Local News

Suit filed in beating deaths at Chatham retirement community

Posted February 10, 2010 2:24 p.m. EST

— 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.