|Also known as:||Sister|
|Cause of death:||natural causes|
|Number of victims:||5-48|
|Span of killings:||1910–1917|
"Sister" Amy Archer-Gilligan (1873-1962) was a Connecticut nursing-home proprietor and serial killer who systematically murdered at least five people by poison; one was her second husband, Michael Gilligan, and the rest were residents of her nursing home. It is possible that she was involved in more deaths—authorities found 48 deaths total from her nursing homes.
Archer and her first husband opened their original business, Sister Amy's Nursing Home for the Elderly, in Newington, Connecticut, in 1901. They were successful enough that in 1907 they opened the Archer Home for the Elderly and Infirm, a newer and more modern establishment, in Windsor. Archer's good luck seemed to have ended with the new business, however. James Archer died after the move; fortunately, Amy had taken out an insurance policy on him a few weeks before his death, so she was able to continue running the Archer Home. There was also Michael Gilligan, a wealthy widower who was interested in both Amy and in investing in the Archer Home. They married, but not long after, tragedy struck a second time when Gilligan died suddenly. Archer-Gilligan was once again fortunate financially: in their short marriage, her new husband had found time to draw up a will, leaving her all his estate.
Since the Archer Home had opened, relatives of her clients had grown suspicious as they tallied the large numbers of its residents dying -- 48 in just five years, and many of those seemingly healthy right till the end. The authorities were notified, and became suspicious as well, particularly since Archer-Gilligan's clients showed a pattern of dying not long after giving their caretaker large sums of money. The rest home was raided, and arsenic was discovered. Archer-Gilligan claimed she used the poison to kill rodents, but when the bodies of her second husband and of four of her clients were exhumed, they were found to have large quantities of arsenic.
Archer-Gilligan was arrested and tried for murder, originally on five counts but ultimately, after successful pleadings by her lawyer, on a single count (her last victim, Franklin R. Andrews). She was convicted in 1917 and sent to the state prison in Wethersfield for life. She was later placed in an insane asylum where she died in 1962 at the age of 89.
It's unknown how many more of the 48 deaths at the Archer Home may have been helped along by Archer-Gilligan, or if the pattern began even earlier, at Sister Amy's Nursing Home.
The case attracted wide publicity at the time, and has been cited as an inspiration for the play and later film, Arsenic and Old Lace. Some have also claimed that hers was the first for-profit nursing home in the United States. Also from 2006 a band called The Archer Home has brought new attention to the case, by naming themselves after the home in which the murders were carried out.