Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Nannie Doss: Lonely Hearts Lady Loved Her Man to Death

Hard Nut to Crack

"I'm sure I'll find my perfect mate yet..."

-- Nannie Doss

At first, Nannie refused to acknowledge her role in Sam Doss' poisoning. He was her husband, she said, and wouldn't have harmed him. But, the police wouldn't let up. Arsenic, they reminded her, does not come naturally with pork meat or coffee beans. In fact, when Sam was admitted into the hospital a month earlier, he had just devoured a plateful of her prunes. "Were they poisoned, too, Nannie?" they asked.

I don't know what you're talking about," she giggled at the ridiculousness of their line of questioning. "Me? Poison?"

Hour after hour, they drilled her, trying to get her to pay attention to them and nevermind the copy of the romance magazine she kept thumbing through.

"Put the magazine down, Nannie, and listen to us. Nannie...Nannie? Look at us, why did you kill Doss?"

Ordinarily, any one of the investigators wouldn't have put up with this crap. They would have ripped the magazine from the suspect's hands and flung it in the trash can. And, if the suspect didn't open up, they might damn well follow the magazine to the same spot. But, it was difficult to get rough with this...sweet...grandmotherly type.

That giggle. That harmless, innocent giggle.

"Nannie, we've been here for hours now, aren't you getting tired? You killed him, we know you killed him, you know you killed him."

"Oh, boys, come on now, I killed nobody. I don't know why you think I did," she fluttered.

Special Agent Ray Page, heading the investigation, signaled his own men aside and stepped forward. He lit a cigarette and sat beside her at the long table in the dim, tunnel-like Interrogation Room and rubbed a pair of tired eyes. He noted with surprise that, unlike himself and his squad, she had not wilted at all. "We've made phone calls, Nannie, and we've learned that Mr. Doss was your fourth husband to die of the same symptoms. We're putting two and two together, Nannie, and it looks like we just might come up with...well, four. Arsenic, Nannie, we believe that they all died of arsenic. It will be easier if you admit what you've done, ahead of time I mean, before we have to find out for ourselves."

"Are you saying, young man, that I killed all my husbands?" and she giggled again. "You're a nice-looking young man, but so foolish." And she flipped over a page of the Romantic Hearts publication before her.

Page didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Was she insane? Or was she the greatest actress who ever lived? Move over, Bette Davis, he thought. He'd seen some cool cucumbers in his days, but this woman had them all beat. It was time to get serious with Old Mother Arsenic. He reached over and drew the magazine from her hands. "No more reading, Nannie. This isn't the Christian Science reading room. You're gonna answer us."

She looked at him, not giggling.

"Nannie," he went on, "there are others, too, aren't there? A lot of people around you dropped dead over the last couple decades and their ghosts are coming back to haunt you. They're here, Nannie, in this room. Put'em to rest, Nannie, put them to rest."

For a moment their eyes met. Page detected, in a breath, those twinkling granny eyes solidify into something nasty. A devil lurked just within and he was going to yank it out. And she knew it. She sighed, heaved and nodded. "All right, all right..."

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