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Belle Paulsdatter Storet Gunness
Birth: Nov. 11, 1859
Selbu Herad
Sor-Trondelag County, Norway
Death: 1935
La Porte
La Porte County
Indiana, USA

Folk Figure, Mass Murderer. Born in 1859 in a small fishing village in Norway to poverty-sricken parents. As a teenager, Belle was unhappy with her pudgy appearance and harsh features, and in her unhappiness learned to manipulate others, a skill she honed as she grew older. In 1881, at the age of 21, Belle left Norway and immigrated to the United States, settling in the Norweigan district of Chicago. In 1884, she married another Noregian immigrant named Mads Sorenson, to whom she was married for 12 years. In 1896, a small shop she and her husband owned mysteriously went ablaze in an explosion under suspicious circumstances. Around that time frame, the Sorenson's daughter, Caroline died under unusual cirmstances, though no investigation into her death was deemed warranted at the time. With the insurance from the fire and her child's death, Belle bought her family a new home, again highly insured, which burned to the ground inexplicably in 1898. Later that year, another Sorenson child, Alex also died under unusual circumstances. In 1900, Mads Sorenson died of what is now believed to have been strychnine poisoning. Again with 2 more healthy insurance settlements, Belle took her 3 surviving children and settled in La Porte Indiana, where she married another Norweigian immagrant, Peter Gunness. Within a year, Peter was dead from a freak accident in which he suffered a fractured skull. Following the death of her husband, she placed ads for laborers in a local newspaper, designed to not only gain laborers, but potential suitors. From 1902 until may, 1908, Gunness claimed several more lives. Following a fire in 1908, determined to be arson, the bodies of 16 men, Gunness' 3 children and 2 females, one of which was once believed to be Gunness, were found in the remains of the charred home. Only 10 of the bodies were indentified. It is believed that Gunness claimed 49 lives before her rein of murder stopped in 1908. The female body found in the remains at the Gunness farm was never identified, and sightings of Gunness continued until 1935, when she was last seen in Ohio. A handyman on the farm was charged with the arson in 1908, at which time he told police that the remains thought to be Gunness were that of a woman Gunness had lured from a saloon as a decoy, and that between 1903 and 1908, the handyman, Ray Lamphere, could attest to the murders of at least 49 victims, stealing in excess of $100,000 (in 1908 funds) and that he, Lamphere, had deliberately set fire to the Gunness farm and had helped Gunness escape by boarding her on a train in Stillwell, Indiana. Though Lamphere was found guilty of the arson, he was found not guilty of having participated in any of the murders tied to Gunness. (bio by: Marlene) 
 
Family links: 
 Spouses:
  Mads Ditley Anton Sorenson (____ - 1900)*
  Peter Gunness (1872 - 1902)*
 
 Children:
  Axel Sorenson (____ - 1898)*
  Caroline Sorenson (____ - 1896)*
  Myrtle A. Sorenson (1897 - 1908)*
  Lucy B. Sorenson (1900 - 1908)*
  Philip Gunness (1904 - 1908)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Burial:
Pine Lake Cemetery *
La Porte
La Porte County
Indiana, USA
*Memorial Site [?]
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Marlene
Record added: Aug 13, 2003
Find A Grave Memorial# 7760703
Belle <i>Paulsdatter Storet</i> Gunness
Added by: Anonymous
 
Belle <i>Paulsdatter Storet</i> Gunness
Added by: Al Miller
 
Belle <i>Paulsdatter Storet</i> Gunness
Cemetery Photo
Added by: JRPMS
 
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