight.
They withdrew their appeal to the New York State Supreme Court and
agreed to extradition. They
agreed to voluntarily return to Pennsylvania.
On April 28, Detective Harry Russell and Erie Policewoman Elizabeth
Jeffs escorted Ralph and Edna from Norwich to Erie.
The four boarded the train in Norwich in the morning.
A layover in Binghamton, New York, kept them in the state until a
little after 3 p.m. As they rode
toward Erie, Detective Russell quizzed Ralph.
After three hours of persistent questioning, Russell finally gave up.
He was unable to secure an admission from the man.
In another train car, Officer Jeffs sat shackled with Edna.
Edna watched the passing countryside.
10:30 p.m., the train arrived, over the Nickel Plate Railroad, at the Erie
train station. As the couple
stepped off the train, photographers scrambled to get their shots. Flashbulbs lit the dark boarding area.
“Do you still say that you’re innocent?” one
Ralph and Edna both nodded and replied, “yes.”
Russell and Jeffs escorted the couple through the
station and past a throng of eager onlookers.
One estimate suggests that there were over one hundred Erie residents
crammed into the Nickel Plate Depot to see the infamous couple.
Flash after camera flash made the two killers and their escorts squint
as they proceeded past.
the course of the week, the Erie Daily Times chronicled the story of
the fire and the tale of Edna and Ralph.
“The stepmother’s story is meager and full of discrepancies,” one
editorialist noted. Certainly
these types of headlines must have played into the imagination of the Erie
public. Edna was already, whether consciously or unconsciously, being
linked to the “evil stepmother” stereotype.
Yet another daily columnist, Jay James, doubted the
prosecutor’s abilities. James
went so far as to say that bets were “five-to-one” that they would not get
a conviction against Edna. The
community appeared divided. Some
were so appalled at the idea that a woman could deliberately kill a child that
they automatically dismissed the case. Others,
including Jay James who had reservations about the prosecution’s ability to
secure a conviction, couched their opinions in the language of the “evil
stepmother.” Where Edna had
consistently been referred to as the “mother” prior to her return to Erie,
she was thereafter consistently referred to as the “stepmother.”
Erie residents, like people elsewhere throughout the western world, had
undoubtedly heard the old folktales of the “evil stepmother.”
Did the Erie
public judge Edna guilty because she was not the biological mother?
Did some deem her innocent because they could not comprehend the
thought that a woman could commit such a ghastly crime?
In either event, Edna’s case was already being decided in the court
of public opinion.
It can hardly be [End Page 44] denied that that public
opinion held gendered views of crime — women do not commit crimes, but those
that do commit the most horrific crimes and are stepmothers are the
most evil of all women. Edna was
both a woman accused of a horrific crime and she was a stepmother.
It was, however, the court’s responsibility to assure that those
private opinions did not obscure the facts of the case.
seemed underway to secure a fair trial. Emanuel
Urich, a former boarder of the Mumbulos, was held in Chicago.
His knowledge of the couple and their relationship with the
dead child might shed important light onto the case. Detective Harry Russell urged Ralph to speak.
“Don’t you know that you’re getting yourself in deeper by keeping
quiet?” he asked. Russell’s
question seems to indicate his belief that Mumbulo was innocent, but for the
sake of love he was protecting Edna. Russell
repeated the question. Ralph’s
only response was that Edna loved the child as if it were her own.
April 30, 1930, before Alderman E. Alberstadt, Ralph and Edna were arraigned.
The following day, Edna and Ralph’s attorneys, Truesdell and Thomas,
visited the eastside apartments where the fire had occurred.
The Pittsburgher Apartments were open and still occupied.
The Mumbulo apartment, however, was closed upon orders of Assistant
District Attorney Herbst. The
attorneys were frustrated and so returned to their makeshift offices to make
the necessary arrangements to get into the apartment.
As they did, they viewed the photographs of the apartment taken by K.
Grand Jury Hearing was held on the first day in May.
Attorney Truesdell asked that Edna and Ralph be tried together.
The Erie County Prosecutor saw through the ploy.
He later stated to the press that he believed the marriage exemption
from testifying was null because the crime was committed before the marriage
had been recorded. Nine witnesses were brought to the Grand Jury Hearing.
Graham questioned and Truesdell cross-examined.
In a surprise move, the prosecution did not seek the charge of First
Degree Murder, but rather opted for Murder in the Second Degree.
The prosecution, whether by true, heartfelt conviction or pure, legal
strategy to insure Edna's incarceration,
argued that while she may have had “malice aforethought,” she had not
intended to take Hilda’s life. The
charge leveled at Edna was that she had deliberately sought to inflict bodily
harm. The defense seemed stunned
by the charges. All reports
circulating suggested that the prosecution would shoot for the First Degree
Murder charge. The defense would
have to shift strategies. Alderman
Alberstadt held Ralph and Edna without bail and set Edna’s trial for Monday,
and Truesdell, after their first defeat in the Grand Jury Hearing, handed over
the reigns of Edna’s defense to local attorney, William Carney.
Carney called upon both local and national experts to bolster his
argument. A. H. Hamilton was
brought in from Ossining, New York. Hamilton
had been involved in over 268 murder trials and, the defense suggested, could
prove that the friction of Edna’s washing could ignite the dress.
Critics scoffed at the professional witness and questioned not only the
veracity of such an argument, but asked how the fire then got into Hilda’s
sensational case surely meant a sensational trial.
The Erie public followed the story daily.
There were so many requests about entrance into the trial that the
Court decided to issue [End Page 45] admission cards to control the
story-hungry crowd. By the middle
of May, it was announced that Judge William E. Hirt was scheduled to preside
over the case. Hirt was
approaching his tenth year as an Erie County Judge.
Born in 1881 in Erie, he was quite familiar with the city.
He graduated from Princeton in 1904 and joined the law firm of Fish and
Rilling in 1908. In 1921,
Pennsylvania Governor Sproul appointed Hirt as Erie County judge to fill the
vacancy left by Judge Whittlesey. Hirt
was “scrupulous about maintaining a non-prejudicial posture.”
was brought before the bar. Her
head lowered, she was reminded of the charges against her and asked what she
guilty,” she said. The judge
nodded and she returned to her seat. Ralph
sat next to her, but their eyes did not meet.
recessing at 4 p.m., Judge Hirt recommended that both parties consider evening
sessions so as to expedite the trial. Both
the defense and the state agreed to consider it.
The first day ended with no surprises.
the second day of the trial, Assistant District Attorney Graham outlined the
State’s case against Edna Mumbulo. He
made the argument that Edna had planned the act in advance.
The murder of Hilda Mumbulo was pre-meditated, he said. She had bought gasoline the day before. In addition, he added, she had moved her valuable fur out of
Hilda’s room to protect it from the fire she would set the next day.
Graham painted Edna as a vicious woman.
She was poor and jealous of Hilda.
The only thing that stood in her way from achieving both the full
affection of Ralph and the material goods she wanted was little Hilda.
And so, Graham said, Edna killed Hilda.
In clear and systematic fashion, Graham detailed the possible plan.
He noted Hilda’s estate, hammered back at the premeditation, and then
shared with the jury the attempted cover-up by marrying in Pennsylvania.
Graham’s opening remarks laid it all open.
He gave a painful description of Hilda’s death.
Graham had successfully married the facts of the Mumbulo Case to the
stereotype of the “wicked stepmother.”
The jury did not flinch, but absorbed it all.
Other witnesses were brought forward.
G. E. Gardner, the Justice of the Peace in Montrose, identified both
Edna and Ralph as the couple who secured his services for their marriage.
Firemen L. J. Stanton, Leo Nagle, R. J. McCall, and Assistant Fire
Chief Lawrence Scully shared their versions of the fire.
Coroner Dan Hanley admitted that the first investigation of the fire
ended without suspicion.
Nothing seemed to be going right for the prosecution.
Then, without notice, a young woman entered the courtroom.
She was crying hysterically as she approached the defense table.
The young woman was Margaret Tanner, Edna’s daughter.
The two had not seen each other in over two years.
The mother and daughter embraced and cried.
Judge Hirt temporarily adjourned the court.
The story took an improbable twist.
Had the defense manufactured the return of Edna’s daughter simply to
present Edna as a loving and loved mother?
Or was it purely coincidental? In
either event, the image was clear. Maybe
Edna was not a cold-hearted murderer. But,
the presence of her weeping daughter convinced few of her innocence.
It only served to remind them that she loved her own children, but
perhaps not her stepchild.
Attorney Carney, working on behalf of Edna Mumbulo,
then went onto the offensive. He
argued that Chenango County Sheriff Barnes questioned the couple without
offering them attorney services or informing them of their rights. In doing so, he suggested, his client had been [End Page
47] denied her constitutional rights and that any and all admissions made
during that time were improperly acquired and thus inadmissible.
By the day’s end, the trial was up for grabs.
“It is difficult,” the defense stated in their Memorandum of Brief,
“to imagine a case where a conviction of a murderer is sought on such flimsy
The Erie Daily Times reported that the State’s
argument was an abysmal failure. “Those
witnesses, reputed by the State to be their most important, floundered several
times as defense counsel drew statements from them greatly to the benefit of
Mrs. Mumbulo.” Had Edna slipped
away from the law again? Or, was
she being tried for a crime she had not committed?
Was she being tried because she was a woman? Was she being tried because she was a stepmother?
In any event, the conviction which seemed so certain to the State days
earlier, was in jeopardy.
On May 21, the third day of the trial, both the
prosecution and defense brought forward experts they believed could win the
case. The prosecution secured the
services of R. E. Lee, head of the chemistry department at Allegheny College
and the author of chemistry textbooks.
Assistant District Attorney Graham asked Lee to share
with the court his qualifications. He
then asked in what ways fires could be ignited.
Lee told the court that there were four ways to ignite a fire: by a
photo-chemical method, an electrical spark, an open flame, and by thermal
effect. Graham knew that the
defense’s argument was that the fire had started by friction or thermal
“Dr. Lee,” Graham asked, “assuming a person is
cleaning or rubbing clothes in an open dishpan, such as this exhibit, and in
gasoline, would you say it possible by the thermal effect of the friction —
only by the thermal effect of the friction — to set fire to the gasoline
without burning the hands?”
“No, Sir,” Lee replied.
Graham had been successful in eliciting testimony
from the expert that supported the prosecution’s argument.
Graham also needed to demonstrate that Edna had not only deliberately
ignited the fire, but that she carried it and willingly threw it upon Hilda.
Lee’s testimony, therefore, continued.
Lee testified that according to tests done on the dishpan in question,
it was estimated that the pan reached temperatures of 700 to 800 degrees
Fahrenheit and that Edna's hands would have begun burning as soon as the pan’s
temperature reached 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
The image painted for the court was clear:
Edna Mumbulo had doused little Hilda with gasoline and then, and only
then, was the gasoline ignited.
The defense saw otherwise. Truesdell rose to question Professor Lee.
Under cross-examination, Lee admitted that the defense claim was not
entirely impossible, but “highly improbable.”
The defense then offered up the testimony of A. H. Hamilton, a chemist.
Hamilton testified that a burning pan could be carried and that Edna’s
apron had scorch marks to prove it. The
defense, in effect, argued that the pan had ignited, Edna carried the pan with
her apron, and then unwittingly threw the pan at a closed window.
The defense never tried to explain how the flaming gasoline splashed
back over six feet to catch young Hilda on fire. [End Page 48]
On May 22, the trial resumed.
In what the Erie Daily Times would later describe as a “merciless
barrage,” Assistant District
Attorney Herbst questioned Edna Mumbulo.
None of her answers seemed to satisfy the government attorney.
“And you left Hilda, the beautiful child, in that
blazing inferno and didn’t do a thing to save her?” he asked.
Edna remained silent. Then softly she began to explain. The district attorney’s bitterness subsided as Edna’s
hushed voice captivated the courtroom audience.
Edna remained on the stand for two hours as she repeated her story over
and over again. She told of their
times together. She told the
court how she treated Hilda as if she were her own.
She told of the dishpan, the sudden flames, and the subsequent fire.
Her eyes watered, but no tears fell.
A long pause punctuated the testimony.
Then , both parties rested. The
trial was over and deliberations began.
On Friday, in a small room on the third floor of the
Erie County Courthouse, the jury deliberated the fate of Edna Mumbulo, the
accused Torchkiller of 1930. On
the jury’s first ballot, nine voted for a conviction of Second Degree
Murder, two voted for the death sentence, and only one held out for an
acquittal. In the company of
Deputy Sheriff Irma McDonald, Edna paced the halls in anticipation of the
verdict. Ralph remained in the
courtroom, falling in and out of sleep. His
interest in his wife appeared to be waning.
Was he convinced of her guilt? Or
was he part of the plan? Did he
still love her? The deliberations
took most of the day and by the end of that Friday, the jurors were already
exhausted. The deliberations
continued into the night. On
the second ballot, eleven voted for Second Degree Murder and the lone juror
remained steadfast in support of the acquittal decision.
Finally, on the third ballot, the lone juror was broken.
All twelve jurors voted in favor of the prosecution.
Edna Mumbulo was found guilty of Second Degree Murder.
At 3:30 a.m., early Saturday morning, the tipstaff was notified that a
verdict had been reached. Judge
Hirt was summoned from home and just forty minutes later the verdict was read:
Edna’s face was ashen. She seemed older. She looked blankly at the jury and then the judge. Her sister, Grace Johnson from Wesleyville, fainted. Other sobs filled the courtroom. Ralph and Edna did not look at one another. Walter Smoot, the Chief Deputy Sheriff, approached Edna’s table and stood by her side. She rose. Smoot escorted her into the “cold, gray dawn of the morning” and through the courtyard and into the jail. When she reached her cell, she fell suddenly onto her cot and began weeping. All subsequent efforts and pleas for a re-trial were denied.
Pennsylvania State Western penitentiary did not accept women and the Allegheny
County Workhouse was for those inmates serving a sentence longer than one
year, Erie County authorities began to search for proper prison accommodations
for Edna. Eastern Penitentiary in
Philadelphia usually took women, but the request for Edna’s incarceration
there was denied. In
July, Edna was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison, but the State still had
no place to send her. Finally, in
late September, 1930, Erie officials contacted and received approval for Edna
to be incarcerated at the Muncy Institute for Women in Muncy, Pennsylvania. [End
Page 49] There, it was reported, she would be assigned to the lace-making
department to make full use of dressmaking skills.
She bided her time. In
late April, 1932, the memory of Edna’s case was revived in the Erie Daily
Times when a reminiscence article was published about Erie’s most
notorious female criminal. By
that date, she had only served 21-months of her minimum 120-month sentence. There was, however, increasing speculation that her sentence
might be reduced to seven or eight years.
Upon release, she and Ralph (for whom all charges had
been dropped) moved to the Rochester, New York, area to start over.
Over the course of the next two decades, the childless couple bounced
around between New York State, Florida, and North Carolina.
On occasion, they visited family members in New Berlin and Rochester,
but never stayed too long.
In 1965, Ralph died.
By the late 1980s, Edna was back in Erie.
She found housing in the Erie County Geriatric Center and was assigned
a GECAC counselor. She died in
1990 at the age of 99.
The Mumbulo Case of 1930 presents interesting
problems to a criminal historian. How
and why did she commit the crime? Does
her scenario of the events that transpired hold any weight?
Yet, how could the jury convict her, knowing that what evidence existed
was purely circumstantial? Why did Judge Hirt assert her possible innocence only after
the trial had concluded? And,
lastly, how does a woman rebuild her life after such a devastating tragedy and
her conviction for the murder that came from that tragedy?
The truth may never be known about Edna Mumbulo.
She remains as mysterious as the day she hit the local headlines in
1930. It may be difficult to
deny, however, that her gender and her status as a stepmother affected both
the public perception and court decisions of her case.
The idea of a mother killing a child, to many, seemed beyond
comprehension. Mothers are
supposed to be caring, loving, and nurturing.
Stepmothers, according to the myth, are not.
Over the entire course of the Spring and Summer of 1930, the facts of
the Mumbulo case were twisted and contorted to portray Edna as a cold-hearted
stepmother who viciously killed Hilda Mumbulo.
She had abandoned her first children, had an “illicit alliance”
with Ralph Mumbulo, craved his attention, and wanted lavish gifts.
Or so the newspapers said. The
reality is, however, that those allegations about her personal life and
character remain unsubstantiated. Whether
she committed the act or not, she was convicted because she was the living
embodiment of the “wicked stepmother.”
She was, in the eyes of the Erie public, no fantasy.
And thus, no fairy tale ending. [End Page 50]
* Direct correspondence to Professor Joseph Laythe, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Department of History, Hendricks Hall, Edinboro, PA, 16444. Dr. Laythe is Associate Professor of History at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He specializes in American Urban Development, Violence, and Crime. He is a graduate of Carroll College of Montana (BA, 1987), Portland State University (MA, 1992), and the University of Oregon (Ph.d., 1996). Other publications include Power and Paradox: A History of the Oregon State Penitentiary, 1866-1968 (Oregon Department of Corrections, 1991) and "Outlaws of Erie and Wartime Bandits: Crime in Erie, Pennsylvania, 1941-1946" (The Journal of Erie Studies, 2000). While his work currently focuses on the regional crime of northwestern Pennsylvania, he remains a loyal Pacific Northwesterner.
 Social Security Death Index; Erie Daily Times 26 March 1990, p.3B.
 In a study of Detroit female homicide offenders, nearly 44% of all victims of women killers were their own children. See A. Goetting, “When Females Kill One Another,” Criminal Justice and Behavior 15: 179-189.
 Elicka Peterson, “Murder as Self-Help: Women and Intimate Partner Homicide,” Homicide Studies (1999): 30-46.
 Elizabeth M. Suval and Robert C. Brisson, “Neither Beauty Nor Beast: Female Criminal Homicide Offenders,” International Journal of Criminology and Penology 2 (1974): 23-34; and Eric R. Dowdy and N. Prabha Unnithan, “Child Homicide and the Economic Stress Hypothesis,” Homicide Studies 3 (1997): 281-290.
 Susan Crimmins, Sandra Langley, and Henry H. Brownstein, “Convicted Women Who Have Killed Children: A Self-Psychology Perspective,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 12 (1998): 49-69.
 Jane Totman, The Murderess: A Psychological Study of Criminal Homicide (1978). Other works worth reading include Alex Kirsta, Deadlier Than Male: Violence and Aggression in Women (1994), and Paul R. Wilson, Murder of the Innocents: Child-Killers and Their Victims (1985).
Other “stepmother” works include: E.B. Visher and J.S.
Visher, Stepfamilies: Myths and Realities (Seacaucus, N. J.: Citadel,
1979); E. Wald, The Remarried Family: Challenge and Promise (N.Y.:
Family Services Association of America, 1981);
Lawrence Ganong and Marilyn Coleman, “Stepparent: A Pejorative
Term?” Psychological Reports (52): 919-922; and Stephen Claxton-Oldfield,
“Deconstructing the Myth of the Wicked Stepparent,” Marriage and
Family Review 2000 (30): 51-58.
 Marianne Dainton, “Myths and Misconceptions of the Stepmother Identity,” Family Relations 1993 (42): 93.
 William Blackburn, “’Terrible Thoughts’: The Instinct of Revolt in Children’s Literature,” Paper Presented at Annual Meeting of the Canadian Council of Teachers of English, Montreal, 1983.
 Stephen Claxton-Oldfield and Bonnie Butler, “Portrayal of Stepparents in Movie Plot Summaries,” Psychological Reports 1998 (82): 879-882.
 Dainton, 95.
 Erving Goffman, in Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963), notes that stigmatization is the product of the connection (conscious or unconscious) between a “particular attribute” and the myths and stereotypes about that attribute. In effect, Mumbulo was stigmatized as a “bad” person because she was a “stepmother.”
 Gisela Labouvie-Vief, “Commentary on Janet Strayer’s ‘Trapped in the Mirror: Psychosocial Reflections on Mid-Life and the Queen in Snow White’” Human Development 1996 (39): 173-182. [End Page 51]
 Janet Strayer, "Trapped in the Mirror: Psychosocial Reflections on Mid-Life and the Queen in Snow White" Human Development 1996 (39): 155-172.
 Strayer, 157.
 Correspondence with Barbara Ferrar-May, Bill O’Neil, and Kristi Kennison, all of whom are Arbogast Family members, January 2001. Edna consistently gave her name, both at the time of her arrest and in later years to her GECAC counselors, as “Deshunk.” Her social security forms and family records, however, note the real spelling as “Shunk.”
 Erie Daily Times 26 March 1990, p.3B and 1 May 1930, p.27. Church data corroborated by correspondence with Burris Esplen, archivist, Diocese of Pittsburgh, Fall 2000.
 Correspondence with Kenneth Hodges, Arbogast descendant, February 2001.
 Erie Daily Times, 1 May 1930, p.27; 8 April 1930, p.1; 23 May 1930, pp.1,17; 7 April 1930, p.2; 4 April 1930, p.1; 11 August 1930, p.21; and 2 May 1930, p.1.
 Erie Daily Times, 9 April 1930, p.8.
 Erie Daily Times, 25 April 1932, Insert Section, p.4; 2 May 1930, p.3; 4 April 1930, p.6; 9 April 1930, pp.8, 29; and 23 May 1930, p.17.
 Blossey’s testimony found in Erie Daily Times, 8 April 1930, p.2 and 21 May 1930, p.2.
 Erie Daily Times, 2 May 1930, p.3.
 Erie Daily Times, 4 April 1930, p.6; 8 April 1930, p.1; and 10 April 1930, p.2.
 Erie Daily Times, 31 March 1930, p.19; 22 March 1930, p.19; and 7 April 1930, p.19.
 The Hanley-Schaller Funeral Chapel was run by the family of Erie Coroner Dan Hanley. There is no evidence of any improprieties with regard to the Mumbulo’s use of that funeral home. Erie Daily Times, 4 April 1930, p.6 and 24 March 1930, p.13.
 Erie Daily Times, 21 May 1930, p.2; 11 April 1930, p.1; 3 April 1930, p.17; 9 April 1930, p.8; 31 March 1930, p.13; and 8 April 1930, p.1.
 Erie Daily Times, 31 March 1930, p.13;1 April 1930, p.15;2 April 1930, p.15; 3 April 1930, p.17; 4 April 1930, p.1; and 5 April 1930, p.1.
 Erie Daily Times, 7 April 1930, p.1; 1 August 1930, p.12; and 5 April 1930, p.1.
 Erie Daily Times, 4 April 1930-11 April 1930.
 Erie Daily Times, 9 April 1930, p.1.
 Erie Daily Times, 9 April 1930, p.1; 10 April 1930, p.2; 23 May 1930, p.17.
 Erie Daily Times, 10 April 1930, p.2. [End Page 52]
 Erie Daily Times, 23 May 1930, p.17.
 Erie Daily Times, 7 April 1930, p.2; 9 April 1930, p.29; 10 April 1930, p.1; 14 April 1930, p.1.
 Erie Daily Times, 9 April 1930, p.29.
 Erie Daily Times, 10 April 1930,p.1; 11 April 1930,p.1; 15 April 1930,p.1; 16 April 1930,p.19; 18 April 1930,p.23; 26 April 1930,p.1; 28 April 1930,p.13; 29 April 1930,p.15.
 There are a significant number of works on the stereotype of the “wicked stepmother” as noted in the introduction. It should be noted that these stereotypes are not associated with stepfathers.
 Erie Daily Times, 9 April 1930, p.8; 7 April 1930,p.19.
 Erie Daily Times, 10 April 1930, p.2.
 Erie Daily Times, 29 April 1930, p.15; 1 May 1930,p.17.
 “Erie County Quarter Sessions Docket, February Term 1930 to November Term 1930,” Book 27, (Erie County Historical Society, Erie, Pennsylvania). See also Erie Daily Times, 30 April 1930,p.17; 1 May 1930, p.1; and 2 May 1930,p.3.
 Erie Daily Times, 2 May 1930,pp.1, 3, 19.
 Erie Daily Times, 5 May 1930,p.15; 6 May 1930,p.1; 13 May 1930,p.23; 15 May 1930,p.19; 16 May 1930, p.21; and 19 May 1930,p.1.
 Correspondence with John William Hirt, descendant of Judge William Hirt, 25 March 2001.
 Erie Daily Times, 19 May 1930, pp.1-2.
 Erie Daily Times, 20 May 1930, pp.1,23.
 Defense Memorandum in Brief, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. Mrs. Edna Mumbulo, Court of Oyer and Terminer of Erie, Pennsylvania.
 Erie Daily Times, 21 May 1930, p.2.
 Defense Memorandum of Brief, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. Mrs. Edna Mumbulo, Court of Oyer and Terminer of Erie, Pennsylvania, p.3.
 Erie Daily Times, 25 April 1932, Insert, p.4.
 Erie Daily Times, 24 December 1938, 2 January 1939. By August 1939, D.A. Otto Herbst was dead.
 Correspondence with David Mumbulo of Owego, N.Y., great-nephew of Ralph Mumbulo, Fall 2000.
Stephen and Butler, Bonnie. “Portrayal
of Stepparents in
[End Page 53]
Susan; Langley, Sandra; and Brownstein, Henry.
“Myths and Misconceptions of the Stepmother Identity.”
Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity New
“Commentary on Janet Strayer’s ‘Trapped in the Mirror:
“Murder As Self-Help: Women and Intimate Partner
of Pennsylvania vs. Mrs. Edna Mumbulo, Court of Oyer and
with Barbara Farrar-May, Kenneth Hodges, Bill O’Neil, Kristi
with John William Hirt and Patrick Scully, descendants of
Memorandum in Brief in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. Mrs.
County Quarter Sessions Docket, February Term 1930 to November Term
Erie Daily Times, March 1930-January 1939. [End Page 54]