Washington's First Female Serial Killer

Despite her lack of a medical degree, Linda Burfield Hazzard was licensed to practice medicine in Washington. A loophole in a licensing law grandfathered in some practitioners of alternative medicine who didn't have medical degrees, including Hazzard.

According to her book "The Science of Fasting", Burfield studied under Edward Hooker Dewey, M.D. one of the two pioneers of fasting (the other was Dr. Henry S. Tanner M.D. who famously fasted for 42 days in 1877).

She created a "sanitarium", Wilderness Heights, in Olalla, Washington, where inpatients fasted for days, weeks or months, on a diet of small amounts of tomato and asparagus juice and occasionally, a small teaspoon of orange juice. While some patients survived and publicly sang her praises, more than 40 patients died under her care. Hazzard claimed that they all died of undisclosed or hitherto undiagnosed, serious organic illnesses such as cancer or cirrhosis of the liver. Her opponents claimed that they all died of starvation. Local residents referred to the place as "Starvation Heights". She assured people that her method was a panacea for all manner of ills, because she was able to rid the body of toxins that caused imbalances in the body.

In 1912, she was convicted of manslaughter for the death of Claire Williamson, a wealthy British woman, who weighed less than 50 pounds at the time of her death. At the trial it was proved that Hazzard had forged Williamson's will and stolen most of her valuables. Williamson's sister, Dorothea, also took the treatment, and, it is alleged, only survived because a family friend showed up in time to remove her from the compound. She was too weak to leave on her own, weighing less than 60 pounds. She later testified against Hazzard at trial.

E. R. Butterworth & Sons mortuary on 1921 First Avenue, now the site of Kells Irish Pub, was implicated in the press around Hazzard’s crimes. There were rumors that the mortuary had cremated Claire, and substituted a healthier-looking corpse in her stead. Worse, one of Butterworth’s employees pled guilty to the illegal removal of Claire’s body from the Olalla sanitarium. But the mortuary itself was never charged with a crime.

Hazzard was sentenced to 2 to 20 years in prison, which she served in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. She was released on parole on December 26, 1915 after serving two years, and the following year Governor Ernest Lister gave her a full pardon. She and her husband, Samuel Christman Hazzard, moved to New Zealand, where she practiced as a dietitian and osteopath until 1920.

In 1920, she returned to Olalla, Washington and opened a new sanitarium, known publicly as a "school of health" since her medical license had been revoked, and continued to supervise fasts until it burned to the ground in 1935; it was never rebuilt.

Linda Burfield Hazzard died in 1938 while attempting a fasting cure on herself.

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