Velma was a serial killer with a body count of 6. She mostly used arsenic as her murder weapon; once her victim grew ill, she liked to pretend to nurse them back to health while she fed them more poison. People generally felt sorry for Velma, she was a church going southern bell who just had the worst luck in the whole wide world! No one ever suspected the sweet widow of actually causing the deaths of those she claimed to love.
Velma grew up with a submissive mother and a domineering father. There’s no doubt that Dad was physically abusive; later in life Velma claimed that her father had sexually abused her, though everyone who knew her, including her siblings, claim this is a lie. By the time she was a teenager, Velma was already stealing money and forging checks. At the young age of 17, Velma married a man named Thomas Burke; the couple dropped out of school and quickly conceived two children: Ronnie and Kim. Velma was an amazing mother; she was a super mom, very involved in her children’s schooling.
Most of the problems began in 1964 after Velma required a hysterectomy; she became addicted to prescription medication such as Valium and Librium, and she wasn’t above doctor shopping to get her fix. In order to pay for all this, Velma was again stealing cash and forging checks; for this she served a short prison sentence for theft. The hysterectomy also seemed to have affected her emotionally, as Velma didn’t feel like much of a woman now that she was incapable of bearing children. Those who knew the woman say there was an abrupt personality shift at this time; her marriage became tumultuous, the home she shared with her husband became a battleground. It didn’t help that Thomas had been in a car wreck and couldn’t work; while Velma was getting high, her hubby was constantly drunk.
On April 4th of 1969, Velma and her children left Thomas home alone for a while – one source states that they went to the laundromat. When they returned, it was discovered that Thomas had perished in a fire. The death was attributed to the man having fallen asleep with a cigarette in bed, and the official cause of death was smoke inhalation. Just a few months after Thomas was killed, there was another fire on property belonging to Velma. The widow took her kids to her parents home as they waited on the insurance checks to come in. It is thought that Thomas was Velma’s first murder, and the beginning of a trend; insurance money, checks forged, and Velma poisoning those closest to her before they could press charges on her for fraud and theft.
The new widow didn’t stay single long; in 1970 Velma married a man by the name of Jennings Barfield. Within a year, Jennings was dead; the cause of death was heart complications.
Next on Velma’s hit list was her very own mother, Lillian Bullard. After the death of her second hubby, Velma had moved back in with her parents again. Unbeknownst to Lillian, her daughter had taken out a rather large loan in her mother’s name; Velma was terrified mom was about to find out and back to prison she’d go. So, our serial did what she did best; in I974 Lillian became ill with diarrhea, vomiting, etc. She was hospitalized but recovered, for a few days anyhow. Soon after being sent home, she suddenly became ill again. On December 30th of 1974, Lillian passed away; her daughter had remained by Lillian’s side throughout it all, seemingly doing her best to nurse mom back to health.
In ’76 Velma began working with the elderly; she was first employed by Montgomery and Dollie Edwards. Less than a year after Velma entered their lives, in January of 1977, Montgomery was dead; a month after her husband’s death, Dollie followed suit. The cause of death in both cases were listed as acute gastroenteritis. Now, before Dollie passed away, she had introduced Velma to a relative of hers, a widower and tobacco farmer named Rowland “Stuart” Taylor. The two began dating and became engaged. In the meanwhile, Velma began working for another elderly couple, Record Lee and her husband, John Henry. Record had recently broken her leg and needed a little help. John soon began showing the same symptoms as the others: stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. He passed away on June 4th of 1977; the cause of death was, again, acute gastroenteritis.
So, through all this Velma had been living with Stuart, and forging checks in her boyfriend’s name. Of course she was concerned he was going to find out and press charges; Stuart was really straight laced, Velma hadn’t even told him she had any sort of criminal record. So our killer did what she usually did when she was worried, she mixed some rat poisoning into his beer, then made a big show of nursing her love back to health. On February 3rd of 1978, Stuart passed away.
While Stuart’s family felt nothing but love and pity for the Velma, her own son, Ronnie, had put two and two together. He confronted his mother and demanded answers; at first Velma swore up and down that she had never hurt anyone, but a few days later she admitted to her son that she had, in fact, poisoned Stuart. Ronnie immediately called to inform the police.
Investigators initially believed they were looking at a single murder, but Velma confessed to taking 5 lives between 1969 and 1978. She vehemently denied causing the death of her first husband. Investigators exhumed the victims and it was concluded that yes, all had been dosed with arsenic; Velma had fed them rat or insect poison. Some believe her true body count is not 6, but 7.
Velma always claimed she never meant to kill anyone, she only intended to make them sick until she could pay back the money and avoid a prison sentence. This is almost laughable as this killer was as sadistic as they come. It takes a special kind of evil to poison those closest to you, stay by their side the entire time and watch them suffer while pretending to nurse them back to health. She enjoyed it, just as all serial killers do. Then, when her victims were dead, Velma buddied up with her victim’s family! She attended the funeral, often even stayed with victim’s loved ones in their homes during the time of grief!
Velma was one heck of an actress; she sobbed with the truly bereaved, they cried on her shoulder. One of her dead lovers families actually felt so sorry for the grieving Velma that they actually raised $400. to help her feel better! This would be a serial killers wet dream: to watching all the pain she caused up close and personal, to be that close to the family, to attend the funeral and never be suspected! She must have received the biggest thrill from this!
North Carolina wanted to see Velma receive the death penalty. Since Stuart’s death was the only one committed after the death penalty was reinstated, that’s the only murder she was charged with. The killer’s defense was that she suffered from multiple personality disorder, but the jury didn’t buy it. Velma was found guilty and sent to death row. It’s said that she was in her element behind bars; she cleaned up, found peace, became a mother hen to all of the women on death row, and enjoyed crocheting dolls for her grandchildren inside her prison cell. Officers claim they would place the most troubled new inmates in cells next to Velma, because she was known for soothing and mothering these women. Since she was a changed woman, her lawyer tried to get her sentence commuted to life, but the state disagreed. On November 2nd of 1984, 52 year old Velma was put to death by lethal injection. For her last meal, The “Death Row Granny” was given a bag of Cheetos and a Coke. She was the first woman to be executed in North Carolina after the death penalty was reinstated, and the very first woman ever to be executed by lethal injection. She is buried with her first victim, husband Thomas Burke.
Oh! One more thing: Velma was an organ donor. Some lucky person out there is (or was) walking around with her corneas and some skin grafs.