How Did Patty Cannon Die?

The last case featured on Investigation Discovery’s ‘Deadly Women: The Dark Side’ is that of the notorious Patty Cannon. During the 1800s, she was called “the wickedest woman in America.” Patty was infamous for being one of the earliest female serial killers in the country. She was reported to have been involved in thousands of kidnappings and killing multiple people as the co-leader of the Cannon-Johnson gang during the 19th century. So, let’s find out more about her then, shall we?

Who Was Patty Cannon?

Patty was born sometime in the 1760s (give or take a few years). She lived on the Delaware-Maryland state line and was married to Jesse Cannon, who died sometime around 1826. They had two daughters. After the government banned importing slaves in the year 1808, Patty and her family got into the business of illegally selling slaves. She led a gang of about 50-60 people who would kidnap free and free-born black people who lived in Delaware. The gang would then sell them to slave traders from the South for a hefty sum.

Patty’s son-in-law, Joe Johnson, was heavily involved in the criminal activities. They owned a tavern close to their home, which became their base of operations. They would trick unsuspecting black people and kidnap them. The gang held the kidnapped people captive, chained in the basement or other secret rooms. In early 1829, a farmer discovered a trunk filled with human remains buried on one of Patty’s properties. The police were promptly alerted, and Patty was arrested as a result.

When Patty was taken into custody at the tavern in April 1829, the authorities found more than twenty people in chains ready to be sold to traders. Soon, her operation crumbled and one of the gang members agreed to provide information in return for immunity. He told the police about three murders that he knew about. The remains that were found were of three children and an adult. Patty was indicted on four counts of murder.

How Did Patty Cannon Die?

While in prison, Patty confessed to more than twenty murders, including killing her husband and one of her kids. There were reports of Patty tossing a child into the fireplace as well. On May 11, 1829, she was found dead in her prison cell in Georgetown, Delaware. There was speculation that she killed herself by consuming poison that she had smuggled into the prison. Patty had requested for a priest to confess her sins to mere hours before she was found dead. She was about 60 or 70 years old at the time of her death. Patty evaded the law for decades before her capture and never stood trial for her crimes.

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