The Murder of Dr. Chapman: The Legendary Trials of Lucretia Chapman and Her Lover

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9780060196233: The Murder of Dr. Chapman: The Legendary Trials of Lucretia Chapman and Her Lover

In The Murder of Dr. Chapman, acclaimed true-crime journalist Linda Wolfe brings to life the long-forgotten story of three tragic individuals whose fate once rocked America.

Enterprising and ambitious, Lucretia Winslow Chapman had aspirations that exceeded those of many early-nineteenth-century women. An accomplished teacher, she founded at the age of twenty-nine one of Philadelphia's first boarding schools for girls. A year later, her school a success, she married a prominent local scientist, William Chapman, and with him had five children, all while helping her husband with his scientific endeavors and continuing to teach.

But Lucretia's energy (termed "masculine" at the time) would prove no match for Lino Espos y Mina, one of the most extraordinary con artists in American history. Lino appeared at the Chapman home one evening in 1831, asking for a room and introducing himself as the son of an important Mexican governor and the owner of vast silver and gold mines. Intrigued by the handsome Latino stranger, Lucretia agreed to take him in, and it wasn't long before they became lovers. Little more than a month after the affair began, Dr. Chapman was dead.

At first his death was attributed to natural causes. But once the relationship between the scientist's widow and the newcomer became known, the authorities began to suspect that Chapman had been poisoned. Soon both Lucretia and Lino were charged with murder. Their separate trials -- each featuring sex, scandal, deception, and the striking courtroom tactics of remarkable lawyers -- produced two very different outcomes and riveted the young American nation.

With exceptional skill, Wolfe braids trial transcripts, intimate love letters, and period recollections into a compelling historical thriller that reads with a surprisingly contemporary feel. The Murder of Dr. Chapman: The Legendary Trials of Lucretia Chapman and Her Lover is a captivating blend of history, mystery, and detection that culminates in a courtroom drama as timely as any in today's headlines.

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About the Author:

Linda Wolfe is the author of several books, including the Edgar Award-nominated Wasted. She lives in New York City.

From Publishers Weekly:

"Murder was the favorite subject [of books and newspaper stories], and... murders that took place within the privileged class excited the greatest interest," writes Wolfe in this fascinating historical re-creation of an early 19th-century scandal. Lucretia Chapman, a wife, mother and headmistress of a boarding school near Philadelphia, and the man who called himself Lino Espos y Mina, a sociopathic liar who was the catalyst for her husband's murder, are as colorful characters as one is likely to find in true crime tales. Lino, in particular, seems to defy the laws of rationality. He turned up dirty and penniless at the Chapmans' door, boasting that he was the aristocratic son of a Mexican general who was governor of California, and was heir to gold and silver mines in his native country. Dr. William Chapman, a noted scientist, had doubts about the man who henceforth boarded with them, but Lucretia fell under his spell and soon became Lino's lover. After two years, Lino either poisoned Dr. Chapman himself or inspired Lucretia to do so. Nine days later, he married the supremely gullible Lucretia, who continued to believe his outrageous stories about why his money never arrived. Eventually arrested for murder, Lucretia and Lino were given separate trials. In a demented act of vengeance, Lino viciously maligned Lucretia with newly invented lies in a memoir he wrote before he was hanged, thus making him one of the first people in America to try to make money by publicizing his criminal activities. Wolfe's assiduous research has re-created the background and trial events in specific detail-she acknowledges the essential help of a contemporary (1832) book chronicling the trial by William Du Bois. Wolfe (Wasted) has always been a keen observer of contemporary true crime; here she has delved deeper into history to disinter a quintessential con man who cut a wide swath along the eastern seaboard among people eager to believe they were in the presence of royalty.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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