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Ex-Housekeeper Charged; 92-Year-Old Dies After Attack

Posted December 5, 2007
Updated December 6, 2007

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— One of three elderly women beaten at an upscale Chatham County retirement community died Wednesday night, shortly before her former housekeeper was arrested in the attacks.

Margaret Murta, 92, died between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Wednesday at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where she underwent surgery after being rushed from the Galloway Ridge at Fearrington retirement community. She was found beaten in her apartment at about 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Barbara Clark, 41, of Pittsboro, was charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill in connection with the three attacks. She was due to be arraigned Thursday.

The incident began with what deputies believed was a break-in at Galloway Ridge, a retirement community located off U.S. Highway 15-501 adjacent to  Fearrington Village, north of Pittsboro.

By Wednesday evening, though, authorities concluded that Clark beat Murta and her sister, Mary Corcoran, 82, inside their first-floor apartment and Rebecca Fisher, 77, who lived across the halls and was visiting, said Maj. Gary Blankenship, of the Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies found Clark in the vicinity and began questioning her almost immediately after the attack, Blankenship said, even as they searched for a man who was supposed to have been seen fleeing the scene.

Clark's story didn't add up as questioning went on, Blankenship said. He didn't disclose what Clark told investigators.

He also did not say who had told deputies about the fleeing man and whether they believe that was a ruse or simply mistaken information.

“You go with what you got at the time, and then you put the pieces together, and things don't add up and you go back,” Blankenship said.

Clark, of 275 Toomer Loop Road, had worked for the elderly sisters as a housekeeper when they lived elsewhere. She was apparently at Galloway Ridge to discuss a money dispute with them, became angry and assaulted the three women with a blunt object, Blankenship said.

Fisher was present because the sisters had asked her to witness the discussion, authorities said.

“Through a discussion, something occurred, and we believe the assault took place after a discussion about the money,” Blankenship said.

Authorities haven't identified the object used in the attacks.

Murta pressed a medical emergency device she wore, alerting Galloway Ridge authorities to the incident, said Jason Cronk, executive director of the complex.

Corcoran was listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit at UNC Hospitals. Fisher, who is listed in serious condition at the hospital, was well enough Wednesday to talk with investigators about the case.

Chatham deputies arrested Clark in September on a charge that she had taken, forged and cashed checks for more than $12,000 from a former client of her Barbara's Enterprise cleaning service.

Located on 50 acres, Galloway Ridge includes one- and two-story single-family villa dwellings, independent living apartments, assisted-living units, skilled nursing units and a recreation center. Duke University Health Systems operates a fitness center at the complex.

Duke was sending grief counselors to the community, and Galloway Ridge residents said the incident left them shaken.

"I can't believe it," resident Virginia Tee said shortly after the incident and before Clark's arrest. "I can't imagine who it could be, if it's an outsider or what."

Authorities said they were also stunned by the violent attack in the quiet community.

"I'm just as surprised as anybody that something would happen at this location," Blankenship said during the day. "We have little larcenies here and there – things get picked up – but nothing of this magnitude."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Spooner Dec 6, 2007

    Hey Seankelley15 I say its a hate crime simply based on the large gap in age from the predator to the prey. When one is 40+ years younger than the intended victim; they are showing their true guts in they have no backbone and have to pick out the weakest prey around. They must obviously be filled with hate to perform a crime like this. I cant understand it any other way. Anyone who can do this crime is filled with hate period! Has to be a hate crime in my book.

  • darlenerivera2000 Dec 6, 2007

    I can't believe she qot away from the beginning, stealing from her previous job, and she still free, she does not have a heart, she needs to stay in prison so she can get what is coming to her. I sorry for those woman.

  • workerbee Dec 6, 2007

    Well this is a great week. First, two guys beat up 13 yr old Boy Scouts for their Xmas Tree fund raising money and now this. What's next?

  • JustMyView Dec 6, 2007

    "cruel and unusual punishment" --- that is exactly what this former housekeeper inflicted upon her former employers and their friend. it is exactly what she deserves in return. where is the justice?

  • bride Dec 6, 2007

    What a tragedy. Our society values money over life. That value, taken to its extreme, is what causes this kind of thing.

  • MadBiker Dec 6, 2007

    What a shame the death penalty can't be awarded in NC any more!

  • GroupOfPricklyPears Dec 6, 2007

    For whatever amount of money Clark was trying to get out of the elderly sisters, hope it was worth spending the rest of her life in prison, possible death penalty, and embarrassment to herself and her family. Clark apparently respects nothing - life, freedom, herself. Her actual "poverty" may be her poor choices and character.

  • Juliett Dec 6, 2007

    Ms Tolerance, I could not have said it better.

  • seankelly15 Dec 6, 2007

    To those that want this declared a 'hate crime', 1) how is it a 'hate crime' - there is no evidence that the Clark made racial, ethnic or gender comments prior to going to these women's apartment - she went to get money either through coercion or force 2) why would anyone want her to be charged with a lessor offense than murder and 3) a hate crime is not a defense it is a crime.

  • Chapel Hill Conservative Dec 6, 2007

    bdg379: "...our elderly are being allowed to have the lowest income minimum wage people to be in charge of their lives... 90% of the employees have filed bankruptcy at least once recently,have a criminal record or horrible credit and have a chance to possibly take money from an confused elderly person... they also work for private duty nursing and you let them into your homes. BE AWARE,THEY ARE NOT LOOKING AFTER YOUR PARENTS LIKE YOU THINK,DO A CRIMINAL BACKGRIOUND CHECK,ITS EASIER THAN YOU THINK TO FIND OUT."

    Galloway Ridge is one of the best facilities of it's kind anywhere in our area. What you say may ring true for other retirement homes/ communities, but I guarantee you that they do extensive background checks on ALL of their employees (EACH AND EVERY ONE). They only employ the best of the best. It's very important to remember that the woman who committed this crime was hired by the two sisters and not by Galloway Ridge.