Summary of Offense:
George Trepal and his wife moved into their home in Alturas, Florida during the early 1980s. Parealyn and Peggy Carr married in 1988, and Peggy Carr moved into the Parealyn’s home, which was located next to Trepal’s home. Travis Carr, Parealyn’s son, and Duane Dubberly, Peggy’s son, also resided at the Alturas residence. In 1988, Parealyn Carr renovated their garage into an apartment, where his daughters, Delena Shiver and Tammy Reed, and his granddaughter, Kasey Bell, resided. Trepal and the Carrs were involved in a number of altercations, including one incident in which Trepal threatened to kill one of the Carr children. The Carrs also received an unsigned letter threatening harm to their family if they did not leave Florida.
In October of 1988, Peggy Carr began to suffer from a mysterious illness. She was admitted to the hospital and remained there for several days before being discharged. After discharge, Peggy’s condition worsened, and she was readmitted to the hospital. Travis Carr and Duane Dubberly also exhibited similar symptoms and were transported to the hospital.
Dr. Hostler suspected thallium poisoning based on the symptoms displayed. Within one day, thallium poisoning was confirmed. Peggy Carr’s condition worsened, and she fell into a coma. She died when life support was disconnected in March of 1989. Travis Carr and Duane Dubberly remained in the hospital for treatment of thallium poisoning. Further testing revealed the presence of thallium in other family members, including Gelena Shiver, Kasey Bell and Parealyn Carr.
In November of 1989, officials collected samples from the Carr household in an attempt to determine the origin of the thallium. Tiller tested the residue in several empty Coca-Cola bottles retrieved during the collection of samples. Thallium was detected in the Coca-Cola bottles. The lot numbers of the cola bottles allowed police to trace when and where the bottles were produced. Officials determined that it was impossible for eight bottles containing thallium to end up being packaged together. Coca-Cola officials claimed that they had not received any other reports of poisoning or threats related to tampering with their product.
In June of 1988, the Carrs received a letter threatening that they would all die if they did not leave Florida immediately. The letter was unsigned. The prosecution linked Trepal to the threatening letter that the Carrs had received because of comments he made during a police interview. When officials inquired into why Trepal thought someone would poison the Carrs, he told them to get them to move out.
Trepal claimed that he accompanied his wife to the office every day. However, the police determined that he either stayed at home or went to his own office each day. Thus, Trepal had the opportunity to enter the Carrs’ residence because they did not always lock their doors upon leaving the residence. Also, Trepal had worked as a chemist in an amphetamine laboratory. Thallium was a by-product of amphetamine production. In 1975, Trepal was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.
In order to further investigate Trepal, Special Agent Susan Goreck went undercover. She attended a “Mensa Murder Weekend” that Trepal’s wife organized under the name of Sherry Guinn. Trepal wrote a pamphlet for the weekend that described writing a threatening note and then poisoning the recipient of the note. During this weekend, Goreck had contact with Trepal and learned that he was selling his Alturas residence and was moving to Sebring, Florida or to Virginia. Goreck arranged to rent Trepal’s home after he and his wife moved. After paying the rent in money orders, Goreck and a search team went to the home. In the garage, the investigators found a bottle containing powdered thallium. After the discovery of thallium, Trepal was charged with seven counts of poisoning. A subsequent search of Trepal’s Sebring home in April of 1989 turned up chemistry books and equipment, including information about poisons. Officials also found the Agatha Christie novel Pale Horse, which described using thallium to poison people in a household. Finally, the police found a bottle-capping machine that could be used to replace the bottle caps of Coca-Cola bottles after the cap was removed to introduce the poison into the drink.
George Trepal was sentenced to death in Polk County on March 6, 1991.