|Born||October 30, 1948
North Carolina, USA
Barbara Stager (October 30, 1948) is an American woman who was convicted in 1989 of murdering her husband (Russell Stager) in 1988. Stager is also suspected of the earlier murder of her first husband (Larry Ford), who died in nearly identical circumstances.
At 6:08 a.m. on 1 February 1988, the police in Durham, North Carolina got a call from Mrs. Stager, reporting that her husband had been shot. She told the responding officers that her husband kept a handgun under his pillow when he slept, and that she must have touched it as she stirred in her sleep, causing it to discharge and kill Mr. Stager. At first the police accepted this account and ruled the incident an accidental shooting. According to shocked friends, coworkers and family members, Barbara was a devoted wife, mother and Christian.
Attorney Eric Evenson is credited with piecing together the puzzle and determining that Mrs. Stager was guilty of murder; the most damning evidence was the similar death of her first husband. Stager's first wife, whom he divorced to marry Barbara, was also convinced of Barbara's evil nature, and provided continuing evidence of her spendthrift and adulterous ways.
At the conclusion of her trial for first-degree murder, the jury deliberated for 44 minutes to reach a guilty verdict, and she was sentenced to death (31 August 1989). In such cases the matter is automatically reviewed by a higher court; in this case the death sentence was changed to life imprisonment (now being carried out at the North Carolina Department of Corrections) due to a technicality in the first proceeding. A 'life imprisonment' sentence carries the possibility of parole after 20 years.
Barbara Stager had a parole hearing in March 2009. She was denied parole at that time and given a new parole review date for 2012.
"Till Death Do Us Part: The Barbara Stager Story", is an episode of A&E's American Justice, which profiles the case. Jerry Bledsoe also wrote a book in 1994 about the case, entitled Before He Wakes, which was later made into a TV movie in 1998 with the same title starring Jaclyn Smith. A&E's City Confidential "Durham: Dangerous Housewife" also covered the case.