Rhonda Belle Martin’s fifth marriage was strange, to say the least. Her new husband was her own stepson, a 30-year-old sailor. And the illness which then paralysed him from the waist down seemed stranger still…until tests found arsenic in his hair.

An investigation was launched, and his stepmother-bride was arrested at the café in Alabama where she worked as a waitress. It transpired that over the past 17 years this plain, bespectacled, middle-aged housewife and mother had added one tombstone after another to her family’s burial plots in two cemeteries. She had poisoned six victims to death; these included her mother, two of her husbands and three of her daughters.

“They were the ones closest to me, the ones I loved the most,” she said, admitting the six slayings and an attempted seventh.

“A lot of people, them that don’t know me, think I’m bad and mean,” she said in 1956 after she was convicted and sentenced to death on the specimen count of one of the murders. “They think I meant to do all that I did, but I couldn’t help doing it.”

She said she gave all her victims the best possible nursing care, and didn’t know why she never told the doctors what was wrong with them. Some of them were insured, she admitted, “but anybody who thinks I could have ever killed anyone for insurance just doesn’t know me.”

So why did she kill? “I wish somebody would tell me,” she once pondered. “That’s what I’ve never been able to understand. I never wanted to kill anybody. And I never thought about it once before I done it. If I’d thought about it beforehand I never would have done it. I don’t know what come over me to make me do it again and again.”

Sitting on Alabama’s Death Row, she was asked what she would tell the state’s governor. “There’s nothing much I can tell him,” she said. “I just want to ask him to please commute my sentence to life. I don’t want to get out, ever. If I was to get out I might do the same thing over again. I’m afraid I would. I wish they had caught me a long time ago and put me in here so I couldn’t have done all I did.

“Wondering about why I did it worries me more than going to the electric chair. There must be somebody who can tell me before I die. Some scientist. I’d undergo any kind of test just so they could tell me why I done all I did, especially to my children.”

Nobody told her, and she wasn’t reprieved. She was electrocuted on OCTOBER 11th, 1957.