Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Nannie Doss: Lonely Hearts Lady Loved Her Man to Death

Goodbye Frank

International events had thrust America into a world war; American GIs were dying by the droves in Europe and the Pacific, and the world had little time to note the deaths of an infant girl and a two-year-old boy in an out-of-the-way burgh in the foothills of northeastern Alabama. In August, 1945, the last of the enemy powers, Japan, surrendered; the nation thought of one thing: to welcome home its fathers, brothers, sons. In every state in the union, there was hailing and bunting and balloons and all-round ecstasy. Alabama was no exception. On the night of September 15, 1945, Frank Harrelson went out to the tavern to welcome home some friends from overseas. Tonight patriotism had given him an excuse to get loaded.

Arriving home, he was still in a festive mood. He wanted sex, fireworks style, and he wanted it fast. When Nannie refused, he slammed the wall with a ham-size fist and shouted, "If'n you don't listen to me, woman, I ain't gonna be here next week."

She listened to him, just to avoid a broken jaw.

"As they had sex, Nannie stared at the ceiling and vowed to get even," author Terry Manners declares. "The next day, tending the little rose garden she adored, she found her husband's corn liquor jar hidden deep in the surrounding flower-bed. That was enough. She liked to keep her yard pretty. She took the jar to the storeroom, poured away some of the foul drink...and topped it with rat poison. (That evening) Harrelson died of excruciating pain, aged just thirty-eight. An hour later, Nannie washed out the empty-corn liquor jar."

Sherby Green states, "Nannie later stated that she married him for love, but like all her amours she loved the continental sound of that word Frank Harrelson was no Sir Lancelot. Instead, he was a jailbird and a drunkard, and now he was a dead husband. Killing husbands became easier after that. Killing, in general, had become a cinch."