Mary Farmer had always lived in poverty, but things had turned worse. Her husband James lost his job, and she’d just had a baby. They all lived in a hovel, a rental house in upstate New York. Mary wanted more. She wanted a bigger, nicer home for her family, like the one that belonged to their landlord, Sarah Brennan. Sarah’s husband Patsy had been James supervisor before he lost his job. They lived in a well-built two-and-a-half story home next door to the Farmers.
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Mary Farmer wanted that house, and in October 1907, she decided to take it [PDF]. She went down to the office of the county clerk in nearby Watertown seeking to transfer possession of the Brennan home, as well as her own residence, to her name. Posing as Sarah Brennan, she told the clerk that the Farmers had purchased the properties from her for $2100. She said that all she needed was a document declaring the Farmers the rightful owners.
If the clerk had any suspicions, he didn’t act on them. He notarized the deed and Mary made it official by forging Sarah’s signature. Now, the only thing stopping her from moving into the home were its current residents.
Once Mary pulled off the deed deed, so to speak, the plan to occupy the house went into overdrive, leading to murder charges. Read the story of the tenant and the landlord at Mental Floss.
(Unrelated image credit: Flickr user saxarocks)