Local

Clark had notes sketching violence

Investigators are looking into whether the housekeeper accused of beating two elderly women to death also may have been trying to poison them and possibly other clients of her cleaning business.

Barbara Clark, 41, of Pittsboro is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and assault charges in the attack Dec. 5 on Margaret Murta, 92, known as Peg, and Mary Corcoran, 82.

Rebecca Fisher, 77, a neighbor in the Galloway Ridge retirement community in Chatham County, also was beaten. She remained hospitalized in fair condition Wednesday at UNC Hospitals.

Search warrants released this week also show that investigators found a list in Clark's handbag that included items such as "peg -- put bag or something over face" and "Mary -- hit over head or use stun gun."

Sgt. Daniel Tilley wrote in one of the warrants that evidence indicates Clark may have had "the forethought and intent to poison."

Investigators confiscated a gallon container of antifreeze from Clark's home and a notebook from her purse that included a list of ways to camouflage the taste of the poisonous liquid, according to one search warrant. Investigators also seized Sensodyne toothpaste, prune juice, Clamato cocktail, and apple and cranberry juice containers from Murta's and Corcoran's apartment.

A computer and discs were seized from Clark to evaluate whether they may have been "used to research methods of homicide without detection," Tilley wrote.

Deputies also got permission to search for business records at Clark's house to "assist in the identification of additional victims." One of Clark's clients said an investigator called her Wednesday and asked about suspicious sicknesses in her household.

"I just spoke with a police detective person, and he kept asking if there were any illnesses," Jodi Purich said, "and I couldn't figure out what he was getting at."

Warrants said Clark, who is being held in the Chatham County jail without bail, had cleaned Corcoran's and Murta's apartment for about a year. Investigators think Clark pepper-sprayed and beat the women with a cane when Murta and Corcoran confronted Clark that morning about stolen and forged checks.

A black aluminum cane, pepper spray, medications, dentures, reading glasses and notes, a syringe and other items were seized in the searches.

The search warrants detail notes found in Clark's red purse inside her car. They included Corcoran's bank account number, Murta's Social Security number, and a list of drug allergies for Murta.

Earlier cases

District Attorney Jim Woodall said he had not been given a formal report by investigators, and referred questions to the Sheriff's Office. Woodall has not said whether his office will seek the death penalty against Clark.

Clark's lawyer, public defender James Williams, declined to comment Wednesday, saying he had not seen the warrants.

In 2001, Clark pleaded guilty to stealing more than $5,000 from a 90-year-old man at a Durham retirement community where she worked, court records show. As a condition of her probation, she was ordered to not work where she had access to elderly people's property for three years.

In September, Clark was charged with forging 132 personal checks totalling more than $12,500 over more than three years from former clients Ken and Erin Huntington of Chapel Hill.

Ken Huntington said Wednesday night that he and his wife employed Clark about 10 years. She cleaned, house-sat and watched the Huntingtons' children; Clark's kids would spend the weekend at the Huntingtons; they exchanged Christmas presents.

She didn't raise her voice or act violently, he said.

The Huntingtons recommended Clark to about 10 friends over the years, he said. But this year, Huntington noticed some strange checks written. After looking at bank statements and old checks, they found 132 of them forged and missing, according to the sheriff's office. Clark was charged with forgery in September. The case is pending.

"I guess my predominant emotion is this is a person I think is probably a person with a good heart, but got put in a desperate situation where there was no way out," Ken Huntington said.

  Comments