Nancy Hazel was born on November 4, 1905 in Blue Mountain, Alabama to Louisa and James Hazel. She went by the nickname Nannie. As a child, she was forced to work on her family’s farm instead of going to school. Nancy dropped out at the end of her 6th grade year.
When she was 7 years old, Nancy was riding a train when it made a sudden stop. She hit her head and suffered headaches for years after.
Nancy wasn’t a good student, but she liked to read. Her favorite books were romance novels. Instead of attending social events, which her father forbade, she spent her time reading and looking through the lonely hearts columns.
As a teenager, Nancy began working at a linen factory. There she met Charley Braggs. After dating for just 4 months, the two were married when Nancy was 16 years old.
Nancy moved in with Charley and his mother. Nancy complained that Charley’s mother was overbearing and demanding.
The couple had 4 children in 4 years. Nancy was a drinker and a heavy smoker. Both she and Charley engaged in extramarital affairs. Charley would often leave and not return for several days.
In 1927, Nancy and Charlie’s 2 middle girls died. The doctor said that they had food poisoning. Shortly after, Charley took off again, but this time he took the couple’s oldest daughter, Melvina, with him.
Nancy was left at home with a newborn and Charley’s mother who died soon after Charley left.
Nancy began working to support her child. In 1928, Charley came back, but he wasn’t interested in a reconciliation. He had met someone else and wanted a divorce.
He got his wish and left Melvina with Nancy. She took the children to live with her mother.
Later that year, Nancy met and married Robert Harrelson. Robert was a heavy drinker and beat Nancy, but the couple remained married for 16 years.
In 1943, Nancy’s first grandchild was born. When her second grandchild came 2 years later, Melvina accused Nancy of killing the child shortly after its birth with a hat pin. Nancy denied it and claimed that Melvina was just groggy and exhausted from labor and must have been seeing things.
That same year, Melvina‘s oldest child died from asphyxia while being babysat by Nancy. Later, Nancy collected a life insurance payment from the child’s death.
Soon after, Nancy claimed that her husband raped her. When she found his whiskey bottle soon after, she added a little rat poison. Robert died that evening.
Nancy met husband number 3, Arlie Lanning, through a lonely hearts column. The couple married 3 days after meeting in Lexington, North Carolina. Arlie was also an alcoholic who died in 1952. His death was officially the result of heart failure.
He willed the couple’s house to his sister, but the insurance policy was in Nancy’s name. When it mysteriously burned down, Nancy took the money and went to live with her sister, Dovie, but not before her mother-in-law’s death.
Soon after Nancy arrived at Dovie’s home, Dovie was dead.
Husband number 4 was a man named Richard Morton who Nancy met through a dating service called the Diamond Circle Club. The couple married in Kansas in 1952.
Later that year, Louisa came to live with the couple. By January of 1953, she was dead and Richard followed in May.
Samuel Doss was husband number 5. They married in Tulsa, Oklahoma in June. Samuel was a minister and a widower who had lost his wife and 9 children in a tornado.
He was kind to Nancy, but did not allow her to read the romance novels she loved.
In September 1954, Samuel fell ill and was hospitalized for 2 weeks. Upon his release, he returned home to the care of his wife. He was dead a week later.
Before Nancy could cash in the 2 life insurance policies she held on Samuel, his doctor launched an investigation. His autopsy revealed that he had been killed with arsenic.
Nancy was arrested. She confessed to killing 4 of her 5 husbands. She also admitted to the murders of Louisa, Dovie, her oldest grandchild and one of her mother-in-laws.
She was only charged with the murder of Samuel. The prosecutor in her case later became Governor of Oklahoma.
Nancy pled guilty and was sentenced to life. She served 10 years before dying of cancer in 1965.
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