September 3rd happens to be my birthday. It also happens to be the date that – back in 1945 – local Cincinnati gal Virginia Gibbs chose to move forward with a rather elaborate plan to get rid of her abusive father once and for all. Unfortunately, in order to do this, another man had to die in the process. That man was Henry F. Smith, a wealthy Cincinnati businessman who also had an interest in young Virginia Gibbs.
Virginia was just a teen when she met Smith. The pair quickly developed a relationship and, fast forward two years, Virginia had begun to reap the monetary benefits of her May-December romance. At just 21 years of age she owned two homes and was afforded a $75 per week “allowance” from her benefactor beau, Henry Smith. Quite a sum for a young woman in 1945.
But Mr. Smith was not her target. The man she wanted to get rid of was her father, Charles Gibbs. So with her pockets lined, she decided to enact a diabolical plan in hopes of getting her abusive father out of her life once and for all. You see according to Virginia, old man Gibbs had quite a temper, which Virginia knew all to well. He also reportedly terrorized her mother, herself and her six siblings in all manner of ways for as long as she could remember. And we all know, drastic times call for drastic measures.
Virginia’s idea was to pit the two men, her father and elder lover, against one another. She did this with the utterance of a simple phrase to her father, “Henry is coming for you, then for me.” As she predicted, this notion sent Charles into a tailspin and was more than enough to set forth a tragic string of events that accelerated her plan into action. The adage, “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” comes to mind.
It was a balmy, late summer, evening when Virginia’s father Charles arrived into Cincinnati from Chicago, where he was working at the time. The father daughter duo discussed their diabolical plans while riding the streetcar to a local Cincinnati restaurant where they worked out the rest of the details. the plan was for Virginia to phone Smith and say she wanted to pay a late night visit knowing he’d open the door for her. It was around 1:00 am on September 3rd when Charles Gibbs headed to Mr. Smiths place with Virginia in tow. The entered the room and found Mr. Smith lounging on the bed. Dad Charles fired three shots into the man, killing him in his downtown apartment. The pair attempted a getaway but were quickly arrested.
During Virginia’s confession she shocked detectives by stating she had a physical relationship with her father and that he was extremely jealous of Mr. Smith. Not just because of Smith’s wealth and success as a machine tool broker but more so Virginia’s relationship with him. Virginia told detectives it was a combination of her father’s jealousy of her, hatred for the other man, and her “egging on” that drove him to fire the bullets into Mr. Smith as he lay in his bed. Saying, “I wanted to get rid of my father because he was so mean to mother and me and beat us.” She further revealed to the detective, “I knew if he got into trouble they would put him away for good, so I plotted to have him kill Smith.”
The Father Gibbs admitted the slaying and was swiftly tried for murder. He denounced his victim and called him a “love thief” citing the two year clandestine relationship with his daughter. He was found to be “criminally insane” and was incarcerated at the aptly named Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Virginia Gibbs consequences took a bit more time, but she too plead guilty to murder. She was eventually convicted and given a life sentence in the Women’s Reformatory at Marysville. So there you have it, the story of Virginia Gibbs a young woman who found a creative way to remove herself from an entangled web of older men. A bit of a black widow, by proxy.
Executive’s Slayer Unrepentant. September 4, 1945. The Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati, Ohio.
Girl Goaded Her Father Into Slaying Cincinnatian. June 14, 1947. The Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati, Ohio
Woman Gets Life Sentence After “Clearing Conscience” in Downtown Hotel Murder. October 11, 1947. The Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati, Ohio.