Ex-Housekeeper Charged; 92-Year-Old Dies After Attack
Posted December 5, 2007
Updated December 6, 2007
Pittsboro, N.C. — 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."