Velma Barfield, Serial Killer

On November 2, 1984, Velma Barfield, from Cumberland County, became the first woman in the nation executed by lethal injection. She was convicted of first-degree murder for the arsenic poisoning of her boyfriend, Stuart Taylor, in 1978.

After her arrest and the subsequent investigation, authorities discovered a pattern of mysterious deaths around Barfield. She eventually confessed to three other murders, including that of her mother. In her confession, Barfield claimed that she poisoned the others to hide the fact that she had stolen money from each to support her addiction to tranquilizers and painkillers. She argued that she only intended to make them sick to give her time to restore the funds she had taken.

Interestingly, her two husbands also died under unusual circumstances. Though it was believed she had a hand in those deaths as well, she denied accusations to that effect. For six years, Barfield’s attorneys filed appeals to overturn her conviction, but all failed. They argued that Barfield, due to her excessive drug use, did not realize what she was doing would result in the death of her victims. Their goal was to get her off death row and have her sentence reduced to life in prison.

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