Living and working in Anniston, Nannie soothed her loneliness by reading True Romance and similar reading material. She also resumed poring over the lonely hearts column, and wrote to men advertising there. A particular advert that interested her was that of Robert (Frank) Harrelson, a 23-year-old factory worker from Jacksonville.
He sent her romantic poetry, and she sent him a cake. They met and married in 1929, when she was 24, 2 years after her divorce from Braggs. They lived together in Jacksonville, with Melvina and Florine Braggs. After a few months, she discovered that he was an alcoholic and had a criminal record for assault. Despite this, the marriage lasted 16 years.
Nannie’s eldest, Melvina, gave birth to Robert Lee Haynes in 1943. Another baby followed 2 years later, but this died soon afterwards. Exhausted from labour and groggy from ether, Melvina thought she saw her mother, who had come to help, stick a hatpin into the baby’s head. When she asked her husband and sister for clarification, they said Nannie had told them the baby was dead, and they noticed that she was holding a pin. The doctors, however, couldn’t give a positive explanation.
The grieving parents drifted apart and Melvina started dating a soldier. Nannie disapproved of him, and while Melvina was visiting her father after a particularly nasty fight with her mum, her son Robert died mysteriously under Granny’s care on July 7, 1945. The death was diagnosed as asphyxia from unknown causes, and 2 months later Nannie collected the $500 life insurance she had taken out on Robert.
In 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied powers at the end of World War II, and Harrelson was among the most robust partiers. After an evening of particularly heavy drinking, he raped Nannie. The following day, as she was tending her rose garden, she discovered Harrelson’s corn whiskey jar buried in the ground. The rape had been the last straw for her, so she took the jar and topped it off with rat poison. Harrelson died a painful death that evening.
Doss met her third husband, Arlie Lanning, through another lonely-hearts column while travelling in Lexington, North Carolina, and married him 3 days later. Like his predecessor, Harrelson, Lanning was an alcoholic womanizer. However, in this marriage it was Nannie who often disappeared, and for months on end. But when she was home she played the doting housewife, and when he died of what was said to be heart failure, the whole town supported her at his funeral.
Soon after, the couple’s house, which had been left to Lanning’s sister, burned down. The insurance money went to Widow Nannie Lanning, who quickly banked it, and after Lanning’s mother died in her sleep, Nannie left North Carolina and ended up at her sister Dovie’s home. Dovie was bedridden; soon after sister Nan’s arrival, she died.
Looking after yet another husband, Nannie joined the Diamond Circle Club and soon met Richard L. Morton of Emporia, Kansas. He didn’t have a drinking problem, but he was a womaniser. Morton met his death in April 1953, 3 months after Nannie’s mother, Lou, had come to live with them and ended up poisoned to death.
Nannie met and married Samuel Doss of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June 1953. A clean-cut, churchgoing man, he disapproved of the romance novels and stories that Nannie adored. In September, Samuel was admitted to the hospital with flu-like symptoms.
The hospital diagnosed a severe digestive tract infection. He was treated and released on October 5. Nannie killed him that evening in her rush to collect the two life insurance policies she had taken out on him. This sudden death alerted his doctor, who ordered an autopsy. The autopsy revealed a huge amount of arsenic in his system. Nannie was promptly arrested.
Nannie confessed to killing 4 of her husbands, her mother, her sister Dovie, her grandson Robert, and her mother-in-law Lanning. The state of Oklahoma centred its case only on Samuel Doss. The prosecution found her mentally fit for trial. Nannie pleaded guilty on May 17, 1955, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Nannie Doss was sentenced to a life term in 1955, the state did not pursue the death penalty due to her gender. Doss was never charged with the other deaths. At her allocution, she proclaimed that she had not killed in order to procure the small insurance policies she had taken out on the victims. According to Nannie Doss, she had killed for “true love”. She died in her cell of leukemia ten years to the day after entering prison.
If you want to watch a documentary on “Nannie Doss” then just check out the video below: