The Deathbed Confession

The silence of the cold January afternoon on Oak Street in 1867 was interrupted by screams as Christine Kett was discovered on the cellar steps by her brother.

Neighbors rushed to the house to a shocking scene. 18 year old Christine had been bludgeoned to death and was lying in a pool of her own blood.


Doctors were called to the scene, although it was already known to be a moot effort. Her brother was immediately questioned, and he told police that he had just arrived home from work, and discovered her body as he was moving through the house.

As police examined the body, Christine’s mother, Mrs. Kett (also named Christine), arrived home to find neighbors gathered outside her home. She instantly became hysterical, refusing offers of comfort and condolences from neighbors and friends. Her frenzied state culminated when she saw her daughters dead body in the kitchen. After she was finally subdued, she told police she had not seen her daughter since earlier that morning. Young Christine was responsible for making the dinner meal that day.

Theories of Christine’s murder ranged from a suspicious man walking the neighborhood to members of her own family. Gunpowder was found smeared on both of Christine’s cheeks and a pistol was found by her side, despite no evidence of the pistol having been fired and she had not been shot. Christine’s brother recognized this pistol as his own, but told police he had not fired it since New Year’s, and had disassembled it, wrapped the pieces in cloth, and stored them in the bottom of his trunk. He was later arrested under suspicion of Christine’s murder, along with a local man seen walking in the neighborhood around the time of her death. Both were questioned then released.  A young man reputed to be Christine’s boyfriend was arrested, but also released after questioning. Finally, Mrs. Kett was arrested and questioned about her daughter’s murder, then released after questioning.

Even after being released by the police, suspicion fell on Mrs. Kett. Neighbors remembered the many loud arguments between the mother and daughter, and the threats to young Christine by her own mother.
Mrs. Kett moved out west, claiming to seek solace and start over. She returned to Dayton a few years later. Rumors died down over time, and Mrs. Kett lived a quiet life until March of 1884, when she fell ill.

Calling her son to her side, she confessed on her deathbed to killing Christine. They had been arguing that day because young Christine was late getting home to prepare the evening meal. When Christine turned away from her mother, Mrs. Kett picked up an axe and struck her in the head. Christine died almost immediately, her body crumpling on the cellar steps. As soon as Mrs. Kett realized what she had done, she attempted cover her tracks by taking her son’s pistol and placing it next to Christine’s body then smearing gunpowder on her cheeks. She then left the house and did not return for hours, to give herself an alibi.

Mrs. Kett made her son promise not to reveal her confession until he was on his deathbed himself, but guilt got the best of him and he went to police after his mother died. Locals who remembered the tragic murder were not surprised to learn of her confession, some even noting that she did not shed a tear at her daughter’s funeral. 

“Mrs. Kett is said to have been of sullen and almost vicious disposition, while in appearance she had none of the gentleness peculiar to her sex.” – Dayton Daily News

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