Monday, November 7, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: November 7

November 7, 1913 – After the jury had deliberated the case for nearly two hours, Mrs. Ida Michaud Leckwold was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the arsenic poisoning death of her daughter Viola.

Under terms of the statute governing such cases, Mrs. Leckwold was remanded to jail pending the sentence of the court sending her to the state hospital at Rochester.

Rochester State Hospital1

During the trial, the jury listened to Mrs. Leckwold’s defense attorney, M. C. Brady; two defense psychologists; her two remaining children, Willie, 11, and Myrtle, 9; her family and neighbors testify about her health and difficult home life:

- Her mother, Mrs. Serena (Peter) Michaud, admitted that she and her husband, Mrs. Leckwold’s father, were first cousins (his mother and her mother were sisters), and that several family members had similar epilepsy attacks. 

One daughter, she said, had suffered constantly for 28 years and that her youngest son was an imbecile. She said he was unable to learn at school and that she took him out of school when he was 17 years old because he could not learn to read or write. She said he had to be watched all the time and was cared for like a small child.

- Her psychologists testified that Mrs. Leckwold was the victim of epileptic dementia to such a degree as to seriously affect her mental powers and make her irresponsible for her acts.

They also testified that she had suffered long periods of post-partem depression throughout her married life; cruel treatment and abuse by her husband and overworked conditions, and a lack of proper nourishment along with a continued state of nervousness increased by her numerous pregnancies.

Myrtle, the 11-year-old daughter, testified that many times the family went without food, except that brought in by friends. She said that she and her mother were forced to gather wood from the lumber yard during the last two winters because her father refused to provide fuel and that she had seen her father strike her mother sometimes with his open hand and sometimes with his fist, knocking her down.

Myrtle also said that she had been kept from school most of her life to take care of the smaller children while her mother went to work as a washerwoman at other people’s homes.

Mrs. Michaud, Myrtle’s grandmother and Mrs. Leckwold’s mother, declared her daughter often went out to work within two weeks after the birth of a child.

- Willie, her 11-year-old son, also told of his father’s violence toward his mother and declared he had seen him strike her so often he could not count. In addition, he admitted he was afraid of his mother since she had tried to poison him and his father at the same time she had poisoned his younger sister Viola.

Mrs. Ida Leckwold2

Mrs. Leckwold’s insanity commitment was the first of its kind in Hennepin County in years and there was no record or form of commitment in the criminal court records; therefore, she continued to be held in the county jail until the court and the criminal division of the district clerk’s office prepared the proper commitment form.

James Robertson, county attorney; M. C. Brady, Mrs. Leckwold’s attorney, and the court agreed to a form of commitment that would allow the woman’s release from Rochester Hospital upon a certified statement of hospital authorities that she has recovered.

The next move, according to Mr. Brady, was to have a guardian appointed for Willie and Myrtle, the defendant’s remaining two children. For some time the children had been in the custody of their father’s family. An effort will be made to have the court place the children in the care of their mother’s relatives. Mr. Michaud declared he would be glad to take them to his Wisconsin farm.

Ida Leckwold was admitted to the Rochester State Hospital Nov. 10, 1913.

Minneapolis Morning Tribune
; “Woman Poisoner Not Responsible Declare Experts. Mrs. Leckwold suffered From Epileptic Dementia, Alienists Testify. Heredity and Consanguinal Marriages Contributed to Her Condition. State Will Not Offer Expert Testimony—Case to End Tonight.”; Nov. 7, 1913; p. 1.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune
; “Mrs. Leckwold Found Not Guilty; Insane. Woman Who Poisoned Child Will Be Sent to the Rochester Asylum. Jury Finds She Was Irresponsible When Crime Was Committed. Husband’s Story Is Barred—Defense Blocks His Attempt to Testify.”; Nov. 8, 1913; pp. 1 & 4.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Mrs. Leckwold Kept Here Until Papers Are Drawn. Form of Commitment Presents Problem to County Attorney and Assistants. Judge Orders Woman Taken to Rochester Asylum for Treatment.”; Nov. 9, 1913; p. 1.


2The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; Oct. 3, 1913; p.1.

Ida Leckwold is arrested for and confesses to murdering her 9-year-old daughter Viola; see Sept. 30, 2016 blog.

Ida Leckwold claims husband beats her; says she was mentally affected by abuse and constant motherhood; see Oct. 5, 2016 blog.

Mrs. Ida Leckwold was indicted today on the charge of murder in the first degree for the murder of her daughter, Viola; see Oct. 7, 2016 blog.

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