Nannie Doss has claimed to have killed at least eleven people starting in the 1920’s and continuing until her capture in 1954. One of five children, Nancy Hazel was born on November 4, 1905, in Blue Mountain Alabama. Doss had a sad childhood as her parents were not a loving, functioning couple. Her father, James, was reputedly a rigid, callous man with a vindictive manor.
A childhood accident occurred while Doss and her family were traveling on a train. Doss struck her head when the train brakes were suddenly applied. Following this incident Doss developed headaches and depression.
At the age of 16, Doss’ married Charlie Braggs, the first of five husbands. Braggs had an extremely overbearing mother, who insisted on living with the young couple. Much like Doss’s father, Braggs’ mother controlled the family. Doss birthed four daughters in four years. Due to family difficulties, Doss began drinking and smoking heavily, much to everyone’s dismay. The young couple often accused each other of extramarital affairs.
The two middle daughters unexpectedly died of suspected food poisoning. Suspicious that his wife had killed the girls, Braggs left home, taking Melvina, his eldest. Doss kept the baby with her. Braggs’ mother also died under suspicious circumstances. Soon after, the couple divorced.
Doss met her second husband, Robert Frank Harrelson, through dating advertisements in the newspaper. The couple married in 1929; he was 23, Doss was 24. Her oldest daughter resided with them. The family lived in Jacksonville where Harrelson labored as a factory worker.
Soon after the wedding Doss learned that her new husband had drinking problems and a criminal past; yet the couple stayed married for 16 years. Throughout the marriage Doss seemed able to keep her homicidal tendencies under control, until 1943 when she became a grandmother. After a long, difficult labor, Melvina gave birth to a little girl. Although exhausted from the delivery, Melvina claimed that she saw her mother stab the newborn with a hatpin. The child died shortly after birth.
Two years later, Melvina began dating a man her mother did not like. During this time her first child, Robert, died while in his grandmother’s care. Doss gained $500 from a life insurance policy she held on his life. Later that same year Doss’ second husband came home one night from drinking and partying and forced himself on her. She took her revenge by poisoning his alcohol. Harrelson died the following night.
Doss met husband #3 him the same way as Harrelson. Doss and Arlie Lanning were married several days after being introduced. Lanning was also an alcoholic. The marriage ended like the previous two, with Lanning’s death. Not being his benefactor, Doss received no inheritance. The house the two shared went to Lanning’s sister, but burned down. Doss received insurance money and left town. Lanning’s mother also died one night in her sleep.
Doss fled to her ill, bedridden sister Dovie’s house. Dovie died during Doss’ stay. Within months of her fourth marriage to Richard L Morton, Doss’ husband and her mother were also dead.
Husband #5, Samuel Doss, was a good man with a good job, who attended church. When the two disagreed about her love of reading romance novels, Samuel became sick and visited the hospital, where he was diagnosed and treated for a digestive tract infection. He died the evening of his discharge from the hospital, just four months into the marriage. Baffled by this death, the doctors ordered an autopsy, which revealed extremely sizeable amounts arsenic in his body.
Because of the autopsy findings, Doss was arrested. During interrogation she owned up to killing Robert Frank Harrelson, Arlie Lanning and his mother, Richard L. Morton, Samuel Doss, Robert Lee Haynes, and her mother, Louisa Hazle.
Nannie Doss was prosecuted only for Samuel Doss’s murder. On May 7, 1955, she pled not guilty, but was convicted and punished with life in prison. She was never prosecuted for her six additional murder confessions, nor for the other suspicious deaths surrounding her. In 1965 Doss died in prison from leukemia complications