We had a request from a listener to do an episode on a death row case. So, today we are going to talk about Blanche Taylor Moore, also known as the North Carolina Black Widow.
Blanche was born February 17, 1933 in Concord, North Carolina. She was the fifth of seven children and was known for being a happy carefree schoolgirl who enjoyed the gospel music she heard in church. And her father, Parker Kiser, was a millworker, ordained Baptist minister, and womanizer. He was also an alcoholic who at one point allegedly forced his daughter into prostitution to pay off his gambling debts. He had a second family with 4 children and she learned of them in her teen years. She saw a psychiatrist about father’s infidelity and she said it “tears her heart” that he left her mother.
As soon as Blanche could, she moved out so that she could get away from her father. At 19, she got married to a man named James Taylor in 1952. He was a retired furniture restorer & a veteran of the US Army. Blanche got a job at a local grocery store (Kroger) a couple of years later. She did well at this job, went to college for a business degree, and moved up to a management position. When she wasn’t working, she was at church. She would also visit the sick, take them food, and was known for her southern hospitality. She was also known for always being dressed to the nines and having her hair done. She was really just your picture perfect Christian woman. *Insert eye roll*
Blanche and James Taylor had two daughters, Cynthia (Cindy) and Vanessa. They were married for 21 years until one morning in 1973 when Blanche found James unresponsive in bed. He was only 45 and was found to have died of a heart attack.
After losing her husband, she started dating Raymond Reid. Raymond was divorced and was actually the manager of the store Blanche was working at. According to some sources, they started dating before Blanche’s husband died and they just didn’t go public with their relationship until after his death. This relationship lasted over a decade, but by 1985, the relationship had soured. They had been together for almost 15 years, but Raymond refused to marry Blanche which she had an issue with. Some sources say this is because he was constantly bouncing around different stores and Blanche wanted to stay in the same area, but this is just speculation.
In 1985, Blanche took out a lawsuit against Kevin Denton, the regional manager of the Triad area Krogers. The lawsuit she took out against him was for sexual harassment. It was rumored that the two were dating, but that they had ended things and he continued to come onto her that day at work. She said that he was harassing her and that he approached her without any pants on. She said that she turned him down, but he continued to come onto her and so she took his pants and ran. Some sources say that this was a legitimate claim whereas others say that she had set him up. Regardless, the suit ended up being settled out of court for $275,000. He was forced to resign from Kroger and she decided to part ways with the grocery store at this point as well.
On Easter Sunday, still in 1985, Blanche ventured out to a different church than she normally attended and just so happened to meet Reverend Dwight Moore. Dwight was a beloved minister who had moved to North Carolina for a fresh start. He had gotten divorced after his wife found out that he had been unfaithful and didn’t feel like he could move on in life if he stayed in the same place.
When Blanche walked into church that Sunday it was, as some would call it, love at first sight. Dwight was smitten with her, her looks, and her southern cooking. If you’re curious about her southern cooking, she was apparently known for her sweet tea and banana pudding if that tells you anything. The couple dated for a few years before sealing the deal and getting married in April 1989. Blanche’s daughter, Cindy, who was in the snapped episode on this case said that she only found out they were getting married the day before the wedding.
After the wedding, they went on a long weekend honeymoon to New Jersey. They came back on Monday, and by Wednesday Dwight came down with a mysterious illness, after eating a chicken sandwich and after 2 days of pain & suffering, ended up having Blanche take him to the Alamance County Hospital on April 28th. Doctors were baffled and couldn’t seem to pinpoint what was causing him to be so sick. He had excruciating stomach pain with nausea and vomiting, and as the days passed things just seemed to get worse. He started losing the sense of feeling in his limbs and had pain all over his body.
He was transferred from Alamance County Hospital, to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, and ultimately to North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill. The hospital he was at happened to be a teaching hospital and when the students were doing rounds one day, one of the students said that they would test for heavy metals. Realizing that this would explain Dwight’s symptoms, doctors quickly ran the test and found high levels of arsenic in Dwight’s blood – 100 times more than is normally found in the human body. It was honestly a miracle that he was still alive.
Of course, after finding this crazy amount of arsenic in his blood, the first thing people want to know is how it got there. The hospital staff actually called the police to report it and they got involved in trying to figure out what could have happened. They put his room on lockdown and had strict visitor rules. Blanche could still visit him, but she had to be supervised. And of course, since we’re talking about a man being poisoned, the first person police went to was Blanche. She denied poisoning him and after questioning her, one detective even said, “such a sweet old Christian lady. Couldn’t have done it.”
Now, rule number one when you’re trying to get the suspicion off of yourself is to provide another option and that is just what Blanche did. She said that Dwight had been having a hard time recently and suggested that he had poisoned himself. Why someone would commit suicide through the use of arsenic though makes no sense. For one, it’s an extremely painful death. It also doesn’t really make sense with the fact that he was newly married and sought help when he started feeling sick.
Just to be sure, the police did ask him if he had poisoned himself, but of course he denied trying to take his own life. He said that he had no idea who would want to kill him. The general picture of Dwight that police were getting in their investigation was that he was really well liked, didn’t have enemies, and was genuinely a good guy. At this point they thought that maybe it was an accident and went through his house checking all the herbicides and chemicals to see if he could have accidentally been poisoned with one of those. Still, they found nothing. This led police to officially rule this an attempted murder.
What’s even more concerning was that he’s still in the hospital and being watched, but his arsenic level was somehow still increasing. They decide to completely lock down his room now and no one, not even Blanche, was allowed in anymore. The local police were baffled and had to admit that they were in over their heads, so they called in the SBI to help. The State Bureau of Investigation jumped into action and asked Dwight if anyone around him had died mysteriously – I’m not sure what their thought process was on this. Maybe they were thinking it could have been environmental and they could find a common link or maybe they were looking for something specific?
Whatever they were trying to get at, I don’t think they were expecting the answer they got. Dwight explained that Blanche’s previous boyfriend, Raymond Reid, had died and they didn’t know why. Of course this stood out to police and their suspicion of her multiplied tenfold.
They were able to obtain Raymond’s medical records and learned that his symptoms were almost identical to Dwight’s. Doctors hadn’t been able to figure out what was wrong with Raymond and thought his illness was being caused by symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can show up after a viral infection.
They figured there’s no way this was a coincidence, so they got approval to exhume the body.
At the same time, they were still digging around and spoke with Raymond’s family to get an idea of what their relationship had been like. One of his sons said that Blanche could “make you feel very comfortable, but could turn it off in a heartbeat.” They also found out that while Raymond didn’t have much money, what he did have had been willed to his two sons. However, Blanche convinced them that he had wanted to update his will and leave some of his money to her. She ended up convincing them to split what they had each gotten with her.
They also pressed more about his health issues and learned that before passing, his health issues had been going on for 5 or 6 months and Blanche was right by his side the whole time. They said she would bring him his favorite meals, things like banana pudding and milkshakes. Everyone – his family, the nurses and medical staff- all that she was just being kind and a good, supportive partner. When he did eventually pass, they didn’t do an autopsy because Blanche turned it down.
So now they’ve exhumed Raymond’s body, and they have a pretty good idea of what they are going to find after an autopsy is done. Sure enough, they found that Raymond had high levels of arsenic and his cause of death was not Guillain-Barre, but arsenic poisoning.
At this point, the police know what is going on, but they need more. What they did next was look at the medical records of a bunch of people Blanche had been close with and were no longer alive. They came up with three more individuals that had signs and symptoms similar to arsenic poisoning and got approval to exhume their bodies as well.
The first of these was none other than her first husband, James Taylor. If you remember, he died in 1973 of a heart attack. (Fun fact: He and Raymond were actually buried in the same cemetery). Cindy, their daughter, said that growing up she appeared to live in a happy household. She said that in the fall of 1973 her dad had been sick for a whole week and that alarms went off when one morning he didn’t get up. The police’s interest was officially piqued and they only got more suspicious when they realized that everyone else in his family history had survived well into their 80s, so the odds of a heart attack in his 40s was not looking good. The exhumation once again proved their suspicion was justified as they found that he also had high levels of arsenic in his system when he died.
They exhumed two other bodies in this investigation. Any guesses?
The bodies exhumed were Blanche’s father, Parker Kiser and her mother in law. In case you didn’t guess, they found high levels of arsenic in her father’s body. They also found that the levels were high in her mother in law, but not enough to cause her death or even make her deathly sick. Because of this, the police think that she was probably poisoning them, but they were ultimately killed from things associated with age. It makes me wonder if she was just starting to use arsenic or if her goal at the beginning was to maybe make them suffer. What do you guys think?
Now that the police had all of this information, they were able to charge her. They charged her in three cases, murder for James and Raymond, and attempted murder for Dwight. They focused on Raymond’s case because they felt it was the one most likely to have success prosecuting. It was the freshest, there was the most evidence, and they had people to testify. Because the murder was obviously premeditated, it was raised to a capital offense. Side note: a capital offense is an offense that is punishable by the death penalty.
So we have all this evidence and it seems pretty open and shut, right? Wellll, it couldn’t be THAT simple. It literally feels like a fictional story because what happened next is right out of a movie, I swear. Blanche’s attorney received a handwritten letter signed by a man named Garvin Thomas. In the letter, it says that he was in love with Blanche and had been for years. He said that he poisoned the men in her life because he wanted to get them out of his way and he didn’t believe they were worthy of her. Garvin said he had stalked her for 17 years, but never officially met her. He said he dressed up as a minister to deliver the arsenic. Despite the fact that this doesn’t make any sense, the police did have to consider it since it could create reasonable doubt, which obviously you don’t want in a trial. When investigators tried to track him down, they found that as luck would have it, he had died a week prior to the letter being mailed. His daughter said that he had been writing love letters to her because he heard about her case and wanted to get them to go back and forth and then turn them all over to the media. She said that he had been in jail before and knew what it was like to be lonely. She also said that he was a deeply tormented man. Handwriting experts also concluded that the letter was written by none other than our friend Blanche. According to an SBI investigator, during the handwriting analysis she asked to write “this sucks” then retracted that statement and wrote a bible verse. *Double crossed Ts, double dotted Is, double periods, and abbreviations received to recv’d.
Let’s move onto her trial. She always came to trial immaculately dressed and was giving off the sweet, little, old southern lady that could be your Sunday school teacher vibe. The whole thing became a spectacle and things like Blanche Moore’s banana pudding recipe were going around, with one of the main ingredients being arsenic of course. The prosecutor said that she believed the motive wasn’t money or revenge, but that Blanche was simply evil. Blanche stood her ground though and at one point even said, “I know and I believe that there was arsenic in these people as you said. But I didn’t put it there.” 54 witnesses testified against her, a number of those being nurses who said that Raymond would get sicker after she would bring him food. Blanche of course denies all of this, going so far as to say that she never fed him any food that wasn’t prepared in the hospital. Dwight, who is still alive by the way, even took the stand to testify against her.
The only thing we don’t know at this point is where the arsenic was coming from. A search of her home didn’t find any, but it was speculated that she got it from small bottles of a little something called Anti-ant. As the name implies, it was a concoction of chemicals that was intended to be used to get rid of ants. However, one of the main ingredients was arsenic, so it could be used for other methods. Blanche insisted she had never bought this , but a store owner testified that she had asked if he had any. He didn’t and according to Dwight, she sent him to find it for her. Fun fact: It is generally the southern female who kills with arsenic and it is the most commonly used poison. Because of this, arsenic has caught the public imagination and been used in all sorts of media as a method of murder.
It only took the jury 6 hours to deliberate and find her guilty. It took only another 4 hours for them to sentence her to death. Since then, she has appealed multiple times and has tried to commute her sentence to life in prison. As of now, there is an unofficial moratorium on executions in North Carolina, so she is still serving out her time. She currently resides at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women.
She is prisoner # 0288088.
Because I know you’re wondering what happened with Dwight – he was able to recover and as I mentioned, he testified against Blanche at her trial. Two weeks after her conviction, he filed for divorce. He remarried and moved on with his life. In an interview with WXII 12 news network in NC, in 2010, Dwight said he had no objections to his ex-wife seeking to have her death sentence overturned, has no desire to see her executed, and has no problems with her serving out her remaining days in the most humane way possible. When asked about her claims of innocence, he said he had no doubts about her guilt & just chuckled. He did admit that he still suffered from lingering tremors in his hands & weakness in his legs from the arsenic poisoning. The Reverend Dwight William Moore passed away on January 11th, 2013 of natural causes. He was 78.
Snapped Season 27, Episode 11
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