Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Nannie Doss: Lonely Hearts Lady Loved Her Man to Death

A Little Hasty

On a cool September evening, Doss sat at the dinner table sliding his cleaned-off dinner plate aside to partake of Nannie's prune cake. That night, he began wrenching and grasping his stomach in violent pain. Spasms were ungodly. "(He) took to his bed for days, losing 16 pounds in weight," Terry Manners' Deadlier Than the Male tells us. "Finally, his doctor sent him to the hospital, where he stayed for twenty-three days."

The hospital's diagnosis had been a severe infection to the digestive tract. Upon his release October 5, Nannie, disgruntled at the time wasted, went right back to where she had left off. Right back. After allowing him one good afternoon's rest back in his own overstuffed chair, she awoke him for the dinner she had prepared especially for his welcome home.

"This will get you back on your feet in a jiffy," she promised, passing him a cup of coffee first. Doss sipped it first, and then as it cooled took a larger and a larger gulp each time between a mouthful of delicious pork roast. The roast was fine. The coffee was the harbinger, mixed with arsenic. Before the toll of midnight, Sam Doss was dead.

In her rush to rid herself of her latest and by far not the greatest husband, Nannie erred. Usually adroit, she had been too much in a hurry this time around. Dr. Schwelbein, the physician who had examined Doss prior to his release from the hospital only the day before, dismayed to hear that his patient was dead. This, he said, did not make sense. He ordered an autopsy.

As he had suspected, Sam Doss had not died of natural causes. In the intestines and stomach, Schwelbein found remains of a pork roast dinner and enough arsenic to kill a team of horses.

Nannie Doss, unable to explain where the arsenic came from, was promptly arrested.

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