“Sister” Amy Duggan Archer-Gilligan was born in Milton, Connecticut October of 1868. She was the owner of a nursing home and a serial killer. She was proven to have murdered at least five people, possibly many more.
Amy was the eighth child of ten born to James Duggan and Mary Kennedy. She was educated at the Milton School and then the New Britain Normal School in 1890.
In 1897 Amy married James Archer and they had a daughter, Mary, later that year in December.
In 1901 the Archers were hired to take care of John Seymour, an aging widower, who’s home they moved into located in Newington, Connecticut. Seymour died in 1904 and his family turned his home into a boarding house and let the Archers stay. The Archers cared for the elderly in this house, charging a fee, some of which they gave to the Seymour family for rent. The name of this home was Sister Amy’s Nursing Home for the Elderly.
The Archers moved to Windsor, Connecticut in 1907 when the
Seymour family chose to sell the boarding house. They had enough saved to purchase another residence that they converted into the Archer Home for the Elderly and Infirm. Their clients could pay two ways: on a weekly basis, or for a flat fee of $1,000 which guaranteed care for the rest of their life. The poor souls who chose to pay the flat fee made themselves big targets for Amy and as a result died before their time.
In 1910 Amy’s husband, James, died of kidney disease. The death was considered natural causes, though it was curious that Amy had taken out an insurance policy of James just a few weeks before he died. Because of the money she got from this policy she was able to continue running the Archer home.
Amy remarried in 1913 to Michael W. Gilligan. The very next year Michael was dead and in the short time of their marriage he had drawn up a will and left Amy with his entire estate. The official cause of death was “acute bilious attack” or severe indigestion. Who knew you could die from indigestion? And nobody questioned this.
Sixty deaths occurred in the Archer Home between the years of 1907 and 1917. Finally, relatives of Amy’s clients began to catch on and start inquiring about the large number of deaths happening at the house.
One of these deaths was of Franklin R. Andrews who was a perfectly healthy man. He was doing some gardening outside the house one morning and mysteriously by that same evening was dead. The official cause of death was gastric ulcer. Franklin’s personal papers were given to his sister, Nellie Pierce, after his death. She found that Amy had been hounding her brother for money before his death.
A pattern emerged of quit a few clients dying soon after giving money to their caretaker. Nellie reported her suspicions to the local district attorney, when the deaths continued. The D.A. ignored her so she decided to take it to the press. The Hartford Courant published the first of a few articles on May 9, 1916 about the “Murder Factory” as it would soon be called. This forced the police to take the case more seriously and the started an investigation that lasted almost a year. The authorities exhumed the bodies of Michael, Franklin and the other clients. It was found that all five died by either arsenic or strychnine poisoning. Local shop owners gave testimony that Amy had been buying large amounts of arsenic, that she needed to “kill rats”.
It also came out in court that her second husband’s will was fake and written in Amy’s handwriting.
Amy was arrested and charged with five counts of murder, but her lawyer managed to get that reduced to one count, that of which was the death of Franklin Andrews.
A jury found her guilty on June 18, 1917 and she was sentenced to
death by hanging. She was held at Wetherfield Prison. She appealed her case and was granted a new trial in 1919. This time around she pleaded insanity and her daughter testified that she was addicted to morphine. She was found guilty of second degree murder, but this time was sentenced to a life term.
Amy was declared temporarily insane in 1924 and was transferred to the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane in Middletown. This is where she stayed until she died on April 23, 1962.
Today the “Murder Factory” still stands in Windsor at 37 Prospect St. where it has been turned into apartments.