Barbara Stager

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Barbara Stager
Born Barbara Terry[1]
(1948-10-30) October 30, 1948 (age 68)
North Carolina, United States
Residence North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women
Other names Barbara Ford
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment
Criminal status Incarcerated
Motive Monetary gain (insurance)
Conviction(s) First Degree Murder
Victims Russell Stager
Date 1 February 1988
6:08 a.m.
Country U.S.
State(s) North Carolina
Location(s) Durham
Weapon .25 caliber Beretta pistol[2]

Barbara Stager (born October 30, 1948) is an American woman who was convicted in 1989 of murdering her husband, Russell Stager, in 1988. Stager is also suspected of the earlier murder of her first husband, Larry Ford, who died in nearly identical circumstances.[3]

Staging Murder[edit]

At 6:08 a.m. on 1 February 1988, the police in Durham, North Carolina got a call from Barbara Stager, reporting her husband had been shot. She told the responding officers that her husband kept a handgun under his pillow when he slept, and that she must have touched it as she stirred in her sleep, causing it to discharge killing Russ Stager. Initially the police accepted this account and ruled the incident an accidental shooting. According to shocked friends, coworkers and family members, Stager was a devoted wife, mother, and Christian.[4]

As it turned out, Russ Stager had become fearful for his life, he tape recorded himself, asking questions like: “Why if I was asleep at 4:30 in the morning, would Barbara wake me up to give me sleeping pills?”[5] After his death, Jo Lynn Snow, Russ’s first wife, led police to the audiotapes. After listening to the tape, the police re-opened the case.

Jo Lynn was also integral in finding evidence of Barbara's stealing from Russ's personal accounts and forging his name on checks and other documents, including his will.[6]Within four days of her husband's death, Stager went to the local court-house and filed his will, which left her with the couple's $120,000 home, three cars and his bank account. She also was the only beneficiary of Stager's $200,000 life insurance.[7]

At the conclusion of her trial for first-degree murder on 30 August 1989, the jury deliberated for 44 minutes to reach a guilty verdict, Stager was sentenced to death the next day. In such cases the matter is automatically reviewed by a higher court; in this case the death sentence was changed to life imprisonment (now being carried out at the North Carolina Department of Corrections[8]) due to a technicality in the first proceeding. Stager was given the possibility of parole in 20 years as required by law.


Barbara Stager had a parole hearing in March 2009. She was denied parole at that time and given a new parole review date for 2012.[9] She is currently incarcerated at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women and her next parole review is scheduled to begin August 1, 2017.[10]

In media[edit]

"Till Death Do Us Part: The Barbara Stager Story", is an episode of A&E's television series American Justice, which profiled the case.[11][12] Jerry Bledsoe also wrote a book in 1994 about the case, entitled Before He Wakes: A True Story of Money, Marriage, Sex and Murder,[13] which was later made into a TV movie in 1998 with the same title starring Jaclyn Smith. A&E's City Confidential presented its perspective on the case in the 2003 episode "Durham: Dangerous Housewife".[14] Investigation Discovery's Deadly Women series portrayed the story in the 2010 "Fortune Hunters" episode[15] and their Scorned: Love Kills revisited the case in its own "'Til Debt Do Us Part," in 2012.[16] The Forensic Files series had an episode "Broken Promises"[17] about this case; Investigation Discovery examined the case a third time in 2015, with an episode entitled "No Accident" in its Fatal Vows series.[18] In 1996, the Discovery Channel's The New Detectives series, Season 1, Episode 20, "Women Who Kill" featured Barbara Stager's crime.[19]


  1. ^ Greenya, John (31 July 1994). "DOUBLE INDEMNITY". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  2. ^ "North Carolina Reports: Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of North Carolina". state. 1 January 1991. p. 299. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  3. ^ "Crime TV Guide - Watch on SKY 553, 554 and HD 555, and Virgin 237 on Crime and Investigation Network". Archived from the original on July 29, 2009. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  4. ^ Sjoerdsma, Ann G. (9 August 1994). "True trash, or: Marriage can be murder". tribunedigital-baltimoresun. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  5. ^ Cooke, Pete (4 July 1989). "Shocking Message from beyond the grave nails killer!". Weekly World News. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  6. ^ Johnston, Joni E. Psy.D, (4 June 2012). "Dressed to Kill | Serial killers who wore Prada". Psychology Today. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  7. ^ Cooke, Pete (28 June 1988). "Two of woman's husbands shot to death in bed". Weekly World News. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  8. ^ "DOC Legacy Resources". Archived from the original on October 17, 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  9. ^ "Parole denied for Durham woman who killed husband". Capitol Broadcasting Company. 13 May 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  10. ^ "NC DPS Offender Public Information". Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  11. ^ "Till Death Do Us Part: Barbara Stager Story - Overview -". Turner Classic Movies. A&E Television Network. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  12. ^ "American Justice". A&E Television Network. 25 August 1999. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  13. ^ Bledsoe, Jerry (28 July 2015). "Before He Wakes: A True Story of Money, Marriage, Sex and Murder". Barnes & Noble. Diversion Publisher. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  14. ^ "City Confidential - Episode Guide". 2010-08-18. Archived from the original on May 26, 2011. Retrieved 2012-08-08. 
  15. ^ "Deadly Women (Fortune Hunters) on Investigation Discovery, TV Guide UK". Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  16. ^ "Scorned: Love Kills | 'Til Debt Do Us Part". Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  17. ^ "Forensic Files - Season 5, Ep 14: Broken Promises". FilmRise. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  18. ^ "Investigation Discovery GO | Fatal Vows | No Accident". Investigation Discovery GO. 3 January 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  19. ^ "The New Detectives: Season 4 - Ep 6 "Women Who Kill"". FilmRise. 1 December 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 

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