Here we have a very strange death from 1909. Mrs. Jessie Culbertson of Vincennes, Indiana, had been a bride for only three months when she was found in the woodshed of her home. She had been absent from sight no longer than about ten minutes. She was bruised and unconscious, with burns around her face and throat. A cloth was tied around her head, closing her jaws shut. (Some reports state her hands and feet were also tied.) Before she died, the stricken woman regained her senses long enough to say that a man and a woman had dragged her out to the woodshed, bound her and forced poison down her throat. Several letters were found in her home, allegedly from an old girlfriend of her new husband Russell, warning her to give him up or suffer the consequences.
These circumstances initially clearly pointed to murder, but that was soon disputed. It was revealed that Jessie Culbertson had tried to kill herself a year before, and investigators believed the threatening letters resembled her handwriting. The stationary used for the letters was similar to paper Mrs. Culbertson had used before. The theory was that she staged her death to look like a murder that would implicate a woman she saw as a rival.
Despite the ambiguous nature of the case--her bruises were never explained, and it's questionable that she could have tied herself up in any way after having taken a poison that would have been immediately debilitating--this soon became the official verdict of her death, and the “other woman” was cleared of suspicion. Jessie Culbertson, the authorities ruled, was not a tragic victim, but a suicide who was also one of the most diabolical of attempted murderers.