Before He Wakes: A True Story of Money, Marriage, Sex, and Murder
In 1988, high school coach Russ Stager of Durham, N.C., was "accidentally" killed by his wife, Barbara, shot with a loaded gun he allegedly kept under his pillow. A seemingly happy and popular couple, both active in their church, the two were compulsive overspenders--and she was a sexual overachiever with a string of extramarital affairs. As the case developed, it became clear she was a liar and a thief as well. Then detectives discovered that exactly 10 years earlier Barbara's first husband, Larry Ford, had died in an identical fashion but police had done nothing about their reservations concerning that "accident." Barbara was convicted of murder and eventually sentenced to life. The greatest strength of Bledsoe's (Blood Games) fine study is less his account of the murder case than his picture of the Baptist culture of the Bible Belt, where the baptized Barbara was assumed to be a "good Christian woman" because her church work meant she could do no evil.