Local News

New Murder Charges Expected After 2nd Elderly Woman Dies

Posted December 8, 2007
Updated December 9, 2007

— A maid accused of beating three elderly women at a Chatham County retirement community Wednesday was expected to face a second murder charge after another woman died Saturday.

Mary Corcoran, 82, was listed in critical condition after the beating, but died Saturday, officials said. Her roommate, Margaret Murta, 92, died Wednesday at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

The third woman, Rebecca Fisher, 77, who lived across the hall, remained in stable condition Sunday morning.

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.

Another murder charge will be filed, District Attorney Jim Woodall said Saturday night. Clark is expected to have another court appearance Monday for the additional murder charge.

Woodall said he has not decided if he will seek the death penalty.

Investigators said Clark became angry during a discussion about a money dispute with her former employers, Murta and Corcoran. Their neighbor, Fisher, was visiting the ladies and was also attacked, police said.

Clark attacked the women with pepper spray and a cane-like object, authorities said.

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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  • Ydidithv2hpn Dec 10, 2007

    I am a Black American woman and believe there is no excuse for his womans actions. She should punished for what she did to those people whether they are black, white, yellow or red. Murder is murder no matter who does it and how it is done. My heart goes out to the families that are effected by this selfish, evil act. Controlling anger without exploding in uncontrolled rage would have been the proper way to deal with such emotions.

  • TruthBKnown Dec 10, 2007

    This woman is an animal. I hope she gets the MAX penalty the state can give her. If it was up to me, I would start with the death penalty and go from there.

    Before someone calls me a racist, let me state what SHOULD be obvious: I don't say this because she's black. I say it because of what she did to these poor people. Beating people this old is almost as bad as beating a defenseless child.

  • hollyd Dec 10, 2007

    This crime was especially heinous and as I see it this woman has been treated so much more humanely than others who were falsely accused (Duke students ring a bell). It is my belief that had a white woman beaten two elderly defenseless black women to death and severely injured another there would probably be rioting going on right now or at least a mob around the crime scene.It also would be immediately deemed a hate crime. And I daresay, the Revs would be there. I am not blood thirsty- this excuse for a human being was. I just want her somewhere away from good people so she can't hurt anyone else. And I think our judicial system needs an overhaul. Perhaps if she had been dealt with appropriately the first time, this would not have happened. It also is very upsetting that she told the police initially that a tall black man came in and was beating the women. Had she been believed an innocent person of her own race could have been charged.

  • aerochk87 Dec 10, 2007

    this is a sad & tragic story..my heart goes out to the families that are involved in this...how can ppl be so mean & cruel...i mean i cant help but think everytime i see an elderly person at how cute they are & how nice most of them are i hope the death penalty is def an option in this case & i hope she recieves it...you can eventually get money back but you cant get the lives of these ppl killed back this is really and truly a sad story :(

  • goutytoe Dec 9, 2007

    Simple - if the death penalty was being used in NC, then prisoners on death row would be put to death. That no longer happens - ergo, no death penalty in NC.

  • Chill Will Dec 9, 2007

    As a caregiver of a severely disabled daughter, for the past 20 years, this is the nightmare of asking for help from "folks" outside our immediate family. You go through state and federal agencies and you "hope" that only the good ones are assigned to help you. My daughter is in a minimally conscious state and cannot communicate in any way with us. I can get a little smile from her sometimes when I give her a hug, but that's about it. We had quite a few "helpers" since we brought her home after 9 months in the hospital with severe head injuries. Some have been great and some not so. Currently we are blessed with a superwoman. Folks, we need to wake up and see the "evil" people out there and make them "go away" permanently.

  • 434 Dec 9, 2007

    Last post for sure. I thought this was interesting because it is just a few days old, and it is pertinent to this discussion.

    Quick Summary: The NJ Legislature is close to abolishing the death penalty for, among other reasons, its high cost. The study found it would save an average of $1.3 million per convict to keep them in general population for life.

  • 434 Dec 9, 2007

    Also, there are many links that say these studies aren't accurate, but most of those links are saturated in more opinion than fact. It seems most studies exhibit a greater aggregate cost for a capital murder case, from start to finish, than for a murder case ending with life in prison. Hope that helps!

  • 434 Dec 9, 2007

    Nancy: Here are some links regarding the costs of capital murder cases. I'm not one for arguing, but I do think people should know the facts.

    Quick Summary: A study done at Duke focusing on costs of NC capital murder cases. It found that on average, a capital murder case costs $2.16 million more than a non-death penalty case.

    Quick Summary: An LA Times study finding that the death penalty system in CA costs taxpayers $114 million more per year than to keep the convicts locked away for life.

    Quick Summary: This is just a graphic from a study and story done by the Dallas Morning News - Texas being the U.S. capital for death penalties - and it reveals that the average cost to keep a man in prison for life is 1/3 the cost of a death penalty case. The graphic lends itself to some bias, but the facts are there.

  • KMG Dec 9, 2007

    I'm typically a level-headed person who doesn't subscribe to the 'eye-for-an-eye' mentality. However, as someone who spent a great deal of time with the victims and knows a lot more about the circumstances than is available in the media, I'm inclined to say the public outrage and call for the death penalty is 100% warranted.

    Absolutely 100%.