Local News

Investigators: Financial Problems Spurred Maid to Attack Elderly Women

Posted December 6, 2007
Updated December 7, 2007

— A maid accused of beating three elderly women so severely in an upscale Chatham County retirement community that one later died had financial difficulties and was once under a court order to stay away from elderly people.

Barbara Turrentine Clark, 41, of 275 Toomer Loop Road in Pittsboro, was charged with one count of murder and two counts each of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill after the attacks at Galloway Ridge at Fearrington, off U.S. Highway 15/501 north of Pittsboro.

Investigators said Clark became angry during a discussion about a money dispute with her former employers, Margaret Murta, 92, her roommate Mary Corcoran, 82, and their neighbor, Rebecca Fisher, 77. Clark attacked the women with pepper spray and a cane-like object, authorities said.

Murta, 92, died Wednesday evening at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, and Corcoran and Fisher remained in the intensive-care unit.

Clark's relative told WRAL that she had serious financial difficulties, despite owning her own housekeeping business, Barbara Clark Enterprises, with clients in Chatham, Durham and Orange counties.

Scott Croswell, who employed Clark for 10 years, said she had the reputation of being a good housekeeper. "I thought of her almost like family," he said.

Croswell said his family and neighbors stopped employing her when she was accused of stealing and forging checks from a Chapel Hill family. Croswell said he had recommended Clark to that family.

"The trust was violated," he said. "It was very surprising. It was out of character from what we had seen of her."

In 2001, Clark was convicted of misdemeanor larceny and obtaining property by false pretense in connection with the theft of checks from a 90-year-old man. Clark was working as a certified nursing assistant at The Forest at Duke, an upscale Durham retirement community, at the time.

As part of her sentence, she was ordered "not to work in a position where (she) has access to the elderly's property and possessions."

"She was one of those people you knew was bad news," said Assistant Durham County District Attorney Doretta Walker, who prosecuted the 2001 case.

Chatham County 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 Enterprises cleaning service.

Clark's father, Loman Turrentine, attended a brief court hearing for his daughter Thursday afternoon and said it was the first time he had seen her in a year. Although he said his daughter has struggled to make ends meet, Turrentine said he cannot imagine she would kill for money.

"I am going to ask her did she do it. That is the first thing, of course," Turrentine said. "I just can't believe my daughter would go and bust somebody's head.

"If she tells me she didn't do it, I'll preach it to the end that she did not do it. I just can't believe it."

Croswell also expressed hope that his former housekeeper might not have committed the attacks. "I hope she can get it straightened out," he said.

Fisher, who was listed in serious condition, was well enough Wednesday to talk with investigators about the case. She was in the apartment because Murta and Corcoran had asked her to witness their discussion with Clark, authorities said.

Authorities initially thought a burglar attacked the three women.

"Injuries were sustained around the head and arms of the victims," Chatham County Sheriff Richard Webster said. "It was a very ugly scene."

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

Investigators said Clark's story didn't add up as questioning went on, and she was arrested Wednesday night.

"I know she needed money. As hard as times are, we all need money. I need money, but I don't go out and kill somebody to get it," Turrentine said.

Clark was being held without bond in the Chatham County Detention Center.


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  • richard2 Dec 8, 2007

    Oh she just needed money, now I understand why she tried to beat them to death.

  • doogaad Dec 7, 2007

    She forged 132 seperate checks and cashed them and got probation...

  • sicntired Dec 7, 2007

    She initially blamed a black man for doing the crime - why isn't Jesse Jackson and his crew jumping on her about it?!

  • colliedave Dec 7, 2007

    NO! Financial problems were not the cause of the killing. An evil/wicked heart is the cause for the murder.

  • Spooner Dec 7, 2007

    Dido it actually is a hate crime. See your definition where it says "AGE". All three victims were attacked because of their age. She would not have pulled this if they were all the same age. She would have gotten killed had she tried that with three Creedmore moms. She may have gotten away with it had it been three Cary moms.

  • NCJB Dec 7, 2007

    Her Dad does not need to ask her if she did it, the other 2 victims are witnesses.

  • Chapel Hill Conservative Dec 7, 2007

    beantownbred: "This woman is clearly already in enough trouble....but I don't understand how they can call this a "break-in" if the women called a witness over. Obviously they knew she was coming and had to let her in right??????"

    from WRAL's 1st story - "The incident began with what deputies believed was a break-in"
    from WRAL's 2nd story - "Authorities initially thought a burglar attacked the three women."

    The Chatham County Sheriff's Office never officially labeled it as a "break-in." What they said was is that they initially thought it was a "break-in." This was due in part to an erroneous report of an unidentifiable black male (leather jacket, jeans, etc.) in the area... which later turned out to be untrue.

    They very quickly realized it wasn't a break-in after talking to Mrs. Clark. In my opinion, the CCSO did a really good job piecing this together as quickly as they did.

  • beantownbred Dec 7, 2007

    This woman is clearly already in enough trouble....but I don't understand how they can call this a "break-in" if the women called a witness over. Obviously they knew she was coming and had to let her in right??????

  • Your Reality Check Bounced Dec 7, 2007

    "Investigators: Financial Problems Spurred Maid to Attack Elderly Women"

    Which financial problems would those be? The problems she seems to have as a result of expecting everything an elderly person owns to rightfully belong to her? Perhaps the problems with losing clients as a direct result of having stolen from clients?


    Financial problems didn't make her do this. Being a sorry excuse for a human made her do this. I wonder how much we'd cut our CO2 emissions if we could get rid of all the monsters like her...

  • Autumn Dec 7, 2007

    I just don't understand. The elderly are some of our most precious commodities, and this woman, Ms. Clark, commited the worst crime agains three of them? I'll never understand.....