The Truth About Belle Gunness' Lover And Accomplice, Ray Lamphere

A native of Selbu, Norway, Brynhild Paulsdatter Storset immigrated to the United States in 1881 at the age of 21 and changed her name to Belle, Strange Remains reports. Three years later, she married Mads Albert Sorenson, and the pair opened a candy shop in Chicago, Illinois. As reported by SyFy Wire, the couple soon had two children, and Belle seemed to be living the American dream. However, over the following years, she would be accused of murdering at least 25 people, including two husbands and at least two of her children. Although she eventually teamed up with a man named Ray Lamphere, Belle generally worked alone.

The first suspicious incident involving Belle had to do with the family's candy shop, which burned to the ground while they were experiencing financial difficulties. As the shop was insured, Belle and Mads ultimately benefited from the alleged accident. The couple also collected insurance money after the sudden deaths of their children, who reportedly died from colitis. Shortly after, Mads also died under suspicious circumstances. As reported by SyFy Wire, Mads was insured under two overlapping policies at the time of his death, and Belle was the sole beneficiary.

Although her involvement in the fire, the deaths of her children, and the death of her husband were never proven, Belle left the state and moved to Indiana under a strong cloud of suspicion. And using insurance money, she purchased a farm that she reportedly turned into her own personal killing grounds. 

Ray Lamphere was Belle Gunness' downfall

Belle eventually married a man named Peter Gunness. Within one year, Peter's infant child, who he had with his former wife, and Peter himself, were dead. Belle Gunness, who collected the life insurance, was once again considered a suspect. But as reported by SyFy Wire, her involvement in the deaths was never proven.

Following Peter's death, Belle began luring wealthy men to her farm using personal ads, which were placed in newspapers throughout the Midwest. In the ads, she expressed an interest in "joining fortunes" and requested that the men meet her in person, as opposed to written correspondence. According to reports, most of those men eventually disappeared.

Belle's live-in farmhand, Ray Lamphere, would ultimately be her downfall. As reported by Pulp International, Lamphere realized Belle was running a deadly scam, but he still fell in love with her. After they had a falling out, Ray reportedly threatened to expose Belle's criminal behavior. She responded to the threats by making Ray leave the farm and attempting to have him admitted to an asylum.

In April 1908, Belle's home was burned to the ground in an apparent act of arson. Three of the bodies discovered in the home's basement were positively identified as her children. The fourth victim, who was a woman, was assumed to be Belle. However, the woman's head had been removed and was missing from the scene. 

Whatever happened to Ray Lamphere?

Ray Lamphere was immediately named a suspect in the deaths of Belle Gunness and her children and was eventually arrested for murder. During his trial, Ray claimed that Belle killed and disposed of a number of men on her property. As reported by Pulp International, Ray said Belle was solely responsible for killing and dismembering her victims. However, he admitted helping her dispose of the bodies. According to Ray, Belle killed the men for financial gain in the form of insurance payments or the cash and possessions they left behind after they were dead.

Although he admitted to assisting Belle in her deadly scheme, Ray denied any involvement in her murder. In fact, he claimed the body found in Belle's basement could not have been her because the woman was 6 inches shorter than Belle.

Ray said Belle killed her three children and a local woman and left their bodies in the basement of her home. She then allegedly disposed of the woman's head in a swamp. According to Ray, Belle convinced him to burn down the house and meet her at another location. Although he said they both planned to escape together, Belle allegedly never showed up. Nevertheless, Pulp International reports Rays claims have never been proven, and Belle was never heard from again.

Ray was ultimately acquitted on the murder charges but found guilty of arson. One year after his conviction, Ray died of consumption while incarcerated.