Death Sentence

The True Story of Velma Barfield's Life, Crimes, and Punishment

A shocking true story of a double life undone by murder.

When North Carolina farmer Stuart Taylor died after a sudden illness, his 46-year-old fiancée Velma Barfield, was overcome with grief. Taylor’s family grieved with her—until the autopsy revealed traces of arsenic poisoning. Turned over to the authorities by her own son, Velma stunned her family with more revelations. This wasn’t the first time the born-again Christian and devout Sunday school teacher had committed cold-blooded murder. Tried by the “world’s deadliest prosecutor,” and sentenced to death, Velma turned her life around and gained worldwide attention.

With chilling precision,New York Times bestselling author Bledsoe probes Velma’s stark descent into madness. From her harrowing childhood to the shocking crimes that incited a national debate over the death penalty, to the dark, final moments of her execution—broadcast live on CNN—Velma Barfield’s riveting life of crime and punishment, revenge and redemption is true crime reporting at its most gripping and profound.

“A painfully intimate, moving story about the life and death of the only woman executed in the U.S. between 1962-1998… explores a facet of human behavior that defies easy definitions or easy answers… with graceful writing and thorough reporting, it makes the reader look hard at something dark and sad in the human soul… breathes new life into the true crime genre.” —Raleigh News & Observer

“Bledsoe has written a detailed account of Barfield’s troubled life and motives…holds the reader’s interest with a true story that reads like a novel.” —Library Journal

“Undertakes to answer the questions about the justice system and the motives that drive women to kill.” —Washington Post Book World

“An extraordinary piece of writing… the most chilling description of a legal execution that we are ever likely to get.” —Asheville Citizen Times

“Substantial… focused and intensive… genuinely instructive.” —The Spectator

“Bledsoe has been long known as one of the most prodigiously talented reporters and writers in the country.” —Tom French

“Taut and engrossing on the nature of justice and the death penalty as well as on guilt and responsibility.” —Booklist

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