Real Name: Maria Socorro de Rodriguez LaPine
Aliases: The Black Widow
Wanted For: Fraud, Questioning in Murder
Missing Since: March 1995
Details: Maria LaPine is known as the Black Widow of Guadaljara because she is believed have been responsible for the deaths of nine people: three husbands, two lovers, two friends, a business associate, and a funeral director.
It began with Maria's first husband, Douglas LaPine, a retired military officer who died in 1970 after an apparent fall in their house. Her second husband, Thomas Brickson, a retired businessman, died after an apparent stroke just a year after their marriage and six months after he was allegedly attacked by intruders.
Maria's third husband, James Piper, was an American businessman whom she met in December of 1988. He had responded to an ad for a rental house, just outside of Guadalajara. Within four months, they were married. James's children thought that she was a nice person and would be good for their father. Six months later, on September 18, 1989, James took Maria out for breakfast. She later told his son Peter that when James didn't come out from the bathroom, she sent a busboy to check on him. James had keeled over on the floor, apparently suffering from a heart attack; he died a short time later.
Three days later, Peter received a call from the American consulate. The caller said that Maria had a signed document from James that stated that he should be immediately cremated upon his death. Peter thought it was strange because his father was not old and had not made any other plans regarding a funeral or burial. After the cremation, Maria invited James's children to Guadalajara for the memorial service and they noticed that her behavior was very odd. They felt that she was trying too hard to show emotion. Later, she apparently tried to pit the children against each other in order to get James's possessions. This included two cars, worth $2 million, that have since vanished. His children have never received any money from his estate.
After James's death, Maria assumed a low profile. In August of 1993, she reported that her half sister died. She received a $100,000 from a life insurance policy. A few months later, Maria began dating Victor LaPine (no relation to Maria's first husband Douglas LaPine), a wealthy Montana rancher. In June of 1994, Victor's sister Eva received the shocking news that Victor had died. According to Maria, he had became sick at a restaurant and passed away a few hours later. After his death, she produced his last will and testament. It asked for him to be cremated. Maria also produced a suspicious IOU for $100,000; this was the approximate value of Victor's house. His family had Mexican authorities start an investigation.
A shocking turn of events occurred when Maria herself supposedly died in March of 1995; her mother and three children received a $500,000 life insurance policy. The insurance company hired an investigator, Mario Mello Santiago, to verify the facts surrounding Maria's death. He later discovered evidence that Maria was actually alive. In January of 1996, her 'body' was exhumed; all that was found were some flowers, wood, and personal effects. Forensic testing later determined that there was never a body inside. The 'body' of her deceased half-sister was also exhumed; it was determined that no body was inside and that the sister did not even exist. She had apparently faked her own death twice.
A few days before authorities were scheduled to question the funeral director who had arranged both burials, he was found strangled to death in the apartment. Despite the evidence, the only outstanding arrest warrant for Maria Socorro De Rodriguez Lapine is a fraud charge because it cannot be proven that she murdered any of the nine people. She is believed to be hiding out with her elderly mother and three grown children: Lena May, David, and Douglas LaPine. They have also been charged with fraud. They may be in San Antonio, Texas. Maria is 5'2, 120 pounds, has black hair, brown eyes, is fluent in English, Spanish and French, was born on October 15, 1939, and would now be seventy-eight-years-old.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 4, 1997 episode.
Results: Wanted. Lapine's son later died in a motorcycle accident. He was believed to be the only family member not involved in her schemes. She did not come to his funeral and still has not been located.
- Maria Socorro LaPine on Unsolved Archive
- 'Unsolved Mysteries' to air Black Widow story
- Guadalajara's Greatest Mysteries
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of the Black Widow