Velma Barfield was an American serial killer who killed several husbands and her mother, mainly using rat poison and other arsenic as her murder weapon. They executed Barfield on November 2, 1984 in Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Married her highschool crush.
As a teenager Velma Barfield was smitten with her high-school crush Thomas Burke, even dropping out of at 17 years old to marry him and move in a small, but cute, home in Parkton, N.C.
Velma was a South Carolina girl who was raised on a tobacco and cotton farm. There were no obvious red flags in the home (abuse, sexual abuse), but Velma was one of eight other siblings and the only one to take serial killing as a profession.
Velma led a happy life with her husband for a short time, but things changed after Burke crashed his car, suffering a severe concussion, and developing constant and mind-numbing migraines. Migraines that he temporary cured with alcohol.
Velma Barfield’s first murder.
In 1969, while Velma and her children were out running errands, her martial home was engulfed in flames and nearly destroyed. Inside was Velma’s husband, Thomas Burke, passed out from his heavy consumption of alcohol. Thomas died of smoke inhalation.
They never charged Velma with setting the fire, but before her execution her son Ronnie told media that his mother “probably” killed him because she left a lit cigarette at the foot of the bed where he lay drunk.
A ‘black widow’ is a female who kills one or more of her husbands. Usually a black widow will remarry quickly after the murder of her first husband, which is exactly what Velma Barfield die by marrying Jennings Barfield and taking his last name.
The couple married in August 1970, but their vows were shattered only months later when Jennings died suddenly of heart failure in 1971.
Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20, and no one thought to expect Velma of lacing Jennings’ beer with rat poison, so an initial autopsy was not performed.
Velma Barfield murders own mother.
In the summer of 1974 Velma’s mother Lillie McMillan Bullard started complaining of stomach pains similar to ones of her daughter’s late dead husband.
Paramedics rushed Bullard to the hospital, but succumbed to the ingested poison two hours later. Once again, no autopsy or toxology report was conducted.
Velma Barfield had successfully murdered three and no-one suspected anything.
Arrested, but not for murder.
After the murder of her mother, Velma finally hit police radar when she was found guilty of writing several bad checks in 1975. At the time she was working as a home health nurse for an elderly couple Montgomery Edwards (94) and his wife Dollie (84).
Sources claim that Barfield became addicted to illicit drugs which she would buy with money stole from the couples she was taking care of.
Montgomery succumbed to his “severe stomach virus” brought on by the arsenic in 1975, and Dollie died a few weeks later.
The company reassigned Velma to another elderly couple John Henry and Record Lee. Henry died in 1977 after Velma laced his food with rat poisoning.
In a strange turn of events Velma Barfield was arrested and accused of several murders, although she was only convicted of one, that of her new boyfriend Stuart Taylor.
Velma Barfield found solace in her new boyfriend Stuart Taylor around 1978. The couple shared a home, but this sanction, like her previous others, would not last.
Barfield’s M.O. was to poison those close to her, and that is exactly what she did to Stuart Taylor, who succumbed to “severe stomach pains” and died within days of hospitalization.
Velma has laced his tea with ant poison.
Turned in by the sister.
The State of North Carolina convicted Velma of Taylor’s murder after Velma’s sister came forward to law enforcement about her suspicions of her sister.
Barfield confessed and was given the death sentence by lethal injection, which was carried out on November 2, 1984 in Raleigh’s Central Prison.
Velma Barfield was 52 years old at the time of her execution and the first woman to be put to death by lethal injection.
Dncr, Nc. “Velma Barfield the “Death Row Granny” – Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem in the Old North State – Medium.” Medium, 11 Oct. 2019, medium.com/murder-mystery-and-mayhem-in-the-old-north-state/velma-barfield-the-death-row-granny-fe8a913d9437.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Monday, July 9, 2018
Charlotte, North Carolina
Friday, November 2, 1984