When Dan Buchanan was a child, his father wedged a tractor into the middle a gravestone. After the family had gone to church, his grandfather used a sledge hammer to beat the stone into tiny little pieces. That was the type of vitriol the grave of Dr. William Henry King could still bring up, even generations later. Dr. King’s grave was not a place of happy memories, but one that family had chosen to gloss over. Dan Buchanan set out to find out more about his family and their hidden drama by doing the research for himself. In his book Murder in the Family, Buchanan finds out what his family had been trying to not resurface.
Dr. William Henry King was a deeply respected member of the community, but he was by no stretch of the imagination a good man. His unhappiness with his wife Sarah lead her to leave his side during her first pregnancy, only returning to her husband when he promised things would change. King was a philanderer, often remarking in his letters to young ladies that his wife was sick and would likely soon die. He would then rather brazenly ask them to wait for him until that point. During Sarah’s second pregnancy, she began to become violently ill. King took great pride in treating his wife daily…with arsenic. Though her family suspected, it wasn’t until Sarah passed that they came forward to authorities. Armed with letters from King, as well as some early forensic data, the court took the charges seriously.
Murder in the Family examines the life of King, the death of his wife and his eventual trial, but it also details what it’s like to research a relative who is a known murderer. Dan Buchanan includes family details about where the family went after the trial and just what happened to those in the family who were not wife-poisoners.