59-year-old Retired Cedar Rapids Police Matron
55-year-old Unemployed Widow
Cause of Deaths: Gassed
Motive: Love Triangle
Death Scene and Date
1302 7th Street
Sioux City, Iowa
July 10, 1925
By Nancy Bowers
Written March 2013
In 1925, Josephine Goodwin, 59, and her 55-year-old sister Elizabeth Anthony lived at 1302 7th Street in a Sioux City neighborhood near the Floyd River known as the “East Bottoms.”
Their house was little more than a shack, although one newspaper euphemistically termed it “a cottage.”
Elizabeth was a thrice-married widow. Josephine — a former Cedar Rapids Jail matron — had been married and divorced four times.
In the time leading up to their deaths, a man lived with them. Neighbors, who did not know his name, said he was the sisters’ shared boyfriend, their “mutual lover.”
After Friday, July 10, 1925, the man wasn’t seen again.
☛ Dead Sisters ☚
On Sunday, July 12, 1925, a 10-year-old girl playing in the sisters’ yard peered through a window and saw Josephine and Elizabeth on the floor. Neither was moving. The little girl told adults who summoned help.
When the Sioux City Police responded to the scene, they found the sisters were dead. Their bodies were decomposing, and the odor of natural gas filled the home.
Police found a section of gas pipe in the house had been removed, allowing gas to fill the small structure and overcome the women.
The bodies of Josephine Goodwin and Elizabeth Anthony were taken to Westcott’s Funeral Parlor for examination.
Woodbury County Coroner Dr. J.H. Robbins ruled the sisters had asphyxiated from the gas, probably late in the day on July 10.
What Robbins could not determine was if their deaths were accidental, a double suicide, a murder-suicide, or a double homicide.
Although some investigators immediately suspected the two women had carried out a suicide pact, no evidence was found of any plan to kill themselves.
Josephine Goodwin’s son Lee Pierce came to Sioux City to confer with the investigators, but he was unable to shed any light on the situation.
Neighbors told police that the sisters owned several expensive diamond rings that they kept with other jewelry in a small trunk.
When investigators opened the trunk, it contained only a watch and three smaller, less expensive rings. It appeared that the diamond rings were stolen.
On July 18, 1925, the Oelwein Daily Register reported a possible clue in the case provided to investigators by someone traveling near Sioux City:
“Police are acting on the tip that a roughly dressed man yesterday attempted to sell two diamond rings at a sacrifice price to E.P. Lindgren of Minneapolis, a tourist stopping at Stone Park, five miles from here.”
☛ “Mutual Lover” Detained ☚
On Wednesday, September 23, 1925, law enforcement detained Archie Blanchard, the man they determined was living with the sisters before their deaths and who was believed to be the last person who talked to them and saw them on July 10.
He was arrested while withdrawing money from his account at a local bank.
Blanchard — who gave his home as Madison, Wisconsin — admitted he had known the sisters “intimately.”
He was questioned about the deaths by Woodbury County Coroner J.H. Robbins and Assistant County Attorney Weir Murphy.
However, Chief of Detectives Gus Danielson told the Associated Press that Blanchard had no criminal record and had established an alibi for the time of the sisters’ deaths. In fact, Danielson said Blanchard provided information that seemed to support a double suicide scenario.
On September 30, Blanchard was released from custody.
☛ Uncertain Verdict ☚
What happened to sisters Josephine Goodwin and Elizabeth Anthony?
Were their deaths accidental? Did a poor connection cause the section of gas pipe to separate, thus permitting gas to fill the small house?
Or after six divorces and the death of one husband between them, were the two women so disenchanted by love they decided to end their lives? Was Archie Blanchard the final romantic disappointment they were able to endure?
Did one of them grow jealous of the other, perhaps because of their dual relationship with Archie Blanchard, and concoct a scheme to murder her sister and die along with her?
Or did someone else disconnect the gas pipe, rob them of their diamond rings, and leave the sisters to die?
☛ Laid to Rest ☚
Rev. J.F. Hantia held graveside services for Josephine Goodwin and Elizabeth Anthony at the Floyd Cemetery on a bluff overlooking the Floyd River not far from the home where the sisters died together.
Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.
- ☛ “Believe Sisters Suicides,” Burlington Hawk-Eye, September 29, 1925.
- ☛ “Many Crimes Unsolved In Sioux City,” Sioux City Journal, August 23, 1925.
- ☛ “Mystery In The Death Of Women,” Davenport Democrat And Leader, July 13, 1925.
- ☛ “Police Release Suspected Man,” Sioux City Journal, September 30, 1925.
- ☛ “Probe Robbery Murder Motive,” Sioux City Journal, July 16, 1925.
- ☛ “See Mystery In 2 Deaths,” Iowa City Press Citizen, July 13, 1925.
- ☛ “Seek Stranger as Bodies of 2 Women Found Dead in Home,” Waterloo Evening Courier, July 13, 1925.
- ☛ “Still Looking For Man Last Seen With Two Dead Sisters,” Oelwein Daily Register, July 18, 1925.
- ☛ “Suspect in Deaths by Gas Is Released,” Waterloo Evening Courier, September 30, 1925.
- ☛ “Two Sisters’ Slayer Escapes,” Le Mars Globe Post, August 27, 1925.
- ☛ “Two Women Found Dead,” Moville Mail, July 23, 1925.