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Suit filed in beating deaths at Chatham retirement community

Posted February 10, 2010

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— The families of two elderly women who were beaten to death more than two years ago at an upscale retirement community in Chatham County have filed suit against the development.

Margaret Murta, 92, and Mary Corcoran, 82, were killed on Dec. 5, 2007, at Galloway Ridge at Fearrington, off U.S. Highway 15/501 north of Pittsboro. Authorities said their housekeeper doused them with pepper spray and beat them with a cane during a dispute over forged checks.

The housekeeper, Barbara Turrentine Clark, 42, pleaded guilty in October 2008 to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. She is serving consecutive life sentences in prison.

The wrongful death lawsuits allege that Galloway Ridge didn't provide adequate protection for residents. Managers of the development should have checked Clark's criminal background before hiring her, the suit charges.

Prosecutors said Clark had a history of using her job as a housekeeper to defraud her elderly clients.

In 2001, Clark pleaded guilty to stealing from an elderly client in Durham and was ordered not to work in positions where she would have access to elderly people and their property. Clark also pleaded guilty to forging checks in 2007 that belonged to a Chapel Hill family.

“Nursing homes are required to provide sufficient security to protect their residents from predators like Mary Clark," John Jensen, an attorney for Murta's and Corcoran's families, said in a statement. "Galloway Ridge gave Clark free access to the facility. The facility didn’t conduct any kind of background check before allowing a convicted criminal with a history of targeting the elderly into the community, and that is unacceptable by any measure or standard.”

Prosecutors said Clark planned to kill Murta and Corcoran even before they confronted her about checks she had forged. 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.


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  • djkelly Feb 10, 2010

    While Galloway Ridge may still be held accountable, Mary Clark was not an employee of Galloway Ridge. She was an independent housekeeper hired by the victims.

    The question is how much responsibility does Galloway Ridge have in screening anyone hired independently by their residents. While it's true that Galloway Ridge should have had access to the information about Clark's past record it could be argued that the victims also had access to that information. They also made the decision to confront her on their own about the checks she forged instead of going to law enforcement or filing a complaint with Galloway Ridge.

    It was a heinous crime and the outrage people felt about it is probably why Mary Clark pled guilty to ensure she got a life sentence instead of the death penalty.

  • MileageWarrior Feb 10, 2010

    wow! what an incredibly violent crime! what goes through a person's head when they are taking these actions? pepper spraying two elderly women and beating them to death? what's wrong with just walking out of the room?

  • yamiof1 Feb 10, 2010

    I honestly think jail is not good enough for criminals who victimize our children and the elderly. How could this woman be so cruel and heartless? Being a crook is one thing, but premeditated murder...what, did she think she was left in their wills?

    Galloway Retirement should be held accountable. Even if by chance her fraudulent record was "inadvertently overlooked", no way an employee that evil could fool an entire staff day in and day out; some agitated ill behavior should have surfaced.

    It's my hope the families of these little grannies are compensated dearly. But the question must be asked...where were you that their finances couldn't be managed sooner??

    Let's not forsake our elderly...they're full of love and wisdom with so much of it to share!