BURLINGTON, N.C. -- A woman suspected of poisoning nine people, including husbands, boyfriends, a mother-in-law and her father, is a loving person who has done nothing wrong, her lawyer says.
Blanche Moore, 56, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and additional charges appear likely as the State Bureau of Investigation expands its probe into the deaths of several of the woman's friends and relatives.
Not since Madame Bovary committed suicide in Gustav Flaubert's novel of the same name has arsenic had as much notoriety as in recent weeks in North Carolina, where eight of nine people Moore allegedly poisoned have died. The intense publicity worries Mitchell McEntire, Moore's attorney.
'The carnival type atmosphere is of concern to me, given the responsibility of defending her and protecting her right to a fair trial,' he said. 'That possibility is getting rather remote. The public attention, the media attention is causing legitimate concern.'
McEntire describes his client as a loving, generous person who insists she is innocent.
'She's determined and prepared to overcome it,' McEntire said. 'She's taking it with a good deal of bravery and she's determined to hold up under this. She's a bit frail and I'm concerned the stress of this has been hard on her -- it's simply been a nightmare.'
Last Tuesday, Moore was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to kill. But she is suspected of poisoning several other people, including her father.
The first-degree murder charges were filed in the deaths of Moore's first husband, James N. Taylor, 45, who died in 1973, and her subsequent boyfriend, Raymond C. Reid, 50, who died in 1986, only five weeks after naming Moore a beneficiary in his will.
The assault charge pertains to the woman's current husband, the Rev. Dwight Moore, who was was stricken May 7 on their wedding trip to New Jersey. He was admitted to North Carolina Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill, where arsenic poisoning was diagnosed.
The diagnosis was reported to the State Bureau of Investigation, where officials began studying the deaths of other people close to Moore, including her father, the Rev. Parker D. Kiser Sr.
But the state medical examiner ruled Friday Kiser died of heart disease, although traces of arsenic were found in his body.
McEntire said his client had no opportunity to poison her father, who died Sept. 8, 1966, more than 10 years after he divorced Moore's mother, remarried and moved to nearby Mebane, where he was pastor of the Rescue Baptist Mission Church.
'Mrs. Moore had very little occasion to be with her father before his death,' McEntire said. 'She was not alone with her father prior to his death. We regret he had unusual levels of arsenic in his body, but at the same time we feel confident she is not responsible for that.'
On Thursday, Burlington police said they added another name to the list -- Moore's former mother-in-law, Ilsa Taylor, 83, who died in 1970. Authorities hastened to say, however, they have no evidence arsenic poisoning was involved in that case, although they said they would investigate.
'The thing has gotten so out of hand in one sense,' McEntire said. 'The addition of another name doesn't have the same impact on her that it did initially.'
McEntire says he visits Moore daily to give her updates on what has been said and and the latest accusations against her.
'It doesn't dilute her resolve to present her life to the court and to the public and to prevail in this cause,' he said. 'It doesn't change for one second that she's done no act that she has been charged with.'
Burlington Police Lt. Steve Lynch said no other charges will be filed until prosecutors review each case.
'We will continue to screen names of deceased persons as they come to us,' Lynch said. 'This may be a time consuming process.'
Authorities identified several other people who may have suffered arsenic poisioning, including:
- Mabel Jessie Parsons, who died Oct. 12, 1988. Parsons and Moore worked together at Kroger Co. stores in Greensboro and Burlington.
- Jospeh E. Mitchell, 57, who died in a Greensboro hospital July 15, 1985. He also worked at the Greensboro Kroger store with Moore.
- John W. Reiber, 77, who died Feb. 12, 1988. He was a member of the church where Dwight Moore preaches. Family members said Blanche Moore helped arrange his funeral.
- Ina Pierce Vinson, 77, who died in a hospital in August 1977.