Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Nannie Doss: Lonely Hearts Lady Loved Her Man to Death

Cashing In

On April 21, eight weeks after Arlie's passing, the tidy frame home that he and Nannie had lived in burned to the foundation. It was a stroke of luck for the widow because had the house survived it would have, under conditions set forth in Arlie's will, gone to his sister. (Coincidentally, Nannie was not home at the time, having just left the premises with her favorite household item, the TV set, tucked away in the back seat of her Ford. "I was on my way to have it repaired," she explained.) As it were, the insurance company issued a check to "Arlie Lanning, deceased," which was mailed to his widow who was lodging by then with Arlie's mother.

The claimant expediently cashed the check and left North Carolina – but only after the elder Mrs. Lanning died strangely in her sleep.

Within days, Nannie showed up at her sister Dovie's residence in Gadsden – with the TV -- where she nursed the bed-ridden sibling whose condition, from that point, seemed to continue downhill. Dovie died June 30, also in her sleep.

Sherby Green
Sherby Green

"Apparently," says Sherby Green, "anything that annoyed 'Arsenic Annie,' another name given to Nannie during her eventual trial, met with elimination. And if killing people brought in a little extra income, an insurance policy here or there, well, she considered that a bonus. Payment for her cleverness, if you will.

"And, fitting with her dark side, Nannie was clever -- very, very intelligent. It's been said," continues Sherby, "that she was able to get away with her crimes because of the backwards places she lived and the naïve times. That's simply not true. Where and when she lived had nothing to do with it. I know the temperament of the people she familiarized; they can be quite suspicious and alert to hypocrisy. But, Nannie was an actress, she fooled so many people, laymen and professionals, during a killing spree that lasted more than twenty years."

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