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    Blanche Taylor Moore - North Carolina Death Row

    Facts of the Crime:

    From 1966 to 1989, Blanche Taylor Moore killed two husbands, one or more lovers, a pastor, her father and mother-in-law in Burlington, North Carolina by arsenic poisoning made to look like severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Bodies had to be exhumed for evidence, and she was sentenced to die by lethal injection in 1991.

  2. #2
    Administrator Michael's Avatar
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    March 24, 2007

    Blanche Moore can sometimes look through a thin strip of unpainted window and see birds flying past. It’s a glimpse of the sky that hangs over the prison chapel, outside the death row cell she’s called home for the past 16 years

    Her last day of freedom was July 18, 1989, when she was arrested at her Sandy Cross mobile home and put into the Alamance County jail, charged with murdering her first husband, James Taylor in 1973; her former boyfriend, Raymond Reid in 1986; and attempting to murder her then-husband Rev. Dwight Moore in 1989 — all by arsenic poisoning.

    She was convicted of Reid’s murder in 1990 and sentenced to death. She has lived on death row for over 16 years.

    “when I came here, I lost everything except family, part of me literally died,” she wrote in a recent letter to her brother. She likened her life now to a party with “lots of people and suddenly, they all go home.”

    “There’s a morbid sense of curiosity about going around to cemeteries and digging up bodies.”

    Blanche Moore’s defense attorney, Mitch McEntire, Aug. 1, 1989

    It was the mysterious illness of Rev. Moore that eventually led to his new wife falling under suspicion by law enforcement for not only his poisoning, but the possible poisoning murders of a half dozen other people.

    The summer of 1989 became a nightmare of exhumations from four area cemeteries. James Taylor and Raymond Reid were exhumed from Pine Hill Cemetery. Blanche’s father, Parker D. Kiser, was exhumed from Oakwood Cemetery in Mebane. Isla Taylor, Blanche’s mother-in-law, was exhumed from Alamance Memorial Cemetery. Joe Mitchell, who had worked with Blanche at Kroger, was exhumed from Graham Memorial Cemetery.

    Blanche had worked for Kroger many years. That’s where she met Raymond Reid. Blanche would eventually sue Kroger, alleging sexual harassment by a supervisor, and settle for an undisclosed amount. Naturally, the rumor was she got millions. It also became tricky for her and Reid’s relationship, because of his job within the Kroger organization.

    Rev. Moore was found to have an arsenic level 120 times normal. When it was brought up in a conversation with law enforcement officers that her former boyfriend, Reid, had also died of a mysterious ailment at a hospital in Winston-Salem, the dominoes began tumbling.

    Alamance County District Attorney Steve Balog began seeking exhumations. The more bodies exhumed with some arsenic content, the more fears grew that the list of exhumations would only increase.

    There was the very real possibility that prosecutors would seek to exhume Mabel J. Parsons, another former Kroger co-worker; Fred Thomas Vaughn, a route salesman for American Bakeries; Ina P. Vinson, a Kroger customer; and John W. Reiber, a member of Rev. Moore’s church in Carolina. Inside the DA’s office, there was a “short list” of potential exhumations and a “long list.” As soon as they unearthed a body that did not show any signs of arsenic, the exhumations would cease.

    The atmosphere became so surreal that cemeteries were being referred to as “Blanche’s landfills.” There were ghastly “jokes” such as “Blanche’s Cookie Recipes” and even a “Ballad of Blanche Moore” that played on the radio. There were almost-daily stories in newspapers, and on radio and television. Blanche’s family, and the families of all the suspected victims were besieged by media attention, some from as far away as Australia, into tales of a “black widow.” It had all the elements of a captivating story.

    Blanche Taylor Moore went on trial in a Forsyth County courtroom for the murder of Raymond Reid in October 1990. Six weeks later, she was found guilty and sentenced to be executed on Jan. 18, 1991.

    Sam Kiser is Blanche’s baby brother. Even though he was living in Salisbury and working as a hearing instrument specialist when Blanche went on trial, he attended every day of court and became her spokesman. He fielded calls from not only local and regional media, but national names Oprah Winfrey, Phil Donahue, and Geraldo Rivera. Though besieged, Kiser still does not fault the media for its curiosity.

    “They were seeking out a story; I understand that.”

    Kiser has fielded inquiries into his sister’s case from nearly the beginning. It’s a role he didn’t seek, a role he wishes had not been thrust upon him, but it’s a duty he carries with a certain peace that comes from faith.

    “Many people have come up to me and asked, ‘How’s Blanche?’

    Once in a while he’ll still get a call from a TV station in America or somewhere else on the planet or a producer for a tabloid show in Hollywood or a writer in New York looking for a story about Blanche’s case.

    “If they’re looking for sensation, I tell them we’ve already had that,” he says.

    He knows people may look at him and whisper, “there’s Blanche’s brother.”

    “I don’t have any shame in that,” he says.

    “Some almost apologize for asking about her,” he says. “Some, I can tell, are reluctant to ask, but they want to know.

    “What I tell them is she’s coping as best she can with her confinement. She went in (to prison) needing medical attention.”

    Blanche Moore was not the picture of health when she entered prison and her health has not improved much. She suffered breast cancer and treatments have been sporadic.

    “Her mammograms have not been run on time, and she’s developed problems, such as a kidney infection,” Kiser says. He has complained to the prison administration and remains forceful. He fired off a letter to the warden.

    “I won’t put up with a lot of junk,” he says resolutely.

    At one point, she weighed 84 pounds and was so near to death one of the guards actually stayed up with her and prayed over her.

    It’s an ordeal for Blanche to be sent to a physician outside the prison. She has to be shackled at the legs and wrists and must be accompanied by four guards in two vehicles. Once at the doctor’s office, she is paraded through the waiting area in the restraints.

    The side effects of massive doses of chemo and radiation for the cancer have left her extremities in pain, her feet so numb she has to use a walker. She lost her toenails and fingernails. Her curly hair fell out.

    She has learned self-treatment. She has learned to use a latex glove and warm water on the small of the back for her asthma.

    I visited Blanche Moore at her request. I covered her trial and some of the subsequent appeals and got to know members of the family, none as well as Sam Kiser.

    He called me one day and said Blanche wanted me to visit. She remembered me from the trial and had kept up with my writing, and knew there were questions about her life in prison.

    A visitor must negotiate a series of five locked gates and be accompanied by a guard to reach the visitor’s room on death row at the Women’s Correctional Institute in Raleigh. Chain link and razor wire line the perimeter. The prison compound is surrounded by tall native pines, belying its proximity to traffic arteries that pound day and night with cars and trucks.

    Within the compound are still more chain link enclosures, not unlike kennel dog runs, in which Blanche can get 45 minutes a day of outdoor exercise when weather permits. Voices within the various buildings reverberate through the steel and concrete, mortar and brick. Loud electronic door buzzers sound as they unlock.

    Single Cell A, death row, is adjacent to a pleasant little chapel. A sign at the gate oddly notes, “No inmates past this point.”

    The visiting room is painted concrete blocks with a trio of long tables and plastic chairs. It could be a room off a church fellowship hall with a table to accommodate a family reunion. The only difference is there is no food and guards walk back and forth by the large window at one end. The sounds of voices in stress or the pounding of large steel doors are constant.

    Single Cell A is Blanche’s home. She wears the female death row yellow smock. Around her neck is a small jeweled-cross necklace. Her hair has grown back and remains naturally curly.

    Kiser tries to visit his sister at least once a month. This day, he has a bit of a hacking cough, for which Blanche recommends spirit of peppermint.

    At one point, the window in Blanche’s cell was painted over. She doesn’t know if it was a retaliatory action by the administration or just more punishment.

    “Before, I could at least look out and see nature and the chapel,” she says without anger.

    Blanche said she has coped with prison by “making up my mind not to be institutionalized.” She says she has seen those who rely on pills to sleep, to escape the day-in and day-out of permanent prison life. She wears a watch and keeps a calendar. She forces herself to get up and move around, even if she might not feel well that particular day.

    Her fight against becoming institutionalized manifested itself when the window was painted over. She wrote letters complaining to the administration. They finally sent back a worker to scrape away part of the paint from the top half of the window.

    But even when the sun sets and darkness falls outside, there’s no darkness on the inside. The lights remain on 24 hours a day. Inmates are required to be in bed by 11:30 p.m. and remain there until 5:30. Blanche says she usually goes into her cell around 8 p.m. She wears a mask her brother gave her to block out the unrelenting light when she sleeps.

    Breakfast is at 5:30 a.m., lunch is at 10:30 a.m. and supper is at 4 p.m.

    She listens to certain radio stations and television where she gets her news. She reads voraciously, knits and crochets. She can carry on an intelligent and up-to-date conversation on world events. Her radio takes her away from the realities of imprisonment.

    She’s had two incidents of violence against her, both in her early years of incarceration. Once, she was choked badly and a hefty inmate literally sat on her, nearly suffocating her. In the other attack, she was hit with a broom handle by an inmate while carrying a pot of hot water from the bathrooms for making coffee.

    She was “written up” for the incident, but it was later overruled as not being her fault.

    When she was in the Alamance County jail early in the case, her attorney, Mitch McEntire, told the media his client got letters that were usually in one of two categories: from the deeply religious “who assume she is guilty and fear her soul is in danger” and others “who take glee at her present circumstances.” There were also the “burn-in-hell” letters.

    She continues to get letters today. Some want to be pen pals. Some, from men, propose deeper or more bizarre relationships. These, she says, she throws away. Some are suspicious. She got one from a 13-year-old inquiring about her case and she wondered, “Now what would a 13-year-old know about Blanche Moore?”

    She knows many of those letters are due to her infamy. Her first months in the Raleigh prison, even inmates asked for her autograph. She only signed her name in cursive in letters to friends, dubious that her signature to strangers might be sold.

    She admits she has entertained thoughts of suicide.

    “But,” she reasons, “that would be against the Bible.” She adds, “And it might seem as if it was an admission of guilt.”

    Blanche Moore testified at her trial that she did not commit murder. “I know there was arsenic in those men, but I didn’t put it there,” she testified a decade and a half ago. Her resolve remains just as emphatic today.

    “I did not kill Raymond Reid. I don’t know anything about Anti-Ant.” Anti-Ant was an arsenic-based poison used, as its name implies, to eradicate ants. It was made by a McLeansville business that, shortly after Blanche’s trial, ceased manufacture.

    Kiser admits he, too, has been a doubting Thomas. He’s agonized “and I’ve asked myself, how did she get caught up in this?”

    He is convinced his sister is innocent of murder, but he also knows his is a minority opinion.

    “I know some people believe she’s guilty and got what she deserved,” he said. “I understand how they feel. We had a family member exhumed, too (his father). It’s easy to form opinions on what we read when all those bodies were being exhumed.”

    As he saw the evidence at the six-week trial piling up — testimonies of arsenic levels in hair and fingernails, timetables, nursing observations, handwriting analysts, police reports — he questioned whether or not Blanche was telling him the truth. However, after many hours of direct and honest talk, cajoling and even trying to trick her into a confession, he stands firm in his support of her.

    I’ve told her, ‘Blanche, if I was innocent, I’d write to everyone. I would proclaim my innocence.”

    Kiser says, “I asked myself, ‘Am I so blind?’ I want the truth. In my natural experiences with her, she couldn’t have done it. I have never had her hesitate when I asked her if she did it.”

    She told me, “If I did it and kept covering it up, that’s a sin, too, and I won’t get on that gurney with a lie on my lips.”

    The brother and sister still believe Garvin Thomas, a man portrayed as having an obsession with Blanche, committed the murders out of jealousy. A note purportedly written by Thomas, and introduced in court, confessed to the murders. Document examiners for the prosecution and defense jousted over the authorship. In the end, the note apparently played a minor role as the jury came back with a verdict of guilty and a sentence of death.

    Thomas was troubled by health issues and had difficulty talking due to a speech impediment. He died before the trial, but Kiser points out Thomas’ letter told of being in certain locations at certain times that could have corresponded with the poisonings. Kiser spent many hours tracking down people who knew Thomas, who could testify to his veracity, but in the end, it has had little bearing on Blanche’s case.

    Kiser is disdainful of what he considers prosecutorial and judicial misbehavior during the trial, lack of desire to follow up on Thomas and those who knew him. The appeals process has raised these and other challenges but they have borne no fruit for Blanche’s defense.

    Whether justice was served, Kiser knows, is a matter that will never be settled in his mind.

    “If she died today, there would still be questions,” he says.

    Through the subsequent appeal process, Washington, D.C. attorney William Taylor III stepped up to help pro bono. Even Kiser sees some subtle irony in a man named Taylor defending Blanche Taylor Moore. The family awaits a ruling on Blanche’s second motion for appropriate relief, another legal step in nearly two decades of legal steps.

    “I shall ask for the abolition of the punishment of death until I have the infallibility of human judgment demonstrated to me.”

    Blanche Moore, this daughter of a part-time lay preacher, has struck up correspondence with Catholic nuns, the most famous being Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known opponent of the death penalty. She was portrayed in the movie, “Dead Man Walking.”

    Blanche has formed such strong ties with the nuns that when one was diagnosed with cancer, she contributed to a memory book for the woman before she died.

    “I see good people like this die,” Blanche says, “And I see I have a wasted life. I can’t vote, I have no citizenship. I’m powerless and preyed upon.”

    But this is the wages of prison. Your life does not belong to you. In prison a ham biscuit for Christmas is a big deal. Going outside to breathe 45 minutes worth of fresh air is a big deal. Not being attacked by another inmate is a big deal. Learning to sleep with the lights blazing 24 hours a day is a big deal. Being able to do something as mundane as stuff form letters for the governor is a big deal.

    Being imprisoned also means she has not been able to attend the funerals of her mother, Flossie; sister, Virginia or brothers-in-law Robert Simpson and James Montgomery.

    For her 74th birthday last month, she bought a Little Debbie cake and some ice cream from the prison canteen and shared them and a sandwich with another inmate.

    In a letter to her brother, she admitted her 74th birthday was “sad and lonely.”

    “It’s so difficult in this place and I fight to keep my sanity.”

    Her letter was written with some blue ink and some red. She explained: “…my life use to be so full of color, family, church, friends, love, happiness, laughter, fun, good colors. I’m not talking about material things, simply the good things that reach down in the soul.”

    She ended by saying faith sustains her, even though she lives with a silent cry and awakes with the knowledge she would face another day “only by the grace of a loving, faithful father that continues to keep me in his arms.”

    Blanche reflected on the things she misses.

    “The hardest part for me is not to be able to get up and get a glass of tea or sit on the front porch and watch nature, or phone a friend, or get into a car and drive to the mall to walk around,” she says. Free people “can get in the car and go. They take (that kind of) life for granted.

    “People on outside live by what they see or hear. I live by what I feel here,” she says as she lays her hands on her chest.

    An ideal day, if she was a free woman, would be to spend it at her favorite time, Christmas.

    “There would no shopping for gifts. I would just make a list of all my loved ones and talk with them or spend quality time with them.”

    Blanche does not fear death. She philosophizes that her life has been one of lonely confinement and excruciating pain. To her, death would be almost welcome, she told her brother, “because I would awaken in the presence of God.”

  3. #3
    Administrator Michael's Avatar
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    August 11, 2010

    Moore attorneys argue racial bias in sentencing

    Arguing the death penalty is imposed more often when whites are killed than minorities, Blanche Taylor Moore’s attorneys are asking the state to vacate her death sentence and impose life imprisonment.

    Under the Racial Justice Act, a law that allows those sentenced to death to challenge the sentence citing racial bias, Moore’s attorneys also argue that eligible black and minority jurors were excluded from the jury pools in Forsyth County and North Carolina at the time of Moore’s trial in 1990.

    Moore, a white woman from Burlington, was convicted of the 1986 poisoning death of her former boyfriend, Raymond C. Reid Sr., a white man, by a Winston-Salem jury in November 1990. She was suspected of other poisonings. She is one of more than 100 North Carolina inmates who’ve filed a claim with N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper under the Racial Justice Act of 2009.

    The deadline to file for case review under the law was Tuesday. The law established three areas where race may have been a significant factor in sentencing: if death sentences were imposed substantially more frequently upon defendants of one race over another, if death sentences were sought more frequently in cases where victims were of one race over another, or if race played a significant role in jury selection.

    The law doesn’t require a new trial or resentencing hearing.

    In the 32-page motion for appropriate relief submitted Aug. 4, Washington, D.C.,-based attorneys William W. Taylor III, Blair G. Brown and Steven N. Herman outline Moore’s case and the ways racial bias could have contributed to its outcome.

    The attorneys rely on studies of North Carolina cases since 1990 by professors at Michigan State University, the University of Colorado and Northwest University that show eligible minority jurors were eliminated from jury panels at a higher rate than white jurors and that a death sentence was 2.6 times more likely to be imposed in cases where murder victims were white.

    On the day Moore was found guilty in 1990, attorneys moved to strike the death penalty citing higher death-sentence rates in cases where victims were white. The judge denied the motion.

    There are currently 34 death-row inmates who were tried in the state’s former third judicial district — which includes Forsyth County — between 1990 and 1999. Based on statistics attorneys gathered from the N.C. Department of Corrections, 22 of those cases involved white victims, 10 involved black victims and two involved victims of other races.

    Attorneys also cite statistical evidence to argue that North Carolina prosecutors were almost twice as likely to seek the death penalty when at least one victim was white, and that Forsyth County had more black defendants sentenced to death by all-white juries than any other district in the state.

    Moore’s attorneys previously filed two motions to transfer the sentence to life without possibility of parole. The first was denied in 1998. The second, filed in 2001, cited exculpatory evidence withheld from defense in the case. That motion was assigned to Superior Court Judge William Z. Wood in 2004 and hadn’t been answered as of early this month.

    The motion for appropriate relief filed under the Racial Justice Act is Moore’s third appeal attempt at disposing of her death sentence.

    There are 159 inmates on death row in North Carolina. State lawmakers issued a moratorium on the death penalty in 2006 following questions of racial disparity in death sentencing and other legal and ethical questions involved with imposing a death sentence.


  4. #4
    Administrator Michael's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Poisoning Survivor Reacts To Ex-Wife's Death Row Challenge

    Blanche Taylor Moore's Ex-Husband Discusses Legal Battle

    Blanche Taylor Moore's 2nd husband, the Rev. Dwight Moore, is speaking out after hearing that his infamous ex-wife is trying to get off death row.

    Blanche Taylor Moore, the so-called 'Black Widow,' is one of 12 inmates from Forsyth County who recently filed a motion asking for her sentence to be converted to life in prison under the Racial Justice Act.

    Moore was convicted in 1990 for killing her boyfriend, Raymond Reid, with arsenic.

    She was also arrested for the murder of her 1st husband, James Taylor, but prosecutors never brought that case to trial.

    Police became suspicious of Moore after her 2nd husband, the Rev. Dwight Moore, was also poisoned with arsenic.

    He survived the incident.

    Dwight Moore, now 76-years-old, lives in Nathalie, Virginia with his wife, Kaye. Moore is a part time pastor.

    Moore says the nerve damage he suffered as a result of the arsenic poisoning administered by his ex-wife is a constant reminder of their relationship.

    "The worst lingering effect has been the tremors in my hands and weakness in my legs along with peripheral neuropathy," said Moore.

    "I never felt the need for vengeance," Moore said when asked about his former wife's efforts to get off death row.

    The case made national headlines and was later made into a movie, 'Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story.'

    Moore said he wishes Robert Redford had portrayed him in the movie.

    Blanche Taylor Moore is 1 of 4 women on death row in North Carolina.

    Dwight Moore says he has no desire to see her executed and says he doesn't even object to her efforts to get off death row.

    (Source: WXII 12 News)

  5. #5
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Moore now oldest inmate on North Carolina's death row

    Blanche Moore, who was sent to prison for the arsenic-poisoning murder of a former boyfriend in 1990, is now the oldest inmate on North Carolinas death row.

    John Fleming, an 83-year-old inmate, died Sunday of natural causes. Fleming was sentenced to death in Northampton County for the May 1996 murder of Genie Pelham of Pleasant Hill, according to a report by the Associated Press. He was convicted of breaking into the mans home, beating him and strangling him to death.

    Moore turned 78 in February. The next oldest is Jerry Cummings, 72, of Robeson County.

    Blanche Moore has been in jail or prison since July 18, 1989, when she was arrested at her Sandy Cross mobile home and put into the Alamance County jail, charged with murdering her first husband, James Taylor, in 1973; her former boyfriend, Raymond Reid in 1986; and attempting to murder her then-husband the Rev. Dwight Moore in 1989 all by arsenic poisoning.

    Her trial was moved to Winston-Salem because of pretrial news reports, and she was convicted of Reids death in October 1990 and sentenced to death. Her original death date was to be Jan. 18, 1991.

    The former Kroger grocery store employees arrest came upon the heels of a series of exhumations in the summer of 1989 after the Rev. Moore was found to have more than 120 times the normal levels of arsenic in his system. The discovery of arsenic led to the exhumations of not only Taylor and Reid, but Moores father, Parker D. Kiser; her mother-in-law, Isla Taylor; and Joe Mitchell, who had worked with Moore at Kroger.

    Moore is in poor physical health, her youngest brother, Sam Kiser, said Wednesday.

    Shes been in bad health a long time, but shes hanging on. Shes lost all of her teeth from bone deterioration from radiation treatments for cancer, which she suffered even before her trial.

    Kiser said his sister no longer takes cancer treatments, possibly by choice because of the side effects as well as the physical travails of traveling outside the prison.

    If she goes (to the doctor), she has to be handcuffed and shackled and accompanied by four guards, Kiser explained of the precautions that are taken when dealing with death row inmates, no matter their physical abilities.

    He said Moore also suffers from chronic kidney problems, walks with a walker, and weighs less than 100 pounds. She remains mentally alert and strong-willed in her mind, he said,

    She keeps a good positive attitude, he said.

    After more than 22 years behind bars, She said her cell has become her sanctuary, where she can meet with her Lord every day and read her Bible. In the midst of her loneliness, thats the comfort she clings to each day. I know some are going to laugh at that, but thats OK. It shows them she has not let them take her mind and faith, Kiser said.

    Moore has maintained her innocence of the crimes from her testimony on the stand under a withering prosecution until today.

    She says they can take this old body, but my spirit stays fresh, Kiser said. She greets each morning with thanks to Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit.

    Despite her physical frailties, Kiser said his sister maintains her amazing memory and they sometimes talk about the case when he visits. She tries to encourage us.

    The hardest thing she has to cope with is the loneliness, Kiser said. Moore has not been able to attend the funerals of her mother, sister or two brothers-in-law since her incarceration. The hard part was that she couldnt interact with the family.

    Kiser said he did not know what the status of Moores appeals. Her attorney, William Taylor of Washington, was most recently working with attorney Benjamin Brafman in the defense of International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was cleared of sexual assault charges in a much-publicized case.

    North Carolina has not executed a death row inmate since August 2006 as challenges to the states death penalty wind their way through the courts.


  6. #6
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Nothing of real importance, but I am posting anyway.

    Cookie monsters: Gov. McCrory, Blanche Taylor Moore

    Sometimes a plate of cookies is not a plate of cookies, Gov. McCrory. Ask Blanche Taylor Moore.

    There was plenty of outrage over McCrory's hollow—and sexist—gesture of handing a plate of cookies to women who were protesting in Raleigh over his signing of the abortion bill. But the Guv was only continuing a tradition of North Carolinians who hide agendas among the chocolate chips.

    Alamance County killer Blanche Taylor Moore was convicted of the 1986 murderer of her boyfriend by slipping arsenic into his food, including cookies. She was sentenced to death in 1991 and remains on death row. She has always maintained her innocence.

    The bodies of her father, mother-in-law and first husband were exhumed and tests showed they suffered from arsenic poisoning. Although she faced an additional murder charges, the prosecution chose not to pursue those cases.

    A made-for-TV movie, Black Widow Murders: The Blanche Taylor Moore Story, aired in 1993. It starred Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched fame.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  7. #7
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    Oct 2010

    Former prosecutor in Blanche Taylor Moore trial dies in Charlotte

    The lead prosecutor in the controversial 1990 murder trial of Blanche Taylor Moore died Saturday when she stepped into traffic on Interstate 485 in Charlotte, authorities said.

    Authorities have ruled Janet H. Downings death a suicide. Those who knew her are saying it was a tragic end for a troubled woman.

    Downing, better known to Forsyth County folks as Janet Branch when she was a prosecutor here, died about 7:30 a.m. Oct. 10, after her car wrecked in the median of I-485, the N.C. Highway Patrol said.

    Trooper John Burgin said the night before the accident Downing had gone to a neighbors house in Charlotte and asked for a gun or razor blades, giving the neighbor information about how to get in touch with kin and telling him that she had hit rock bottom.

    The next morning, it appears that she ran off the road to the left, Burgin said. Her car stopped in the median, Burgin said, and had only slight damage from striking cables meant to stop cars from crossing through the median.

    Burgin said it doesnt appear that Downing wrecked intentionally and that she may have fallen asleep. Downing got out of her car and went into the center lane of the freeway, Burgin said. A motorist whose car was moving from the right lane to the center lane struck and killed Downing, whose body was struck by two other cars following the first one.

    The patrol said that the medical examiner ruled Downings death a suicide because of her behavior the night before and in stepping into the freeway.

    Pete Clary, Downings ex-husband, said that in 2011 he became the sole guardian of the couples disabled daughter, Petesie Clary, after Downing had an emotional breakdown. Downing continued to work as an attorney until the time of her death, living in Charlotte with an office in Fayetteville.

    In the last four or five years, Janet was a troubled soul, said Clary, who was in frequent touch with Downing in the years since their marriage ended in 1998. The couples daughter, now a young woman, has Rett syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes young girls to stop developing and regress.

    Downing, who was 62, was born in Rural Hall and grew up in Wallburg.

    She went to work in 1987 as assistant prosecutor for Forsyth County District Attorney Warren Sparrow, and continued under Tom Keith until 1991.

    Downing rose to prominence as the chief prosecutor in the case of Moore, who went on trial here in 1990 for murder in the 1986 arsenic poisoning death of her former boyfriend, Raymond C. Reid of Kernersville.

    Moore was convicted of killing Reid, but authorities said he wasnt the only victim: An exhumation revealed that Moores first husband had died from arsenic poisoning, and that her father, who died in the 1960s, had had symptoms of arsenic poisoning.

    Moore was also charged with attempting to poison her second husband, who survived a potentially fatal ingestion of arsenic. Tried only in the death of Reid, Moore remains on death row.

    Downings own conduct became controversial during Moores trial: At one point Moores attorney said he would call for a mistrial after Downing teared up while questioning Moores estranged husband.

    In 1993, Downing was reprimanded by the N.C. State Bar after allegations surfaced that Downing had negotiated a possible movie deal about the case before the trial ended. The bar found no evidence of impropriety, but said that the prosecutor had put herself in a compromising position.

    Vince Rabil, an attorney in the N.C. Office of the Capital Defender here, was a young assistant prosecutor in Forsyth County when he worked under Downing on the Moore murder case.

    I learned so much during that case and it carried on forward for the next 15 years, Rabil said. She had a lot of energy. She had a photographic memory. She was very dramatic and had a flair for courtroom drama. She was from the great old school of Southern legal oratory.

    Downing left the district attorneys office here in 1991 and went into private practice, doing work in workers compensation law statewide. Rabil called Downing an amazing attorney who had a natural instinct for argument and cross-examination.

    She was highly motivated and wanted to see that justice was done, but she did have her own personal demons that she wrestled with, Rabil said. Those continued to follow her the rest of her life, I think.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  8. #8
    Administrator Moh's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Blanche Taylor Moore remains on death row after 25 years

    GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — She was the Black Widow from Central Casting:

    Southern and demure, with big '80s hair and a string of pearls. A preacher's daughter, a preacher's wife. A grandmother, even, secretly slipping arsenic into food — like her homemade banana pudding — hoping to induce slow, painful deaths for those closest to her.

    Blanche Taylor Moore.

    Or around these parts, simply Blanche.

    Twenty-five years ago last month, a Forsyth County jury found Blanche guilty of first-degree murder in the 1986 arsenic-poisoning death of Raymond Reid, her longtime boyfriend.

    She was 57 when the same jury sentenced her to death on Nov. 16, 1990.

    Technically, she was convicted for killing Reid and Reid alone.

    But in reality, she stood trial as a serial killer, the presumed perpetrator of a string of arsenic poisonings — some fatal — that investigators, prosecutors and family members believed began in 1966.

    Father. Mother-in-law. Sister-in-law. First husband.

    And the Rev. Dwight Moore, her second husband, poisoned five days after their wedding in April 1989. By surviving what normally would have been a lethal dose of arsenic, Moore lived to testify, to seal his wife's fate.

    "The only thing these victims had in common was chronic arsenic poisoning and their romantic or personal association with Blanche Taylor Moore," said Vincent Rabil, a former Forsyth County prosecutor, now an assistant capital defender, who helped convict Blanche.

    Today, Blanche remains at the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women. She is one of 148 people awaiting execution in North Carolina.

    At 82, she is the state's oldest death-row inmate, the second-longest serving and one of only two women.

    We weren't able to ask her how she's doing or what she has done to pass the time for 25 years. State prison officials require written consent from the attorneys of death row inmates before forwarding requests for interviews, said Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

    Washington-based attorney William Taylor III, who has represented Moore since 1995, was considering our request at publication time.

    Many others involved in the case either can't talk or don't want to.

    Dwight Moore, who remarried and moved to Virginia, died of natural causes in 2013.

    Lead Forsyth County prosecutor Janet Branch, whose crying spells in the courtroom nearly prompted a mistrial, committed suicide in October.

    Mitchell McEntire, one of Blanche's defense attorneys who still maintains a practice in Graham, didn't return a call.

    The details of her case, however, are preserved in hundreds of newspaper articles, books, even a made-for-TV movie, with former "Bewitched" star Elizabeth Montgomery cast as Blanche.

    The mysterious deaths, spanning three decades.

    Arsenic-laden bodies exhumed from cemeteries in Alamance County.

    Intensive care nurses who said they watched Blanche spoon-feed banana pudding to Reid just days before he died.

    And, of course, lots of odorless, tasteless Anti-Ant.

    If not for the Rev. Dwight Moore's strong constitution and will to live, the world may never have learned the extent of Blanche Taylor Moore's crimes.

    Fresh from their brief honeymoon in April 1989, the minister became violently ill a half-hour after eating a fast-food chicken sandwich Blanche had given him. He went to the emergency room with severe nausea and vomiting.

    Three weeks later, he was near death at a Chapel Hill hospital, hooked to a ventilator, his liver, kidneys and heart failing. He wasn't expected to live.

    Doctors threw a Hail Mary: They ordered blood tests for herbicide poisoning, because he had used the chemicals before his illness.

    The results revealed more arsenic than his doctors had ever seen in a living person — 100 times the normal amount.

    The hospital alerted police, who interviewed him as he lay on what was supposed to be his deathbed.

    Moore mentioned to police that Blanche's former boyfriend, Raymond Reid, died in 1986 of Guillain-Barr syndrome, an immune system disorder with symptoms similar to arsenic poisoning.

    That's when investigators started to exhume bodies.

    In the summer of 1989, workers unearthed five caskets from Alamance County cemeteries. Each contained the remains of someone close to Blanche.

    Autopsies revealed a new cause of death — arsenic poisoning — for two of the five: Reid, whose arsenic level was 30 times higher than normal, and James Taylor, her first husband, whose 1973 death from an apparent heart attack was the result of an arsenic level 60 times higher than normal.

    Two other bodies that were exhumed — those of her father, the Rev. Parker Kiser Sr., and her mother-in-law, Isla Taylor — had high levels of arsenic, but not high enough to kill them, the medical examiner said.

    The body of Joseph Mitchell, a former co-worker of Blanche's who died in 1985, also was exhumed. The autopsy didn't reveal any unusual level of arsenic.

    David Hedgecock, the State Bureau of Investigation agent whose investigation led to the exhumations, said the names of more than 30 people arose as possible arsenic victims.

    "There was a good bit of hysteria going on," Hedgecock said at the time. "It seemed like anyone that had a family member dead who at some point knew Blanche thought that Blanche had something to do with the death."

    On July 18, 1989, authorities arrested Blanche and held her without bail. She was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Taylor and Reid and assault with a deadly weapon in the poisoning of Dwight Moore.

    She hasn't experienced a moment of freedom since.

    Prosecutors had a problem. A big one. No one saw Blanche Taylor Moore poison anyone.

    There was circumstantial evidence — and plenty of it — but nothing tangible.

    That deeply concerned Forsyth County prosecutors, who had jurisdiction over Reid's murder because he had died at what was then N.C. Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.

    Help came in the form of a court ruling issued just days before the trial started. Judge William Freeman of Forsyth County Superior Court said prosecutors could discuss the arsenic poisonings of James Taylor, Dwight Moore and Kiser.

    The decision laid the groundwork for the state's case against Blanche: She secretly poured an odorless, colorless arsenic-based ant killer called Anti-Ant into food and drinks, then fed it to her victims.

    Enter lead prosecutor Janet Branch — blonde, smartly dressed, 100 pounds soaking wet. This flamboyant, aggressive former labor lawyer described the victims' suffering with such gruesome detail that she twice broke down in court.

    "Raymond Reid lay in Baptist Hospital flat on his back, bed sores on his back, completely unable to move, tears in his eyes on the days that this woman who was killing him doesn't come," Branch told the jury, tears streaming down her face.

    "He's crying because his murderer isn't coming to see him! Can you imagine anything more pitiful in this whole world? And he loves her with all his heart. ... But she's running around on him, and she's sleeping with Dwight Moore, and she's going to that hospital."

    The defense wanted a mistrial for her crying fits but didn't get one.

    But there was more to the trial than raw emotion. Branch and Rabil unleashed a torrent of witnesses — 53 in all — who, collectively, painted a picture of Blanche as a cunning, ruthless killer.

    The jury found her guilty after six hours of deliberation and sentenced her to death after just four more.

    "I don't see how anybody could have sat in that courtroom, saw the evidence given, heard the defense and come up with anything different than we did," a juror told the News & Record after sentencing Blanche to death.

    "I don't care if it was us 12, the next 12 or 112 people down the road, I think the decision would have been the same."

    Blanche never stood trial for the death of her first husband, Taylor, or for poisoning her second husband, Moore.

    Officials in Alamance County dropped those charges soon after she was sentenced to death.

    You can find a picture of her on the prison system's website.

    It is not the Blanche Taylor Moore we remember — big glasses, tailored outfits, perfectly permed hair.

    It's an elderly woman with silver hair. She is wearing a fuchsia-colored blouse over a white T-shirt, with small, tasteful earrings. Her smile reveals lines around her deep-set eyes, though not as many lines as you might expect at 82.

    She has aged well, despite at least one recurrence of the cancer she first fought in the 1980s.

    The website shows that Moore has had two "infractions" while at Women's Prison — "misuse medicine" in 1996, and "disobey order" in 2008. The website offers no details about the circumstances.

    Like all death row cases, Blanche's attorneys filed numerous appeals, all unsuccessful.

    One argued that Freeman, the judge in the murder trial, shouldn't have let the jury hear allegations that she poisoned her first husband, Taylor, and attempted to poison her second husband, Moore.

    Another claimed that Freeman improperly socialized with jurors, posing for pictures, sharing popcorn and birthday cake.

    Taylor, her attorney, launched his most recent argument in 2010. He and attorneys for almost every other death row inmate in North Carolina asked that their sentences be converted to life in prison under the state's 2009 Racial Justice Act. The law allowed death row inmates to challenge their sentences based on statistical evidence of racism.

    Gov. Pat McCrory repealed that act in 2013, ending any hope for such a move.

    Rabil said the aftermath of Blanche's trial, including the lengthy appeals process, has helped shape his belief that capital punishment should be abolished.

    In November 1990, as Rabil sought to persuade jurors to sentence Blanche to death, he said Reid's murder set "a new standard for cruelty in the history of this country."

    Blanche, he told them, deserved "the ultimate penalty."

    Now an assistant capital defender in Forsyth County, Rabil is no longer convinced.

    He asked: "Have the endless rounds of appeals and hearings rehashing the gory details of the case achieved justice or provided closure to the victims and survivors?

    "Isn't the 25 years and more than $1 million spent litigating this case just a monument to another failed government program?"


  9. #9
    Senior Member Frequent Poster joe_con's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    As soon as she dies, I believe North Carolina will finally resume executions.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Member Big Jon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Death by arsenic poisoning would be proper in this case for her and much cheaper as well.

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