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Parole denied for Durham woman who killed husband

A Durham County woman convicted 20 years ago of killing her husband, a baseball coach at Durham High School, was denied parole this week.

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Barbara Stager in 1989
DURHAM, N.C. — A Durham County woman convicted 20 years ago of killing her husband was denied parole this week.

Russell Stager, a baseball coach at Durham High School, was fatally shot on Feb. 1, 1988. His second wife, Barbara Stager, told authorities she accidentally jostled a gun he kept under his pillow, and the gun went off, killing him while he slept.

Prosecutors didn't believe Barbara Stager's story, and a jury convicted her of first-degree murder in 1989. Part of the evidence against her was the fact that her first husband, Larry Ford, also was killed in his bed in what she said was another accidental shooting.

Randolph County authorities ruled Ford's death an accident and have never found additional evidence to file any criminal charges in the case.

Russell and Barbara Stager, now 60, married less than a year after Ford's death, according to Jo Lynn Snow, Russell Stager's first wife.

Snow, who remained on good terms with her ex-husband, said two months before he died, he told her his new marriage was plagued by money problems and infidelity and that he had become suspicious of his wife.

"He asked me, if anything ever happened to him, would I please look into it," Snow told WRAL News last month.

Barbara Stager's was originally sentenced to death. But that sentence was overturned on a procedural issue, and the life sentence she subsequently received made her eligible for parole in 2009.

The North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission denied Barbara Stager's parole this week, according to Snow.

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