50 American serial killers - Alabama
A series of hubs chronicling a serial killer from each of the fifty states.
“Something’s wrong,” thought Ronald.
For the past few weeks, Ronald Martin of Montgomery, Alabama, was suffering from many ailments. Headaches, stomach pains, severe diarrhea and vomiting plagued him for most of his days. He spent almost all of his time in bed, unable to move. He was in danger of losing his job due to not being able to go in, but at this point, he didn’t care. The pain and misery was that bad. He just wanted it to end.
His wife, Rhonda, opened the bedroom door and carried in a lunch tray consisting of an egg salad sandwich, a pickle and a cup of coffee.
“Time to eat, honey,” she said, “Maybe you’ll feel better after you eat.”
But Ronald would not feel better. His wife was trying to kill him with rat poison.
Rhonda Bell Martin was 49 years old when she was arrested and confessed to the arsenic poisoning of her mother, two former husbands, and three of her children. Ronald Martin, her fifth husband (and former son-in-law) was to be another victim, but escaped with his life, only to be left a paraplegic.
Born in 1907, she married W.R. Alderman in 1922. That marriage ended in 1926 and she married George Garrett in 1928. They had a daughter, Emogene, in 1934. At the age of three, Emogene became the 1st victim of Rhonda Martin in 1937. Mr. Garrett became her next arsenic victim in 1939.
Rhonda married a third husband for a short time but quickly moved on to her fourth husband, Claude Martin. Her six-year-old daughter Carolyn, from her marriage to George Garrett, became the third victim and died in 1940. Ellyn Elizabeth Garrett, the Garrett’s third child, became the next victim, dying in 1943 at the age of eleven. Rhonda poisoned her mother, Mary Frances Gibbon, who died in 1944.
Claude, who had son Ronald from a previous marriage, died in 1951 from Rhonda’s poisoning. A few months after his death, she began dating Ronald, 21 years her junior. In December 1951, the two were married. Everything was fine (or seemed fine) until Ronald began to get sick in early 1956. It was his illness that led to the investigation of Rhonda, resulting in her arrest in March 1956.
She was never very clear about her motives behind the killings. It was speculated that it was for the life insurance but she never admitted to that and what she did collect was usually just enough to cover the burial costs.
Although she confessed to the arsenic murders of her mother, two of her five husbands, and three of her children, Rhonda was only convicted for the death of her fourth husband Claude Martin. She buried her head in her arms and sobbed when she was sentenced with the death penalty on June 5, 1956.
On October, 10, 1957, she ate her last meal, consisting of hamburger, mashed potatoes, cinnamon rolls and coffee. The next morning she was strapped to the electric chair, clutched her New Testament, and received 2,200 volts of electricity.
She left behind a note in her Bible which read:
“At my death, whether it be a natural death or otherwise, I want my body to be given to some scientific institution to be used as they see fit, but especially to see if someone can find out why I committed the crimes I have committed. I can’t understand it, for I had no reason whatsoever. There is definitely something wrong. Can’t someone find it and save someone else the agony I have been through.”
She is buried in Montgomery Memorial Cemetery.