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The Murder of Dr. Chapman: The Legendary Trials of Lucretia Chapman and Her Lover    by Linda Wolfe order for
Murder of Dr. Chapman
by Linda Wolfe
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Dr. William Chapman died in Andalusia, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It was June of 1831. His death certificate pronounced the cause of death as 'cholera morbus'. Not the deadly cholera sweeping Europe at the time (and destined to arrive on North America's shores), but a disposition of the stomach that caused great distress but did not normally end in death.

Dr. Chapman was a respected man in the field of science. He also claimed to have perfected a regimen to relieve stammerers of their affliction. His wife Lucretia Chapman (née Winslow of Cape Cod, Massachusetts) assisted William in his work. Between them they created a school for young ladies, and also a refuge for stamerers - a place to live until they felt able to participate in the world at large. Lucretia was a vibrant, compassionate woman who not only ran the school but kept house for both students and her five children. Becoming impatient with William's seemingly slothful manner, Lucretia started to berate him to help physically with their joint endeavor. He had become quite portly and she no longer felt he was fulfilling his role as husband and helpmate.

Arriving on the scene in rags and penniless, Columbian Carolino Estrado Entrealgo wheedled his way into the Chapman household with fantastic stories of a regal background and great wealth. Lucretia became enamored of the little man. Only 5’6", he seemed not to mind her height or the twenty years difference in their ages. Then William Chapman died. Lucretia married Lino ten days later. This set in motion events that led to Lucretia and Lino being tried for murder in February, 1832 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The trial was attended by as many as could squeeze into the courtroom. Was Lucretia guilty of murder? Was Lino?

The facts are set out in The Murder of Dr. Chapman. Considering that the case is being reopened, so to speak, 172 years after events took place, the writing of this book must have been arduous. Linda Wolfe did her homework. Her research took her to Andalusia, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Cape Cod, and Doylestown. She spent hour upon hour perusing yellowing newspaper accounts of the life and trials of Lucretia and Lino, and reading biographies of the lawyers and judges involved in the cases.

The resulting Murder of Dr. Chapman is a very interesting history written without bias. Sticking to the facts, Wolfe has recreated a period of time and an event that was not easily forgotten.

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