Rebecca Copin (born Rebecca Cobb 1796 in Kanawha, Virginia – 1881 in Kanawha) is known for attempting to poison her husband, John Copin, with arsenic.[1] In addition, according to John Copin's petition for divorce in 1835[2], she also scalded him with boiling water, threatened to shoot him, and beat him with his own crutches when his leg was broken.[2] While arsenic poisoning was known as a common way for wives to kill husbands in England in the early to mid 1800s,[3][4] Rebecca Copin's case is one of the earliest documented cases of attempted murder by a wife of her husband using arsenic in the United States, and also an early documented case of domestic violence in the legal system of the United States. While the jury found that Rebecca Copin had indeed tried to murder John Copin, John Copin's petition for divorce was not granted.[1] The jury also did not address any of the factors that may have led Rebecca Copin to attempt to murder John Copin.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Buckley, Thomas E. (2002). The Great Catastrophe of My Life: Divorce in the Old Dominion. The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807853801.
  2. ^ a b Journal of the Senate of Virginia. Saturday, January 31, 1835. p. 75.
  3. ^ Acocella, Joan (2013-10-07). "Murder By Poison". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  4. ^ Hempel, Sandra (2014). The Inheritor's Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393349888.