Marie Robards committed a near perfect crime

Texas Monthly

Texas Monthly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marie Robards was a high school honor student considered a real beauty by classmates. She was old enough to drive an automobile, and almost old enough to vote when she served a sufficient amount of barium to her father with his dinner that he died within a few hours.

She should have been content enjoying her high school years and popularity; not plotting to murder one of her parents.

Robards was devastated when her parents separated, then divorced; subsequently her mother remarried and Marie did not get along with her step-father. That was the motivation Marie gave prosecutors for killing her father, Steven Robards.

Soon after eating his evening meal Steven became ill and started throwing up. Marie went to a neighbor, Sandra Hudgins and asked for her help.  Marie stayed behind and visited with her son while the neighbor went to check on Steven.

Marie Robards later admitted she slipped “a teaspoonful of barium” into her father’s dinner.

Texas Monthly Magazine featured an article by Skip Hollandsworth.  He described the symptoms that resulted from consuming the barium:

A neighbor, Sandra Hudgins, found Steven in bed, complaining that he was getting stiff in his arms and legs. “He said he couldn’t swallow well,” Hudgins recalled, “and I saw saliva coming up through his mouth. I went into the other room and called an ambulance. While I was on the phone, I heard Steven gurgling. His mouth was foaming. It was terrible. His eyes were open and he was just staring.”

A subsequent autopsy by the Fort Worth, Texas medical examiner found nothing unusual and accredited Steven Robards death to a heart attack.

Marie Robards was 16 years old then, she lived with her shrewd scheme until she could no longer cope with her conscience and confided her secret to close friend, Stacey High. The friend eventually revealed the secret because she had night mares that Steven Robards was “calling to her from his grave”, asking her to help him.

The Texas Monthly Magazine story continues:

The investigation should have been simple enough. All the medical examiner’s office needed to do was re-test Steven’s blood. (The office keeps blood samples from autopsies it has conducted.)

But delay followed delay while the medical examiner claimed it was necessary to search for a laboratory with the necessary equipment to do the testing.

Local assumption in Fort Worth Texas was the homicide unit had more important cases, “than a preposterous sounding story from an overwrought teenager about her best friend poisoning her father,” Skip Hollandsworth wrote of the murder investigation.

When the toxicology tests finally returned, the results were startling.  Steven Robards blood contained 250 times the amount of barium acetate than would be considered normal.

Normal exposure, as reported by Center for Disease Control is 7 mg/L.  Steven Robards blood contained 250 X 7mcg/L = approximately 1750mcg/L

A Harford County man, Raymond Marc Zachry suffered a similar situation when he suddenly collapsed and died in Montgomery County Pennsylvania.  He was found by his truck in Souderton, Pennsylvania, where he had recently purchased a house with his new wife of 18 months. Zachry was unresponsive according to the police report and “cool to the touch”; without pulse.

The Zachry case parallel to the Robards story is striking.  His case was ruled a heart attack by the acting coroner, Jeanne Ottinger, RN and a release was sent to a Forest Hill, Maryland funeral chapel and crematorium to allow the final arrangements and cremation to go forward.

Following tests and many irregularities in the explanation of the death of Zachry, a poison panel was requested. It returned positive for 1950 mcg/L of barium. NMS laboratory, the testing facility, reported “result verified by repeat analysis”.

Acting coroner, Jeanne Ottinger RN, ESQ sent samples to another laboratory for a second opinion.

The second laboratory, DrugScan, reported a different result.  It was greatly reduced, although greater than the quantity Center for Disease Control considers safe. Another DrugScan report had a redacted quantity and accompanied a fax cover letter with a handwritten note, “P. S. sorry for any confusion”.

Barium is one of the chemicals on the CDC – Emergency Preparedness and Response list of hazardous chemicals that should be treated as a biological chemical emergency.

“Biologic: A case in which an elevated spot urine barium level (>7 µg/L) exists, as determined by commercial laboratory tests”, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) report.

Montgomery County Pennsylvania acting coroner Jeanne Ottinger, RN, ESQ and newly elected coroner, Walter Hoffman, MD ignored the CDC requirements and pleads from Mr. Zachry’s family to re-examine the results.

In a recent letter to the family  of Mr. Zachry Walter Hoffman said, “I consider this case closed”.

Read this and more by this author:

3 responses to this post.

  1. Reblogged this on cpscrimes.



  2. Posted by arkansastruthseeker on August 26, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Reblogged this on Upside Down and commented:
    I Still say you need to get Windsor on this case and expose P.A. for it is.



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