Blanche Taylor Moore
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|Blanche Taylor Moore|
February 17, 1933
Concord, North Carolina
Span of killings
|July 18, 1989|
Blanche Kiser Taylor Moore (born February 17, 1933) is an American convicted murderer from Alamance County, North Carolina. She was convicted of killing her boyfriend by slipping arsenic into his food, and is suspected of killing three other people and nearly killing another in the same manner.
Moore was born Blanche Kiser to Flonnie Blanche (née Honeycutt) and Parker Davis Kiser, a mill-worker, ordained Baptist minister, and womanizer. Her father was an alcoholic, who she said later forced her into prostitution to pay gambling debts. She was known to switch from quoting scripture to sexually explicit topics in the same breath. Her father died in 1966, and the cause was reported to be a heart attack.
Murders and attempted murder
In 1952, she married James Napoleon Taylor, a veteran and furniture restorer; she bore him two children, one in 1953 and another in 1959.
In 1954, she began working at Kroger as a cashier. By 1959, she'd been promoted to head cashier (roughly the equivalent of a customer service manager today), the highest job available to a female employee at Kroger at the time. In 1962, she began an affair with Raymond Reid, the manager of the store where she worked. James Taylor died in 1971. As with Parker Kiser five years earlier, the cause of death was initially reported as a heart attack.
After her husband's death in 1971, the two began dating publicly. By 1985, however, the relationship had soured. There are indications that she began to date Kevin Denton, the regional manager for the Triad area; however, that relationship ended, and Moore filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Denton and Kroger in October 1985. Denton was forced to resign, and Kroger settled the case out of court two years later for $275,000.
In 1985, Moore also accused an unknown "pervert" of starting two fires that damaged her mobile home. On Easter Sunday, she met Rev. Dwight Moore, the new pastor of the Carolina United Church of Christ in rural Alamance County, who was divorced, and they began meeting for meals. At the time, Moore was still dating Raymond Reid. However, she had to hide her relationship with Rev. Moore because her lawsuit against Kroger maintained that she was "completely alienated and antagonistic towards men and has not been able to maintain any meaningful social contacts with the opposite sex." While she was dating Rev. Moore, she asked him to procure some arsenic-based ant killer for her.
In 1986, Reid developed what was initially diagnosed as a case of shingles. He was hospitalized in April of that year, and died on October 7, 1986. Doctors indicated the cause of death was Guillain-Barré syndrome.
The lawsuit was settled a year after Reid's death. Blanche and Reverend Dwight Moore began seeing each other publicly shortly after Reid's death. They planned to marry, but in 1987, Blanche Moore developed breast cancer. The wedding date was pushed back to November 1988, but Moore developed a mysterious intestinal ailment that required two surgeries to correct. On 19 April 1989 the couple were married and honeymooned over a long weekend in New Jersey. They returned on a Monday, and on Wednesday Rev. Moore collapsed ill after eating a chicken sandwich.
After two days of suffering, he was admitted to Alamance County Hospital on April 28. For the next two days, Moore was transferred between that hospital and North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem. Finally, he was admitted to North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill. Doctors David Wohns, Jonathan Serody, Mark Murphy and George Sanders, after discussions with the hospital toxicologist, ordered a toxicology screen after Blanche told them he'd been working in the yard after getting back from their trip. The results came back on March 13. They showed Dwight Moore had 20 times the lethal dose of arsenic in his system—at the time, the most arsenic found in a living patient in the hospital's history. Dwight Moore had a particularly robust constitution, and survived. However, he has never regained full sensation in his hands and feet. In a 2010 interview with WXII-TV in Winston-Salem, Moore said he still suffers tremors in his hands and weakness in his legs.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was notified, and exhumations occurred on Taylor, Reid, and her father. Subsequent autopsies showed elevated levels of arsenic in all of the bodies. It also emerged that doctors at Baptist Hospital had ordered a toxicology screen for Raymond Reid. The results showed a massive amount of arsenic in his system. However, on the day the test came back, the resident responsible for caring for Reid rotated to another hospital, and the new resident never passed the results up the chain of command. As a result, Reid received the final, fatal doses of arsenic in his hospital bed.
The SBI got suspicious of Blanche Moore when they found out she had tried to get Dwight Moore's pension changed so she would be the principal beneficiary. They also knew she had lied about how much money she had received from Raymond Reid's estate. During interviews, Blanche Moore mentioned that both Dwight Moore and Raymond Reid felt depressed and had probably been taking arsenic—something that was found highly improbable. Additionally, it emerged Moore had still been sleeping with Reid around the same time she began dating Dwight Moore. Blanche also had Dwight's hair cut in an attempt to prevent hair samples from being obtained by the SBI, but pubic hair samples were used instead. On July 18, 1989, Blanche Taylor Moore was arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of Raymond Reid. Prosecutors opted to charge her with killing Reid rather than trying to kill Dwight Moore because they felt they'd be able to show her spooning arsenic-laced pudding to Reid. In Dwight Moore's case, doctors had recognized the signs of arsenic poisoning early on, making it more difficult to find out who was poisoning him.
Trial, conviction and sentence
The trial opened in Winston-Salem on October 21, 1990. Moore adamantly denied ever giving Reid any food. However, the state introduced fifty-three witnesses who testified about her daily trips to the hospital, bearing food. The state had an easier time than expected in making such a complex case because Reid's ex-wife and sons sued Baptist Hospital for malpractice. They were able to get the normal statute of limitations for wrongful death thrown out because they were able to prove that Blanche, as executor of Raymond Reid's estate, should have been the person to find out about the toxicology screen. The Reid family argued that Moore fraudulently prevented them from finding out about the test.
Under the terms of a deal between the Forsyth County district attorney's office and the Reid family's lawyers, most of the evidence against Blanche was gathered by the Reid family's lawyers. Although the courts have interpreted the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination very broadly for criminal cases, such protections usually don't apply in civil cases. Civil law also allows much more latitude for searches and subpoenas.
She was convicted on November 14. On November 17, the jury recommended the death penalty. On January 18, 1991, the presiding judge concurred with the jury and sentenced Moore to die by lethal injection. She currently resides at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women. She is prisoner # 0288088. She wrote music in the past, and spends her time writing poetry.
Because of the automatic appeals in progress, Moore has been able to stave off execution for over 20 years. She maintains her innocence to this day.
One of her attorneys, David Tamer, misappropriated client funds, including Moore's, and was convicted of embezzlement. He also had a history of mental problems.
In 2010 Moore and the 11 other death-row inmates from Forsyth County filed a motion to convert their sentences to life imprisonment on the basis of the state's Racial Justice Act. Essentially the issue was the racial composition of the juries. Dwight Moore told WXII that he has no objections to his ex-wife seeking to have her death sentence overturned.
Health issues in prison have required chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
It has since been speculated that Moore poisoned several other people besides Reid, Kiser and Dwight Moore. All of them died mysteriously showing some signs of arsenic poisoning, but none of them have been exhumed for further evaluation. Other possible victims include her mother-in-law, Isla Taylor.
Moore was charged with the murders of James and Isla Taylor, as well as the attempted murder of Dwight Moore. However, authorities have decided not to try her because they felt it wasn't worth the effort to win more verdicts against someone already sentenced to death. They also opted not to charge her with the death of P. D. Kiser because the manner in which he treated Blanche as a girl might have made her seem like a sympathetic figure. Charges are pending in the deaths of several other speculated victims.
Book and movie
In 1993, author Jim Schutze wrote a book about the murders, entitled Preacher's Girl. Schutze found evidence that seemed to indicate that Moore set up Denton in the sexual harassment suit, and may have intentionally set the two fires. Later that year, Elizabeth Montgomery starred as Moore in the made-for-TV movie based on the book entitled The Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story.
Bold indicates a victim who died.
- P. D. Kiser - (1968), exhumations showed arsenic poisoning
- Isla Taylor - (1970), exhumations showed arsenic poisoning
- James N. Taylor (1971), exhumations showed arsenic poisoning
- Raymond Reid - (1986), death by arsenic poisoning
- Dwight Moore - (1989), poisoned by arsenic, recovered. Died in January 2013.
- Velma Barfield - a similar killer also from North Carolina
- Peter Vronsky: «Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters”, Berkley Books, New York (2007), p. 442
- List of United States death row inmates
- Klein, Julia M. (1990-10-14). "Deadly Dose Of Arsenic: Trial To Start In N.c. Blanche Moore, 57, Is Accused Of Killing Her Boyfriend. The Defense Calls Her A Pious Woman Known For Kindnesses.". philly.com.
- Struck, Doug (1989-08-22). "Pastor's Wife: Arsenic and Old Lace?". Los Angeles Times.
- Schutze, Jim (1993). Preacher's Girl: The Life and Crimes of Blanche Taylor Moore (reprint, illustrated ed.). Harpercollins. ISBN 978-0-380-76185-2.
- "Black Widow's" ex-husband reacts to death row challenge on YouTube. WXII-TV, 2010-08-06.
- "Woman Poisoned Ex-Boyfriend; Also Charged in Husband's Death". Associated Press. 1990-11-14.
- O'Shea, Kathleen A. (1999). Women and the Death Penalty: 1900-1998. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-275-95952-4.
- Bob, Burtman (2002-10-16). "Criminal Injustice". Death Penalty Information Center.
- Hewlett, Michael (2010-08-10). "Blanche Taylor Moore, 11 others on death row file to convert sentences". Winston-Salem Journal.
- Ashley, Jay (24 March 2007). "Blanche". thetimesnews.com. Times-News Publishing Company. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- Metzger, Alan (Director) (1993). Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story (Television movie). Andrea Baynes Productions, Finnegan/Pinchuk Productions, and Lorimar Television.
- NC Dept. of Corrections records, showing current status of Blanche Taylor Moore
- About.com Women on Death Row