Local News

Ex-housekeeper gets life in women's beating deaths

Posted October 6, 2008

— A former housekeeper was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to fatally beating two elderly women at an upscale retirement community last December.

Barbara Turrentine Clark, 41, of Toomer Loop Road in Pittsboro, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. She also pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining property by false pretense in an unrelated case.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty against her.

"I can tell you after seeing all of man's inhumanity to man over the last 40 years of practicing law, this (case) ranks up there as the worst," Superior Court Judge Howard Manning said.

Manning sentenced Clark to life in prison without parole for the murders, as well as 145 to 183 months in prison for the assault. He also ordered her to pay about $11,000 in restitution to a Chatham County couple in a fraud case from September 2007.

Three women who lived at Galloway Ridge at Fearrington, off U.S. Highway 15/501 north of Pittsboro, were attacked on Dec. 5, authorities said.

Margaret Murta, 92, her roommate Mary Corcoran, 82, and their neighbor, Rebecca Fisher, 77, were beaten with a cane and doused with pepper spray during a dispute over money, authorities said.

Murta and Corcoran died from their injuries. Fisher was seriously injured but recovered.

Clark initially told investigators she had gone to the retirement community to help Murta and Corcoran pick up a Christmas tree and that she witnessed a black man assaulting the women. Deputies searched for a man the day of the attacks, but they said after Clark's arrest that they had doubts about her account almost from the beginning.

Assistant Chatham County District Attorney Kayley Taber said Clark had a history of using her job as a housekeeper to defraud her clients and that  Murta and Corcoran had discovered Clark forged a $1,000 check she had stolen from them.

The women confronted Clark the morning of the attacks and asked Fisher to be there as a witness, Taber said.

Even before the confrontation, Clark was planning to kill the two women and drain their bank accounts, Taber said.

Investigators found a notebook in Clark's purse that listed Murta's drug allergies and an envelope with notes inside that read "put a bag or something over her face" and included a list of ways to camouflage the taste of antifreeze.

Defense attorney James Williams had tried to get Clark committed to a mental hospital for treatment, but a judge rejected that move in March.

Williams said Monday that Clark was "zombie-like" after the attacks and that it took months and the proper medication for her to even be able to communicate with him.

Clark's sister, Julie Stephens, apologized to the women's families Monday.

"I just wanted them to know how sorry we were that all of this happened," Stephens said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • enoughsenough Oct 7, 2008

    Funny how she doesn't get nailed for accusing a black man that didn't exist like Susan Smith did after drowning her kids in a car in S. Carolina several years ago.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Oct 7, 2008

    I will never forget that horrible

    None of will. My prayers are for all involved.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Oct 7, 2008

    to rub together and is going to jail for life $11,000.

    I was pleased with the verdict - Life in Prison. The best choice. I know you wanted the death penalty, but many sit on death rows for many years. Look at Blanche Taylor Moore. She is now in her 70's. When is her execution date? Heavens one only know. There is no good times in prison.

  • WHEEL Oct 7, 2008

    Can someone tell me what good it does to fine this woman who obviously doesn't have two cents to rub together and is going to jail for life $11,000. Sometimes I wonder what color the sky is in some of these Judges world.

  • CrewMax Oct 7, 2008

    You know, I would suggest that anybody that has a personal attachment to anyone in WRAL's stories not look into GOLO comments expecting to find warm and sensitive comments. This is an open forum and is based on the 1st amendment. And thank-you, WRAL, for providing it. I am sorry for your loss, but we all experience losses, I have mine - you have yours. Comments are made on a whole host of subjects far and wide and many are insensitive, inappropriate, and un-informed. For me, this is a
    place where people who are heart-sick of the injustices and inequities in our lives based on age, sex, and race can come and
    spill their guts. If you are sensitive to that, you should read the story and go no further, or start your own blog on the topic and then you can control what is said. That said, again, may these people rest in peace.

  • mindful Oct 6, 2008

    Some of these comments are senseless and ignorant. You should have respect for the victims, the families and the staff of Galloway Ridge that are all hurting deeply. This is the being of closure for all of those mentioned above. I read a comment that stated whomever hired Barbara should face criminal prosecution as well, news flash for you, ” Galloway Ridge did not hire this heartless woman. Peg and Mary hired this woman and trusted her because they were kindhearted and loving women. GR is not a nursing home, residents at GR are independent not dependent. Someone else mentioned this was a hate crime, are you serious? Again lack of knowledge and ignorance. I knew Peg, Mary, and Becky extremely well. Out of respect for everyone involved, please reframe from the negative, senseless and ignorant comments. Remember they, the victim that recovered, the victim’s families, the GR staff and also Barbara’s family are living this nightmare daily. I will never forget that horrible

  • ccs1920 Oct 6, 2008

    manofjustice/ I personally don't see anything about her that would cause me to call her lovely or innocent looking. I don't know how old you are but you must quickly learn that you can't judge a book by it's cover.

  • LIR Oct 6, 2008

    Didn't she know their are Goverment programs that would be more than happy to hand her "free" money? She didn't have to go out and harm these ladies.

  • GWALLY Oct 6, 2008

    480V 3Phase 30sec. End of story. Cost $2.15, Life time in prison Millions of tax dollars!!!

  • sunshine1224 Oct 6, 2008