Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Velma Barfield, North Carolina Serial Killer - 1978


Date of arrest: May 13, 1978. Barfield was suspected of 7 murders, including 3 husbands:

April 1969 – Thomas Burke, Velma’s husband
1970 – Jennings Barfield, Velma’s husband
1974  – Lillian Bullard, Velma’s mother
1976 – Montgomery Edwards
1976 – Dollie Edwards
June 4, 1977 – Lee's husband, John Henry, Velma’s husband
Feb. 3, 1978 – Stuart Taylor

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From Wikipedia Margie Velma Barfield (née Margie Velma Bullard) (Oct. 29, 1932 – Nov. 2, 1984) was the first woman in the United States to be executed after the 1977 resumption of capital punishment and the first since 1962. She was also the first woman to be executed by lethal injection.

Velma Barfield was born in rural South Carolina, but grew up near Fayetteville, North Carolina. Her father reportedly was abusive and she resented her mother who did not stop the beatings. She escaped by marrying Thomas Burke in 1949. The couple had two children and was reportedly happy until Barfield had a hysterectomy and developed back pain. These events led to a behavioral change in Barfield and an eventual drug addiction.

Thomas Burke began to drink and Barfield's complaints turned into bitter arguments. In April 1969, after Burke had passed out, Barfield and the children left the house, returning to find the home burned and Burke dead. Only a few months later, her home burned once again, this time with a reward of insurance money.

In 1970, Barfield married a widower, Jennings Barfield. Less than a year after their marriage, Jennings died from heart complications, leaving Velma a widow once again.

In 1974, Barfield's mother, Lillian Bullard showed symptoms of intense diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, only to fully recover a few days later. Approximately two months afterward, a man whom Velma had been dating was involved in a fatal car accident. During the Christmas season of the same year, Lillian experienced the same illness as earlier that year, resulting in her death only hours after arriving at the hospital.

In 1976, Barfield began caring for the elderly, working for Montgomery and Dollie Edwards. In the winter of that year, Montgomery fell ill and died. A little over a month after the death of her husband, Dollie experienced identical symptoms to that of Velma's mother and she too died, a death to which Barfield later confessed.

The following year, 1977, Barfield took another caretaking job, this time for 76-year old Record Lee, who had broken her leg. On June 4, 1977, Lee's husband, John Henry, began experiencing racking pains in his stomach and chest along with vomiting and diarrhea. He died soon afterward and Barfield later confessed to his murder.


Another victim was Stuart Taylor, Barfield's boyfriend and a relative of Dollie Edwards. Fearing he discovered she had been forging checks on his account, she mixed an arsenic-based rat poison into his beer and tea. He died on February 3, 1978, while she was trying to "nurse" him back to health; an autopsy found arsenic in Taylor's system. After her arrest, the body of Jennings Barfield was exhumed and found to have traces of arsenic, a murder that Barfield denied having committed. She subsequently confessed to the murder of Lillian Bullard.

During her stay on death row, Barfield became a devout born again Christian While she had been a devout churchgoer all of her life and had often attended revivals held by Rex Humbard and other evangelists, she later said she'd only been playing at being a Christian.

Her last few years were spent ministering to prisoners, for which she received praise from Billy Graham. Barfield's involvement in Christian ministry was extensive to the point that an effort was made to obtain a commutation to life imprisonment. After a Federal court appeal was denied, Barfield instructed her attorneys to abandon plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. Barfield was executed on November 2, 1984 at the Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina. She released a statement before the execution, stating "I know that everybody has gone through a lot of pain, all the families connected, and I am sorry, and I want to thank everybody who have been supporting me all these six years." Barfield declined a Last meal, having instead a bag of Cheez Doodles and a cup of coffee.

Barfield's execution raised some political controversies when Governor Jim Hunt, who faced a bout with incumbent Jesse Helms for his Senate seat (which Hunt lost), rejected Barfield's request for clemency.

Barfield was buried in a small rural North Carolina cemetery, near her first husband, Thomas Burke.

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FULL TEXT: Raleigh, N.C. – A grandmother who poisoned four people with rat killer to hide a drug habit, found her “gateway to heaven” in pink pajamas Friday, dying by lethal injection as the first woman executed in the United States in 22 years.

“I want to say that I am sorry for all the hurt I have caused,” said 52-year-old Margie Velma Barfield shortly before she was injected with large doses of chemicals at 2 a.m. EST.

As the plump matron, clad in pink pajamas and blue slippers, died peacefully from sodium pentothal and a muscle relaxant, some death penalty advocates outside the stark prison shouted, “Burn the bitch.”

Barfield, who had said she wanted to “die with dignity,” was pronounced dead at 2:15 a.m., and death protesters waiting in the dark, chilly morning snuffed out candles they had held in a prayer vigil.

“I didn’t notice any kind of suffering at all,” an execution witness said.

“There was no jerking. She just seemed to relax.”

Witnesses said Barfield moved her lips as if to speak and swallowed hard before turning “reddish-gray” in death.

In the prison, many inmates banged objects on their cell walls in rhythm to protest the execution. Barfield, a soft-spoken private nurse who also killed her 74-year-old mother and two elderly shut-ins with arsenic, was apologetic in her final statement.

“I know that everybody has gone through a lot of pain, all the families connected, and I am sorry,” she told Prison Warden Nathan Rice. Hours before she died, Barfield offered her eyes, kidneys and liver for transplants and, after the execution, state troopers rushed her body to a medical school at Winston-Salem to remove the organs.

Her eyes, a portion of her skin, and bone tissue were removed and stored for future use. Medical technicians attempted to restart Barfield’s heart after the execution so her kidneys could be salvaged but were unsuccessful, said Roger Whitfield of the National Transplant Foundation.

“I would like to share the last thing she said to me,” Wade Holder, a friend of Barfield, told reporters.

“With radiance in her face, she said, ‘Wade, when I go into that gas chamber at 2 a.m., it’s my gateway to heaven.’ “

Sixteen people witnessed the nation’s first execution of a woman since 1962, when California executed Elizabeth Ann Duncan, a jealous mother who hired two hoodlums to kill her pregnant daughter-in-law.

[“Barfield executed by lethal injection,” syndicated (UPI), Pacific Stars and Stripes (Japan), Nov. 4, 1984, p. 4]

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For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.

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