Female Mass Murderers: Major Cases and Motives
Rampage in Reno
On a Thanksgiving Day afternoon in 1980, a black woman driving a 1974 black Lincoln decided to plow into people on the sidewalk on North Virginia Street in Reno, Nev. The woman stared straight ahead as she accelerated, striking several people without stopping. She drove 100 feet down one sidewalk, then over 300 feet down another, and finally drove two blocks down yet another one. She might well have continued, but a witness drove in front of woman's car to force her to a halt. She was then arrested. And she was angry that she'd been stopped.
The number of casualties rolled in from the five-block massacre, as people were rushed to area hospitals and bodies were removed from the streets. Several limbs remained on the streets, along with knocked over signs, upset trash containers and items that people had been carrying. Twenty-four people had been seriously injured, and five had been killed at the scene by this reckless driver. Two more would die after being taken from the scene to the hospital. Witnesses likened the scene to a battlefield.
Under interrogation, the driver told authorities that her name was Priscilla Joyce Ford, Ford, 51, was a former school teacher who moved from New York to Reno. She told authorities that some people called her "Jesus Christ." She also claimed to be Adam, of Adam and Eve, and a prophetess. She said that she was tired of life and had deliberately planned to kill as many people with her car as she could as a way to get attention.
"A Lincoln Continental can do a lot of damage, can't it?" she reportedly said. Then she stated that a voice had urged her to do the same deed when she'd been in Boston six months earlier, but another voice — that of Joan Kennedy, she said — had stopped her. She asked the officers how many she managed to kill, hoping the number was at least as high as 75. Nevertheless, Ford seemed satisfied when they told her she'd killed five. She also admitted that she'd been drinking that day, and her blood alcohol level confirmed she was intoxicated.
Found incompetent to stand trial and diagnosed with schizophrenia, Ford was sent for drug therapy until her competence could be restored. She went to trial in 1981, pleading not guilty by reason of insanity on the charge of six counts of first-degree murder and twenty counts of attempted murder. The proceedings lasted five months with numerous witnesses attesting to Ford's mental instability. At one point, she insisted that the car had gone out of control and she could not recall hitting anyone. She offered other explanations in her effort for an acquittal, but the jury was apparently unmoved. They found Ford guilty on all counts, and she was sentenced to death. Ford died in prison in January 2005 of natural causes.
The next largest victim toll on record for a female is a tie between two mothers nearly 150 years apart.