Did Indiana woman get away with murders?

LAPORTE, Ind. - Asle Helgelien didn’t believe Belle Gunness’ claims that his brother, missing for months after answering the widow’s lonely hearts ad, had left her northern Indiana farm for Chicago or maybe their native Norway.

Suspicious after a bank said his brother, Andrew, had cashed a $3,000 check — a large sum in 1908 — the South Dakota farmer came to LaPorte and discovered his brother’s remains in a pit of household waste.

A century later, modern forensic scientists hope to solve once and for all what appears to have been a web of multiple murders, deceit, sex and money orchestrated by a woman dubbed Lady Bluebeard, after the fairy tale character who killed multiple wives and left their bodies in his castle.

Many locals believed Gunness staged her death in a farmhouse fire, 100 years ago Monday, before Asle Helgelien’s arrival to cover up years spent poisoning and dismembering more than two dozen people.

Forensic anthropologist Andi Simmons grew up in the area east of Chicago hearing tales of the LaPorte black widow.

“There was always a sense of, what if she’s still out there? What if she’s lurking around,” said Simmons, who decided to explore the case as part of her thesis.

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