Bobbie Sue Dudley: The Angel of Death

Health worker prepares a Hypodermic needle with Influenza vaccine
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Bobbie Sue Dudley worked as the night supervisor at a St. Petersburg nursing home when 12 patients died within the first month that she was employed. She later admitted to killing the patients with large dosages of insulin.

Childhood and Teenage Years

Bobbie Sue Dudley (Terrell) was born in October 1952 in Woodlawn, Illinois. She was one of six children who lived with their parents in a trailer in an economically depressed area of Woodlawn. Much of the family's attention went to caring for four of her five brothers who suffered from Muscular Dystrophy.

As a child, Dudley was overweight and severely near-sighted. She was shy and withdrawn and had few friends unless she was at her church where she received praise for her singing and organ playing.

Her relationship with her church and her religion grew deeper as she got older. On occasion, she awkwardly shared her religious beliefs with schoolmates in such an aggressive way that her peers found her strange and avoided being around her. However, being unpopular did not deter her from her studies, and she consistently earned above-average grades.

Nursing School

Having helped to take care of her brothers over the years, Bobbie Sue set her sights on becoming a geriatric nurse after graduating from high school in 1973. She took her studies seriously and after three years in nursing school, she earned a degree as a registered nurse. She quickly found temporary employment at different medical facilities near her home.


Bobbie Sue met and married Danny Dudley soon after she graduated from nursing school. When the couple decided to have a child, Bobbie Sue learned that she was unable to get pregnant. The news was devastating to Bobbie Sue and she went into a deep depression. Not willing to be childless, the couple decided to adopt a son. The joy of having a new son lasted for only a short time. Bobbie Sue became so deeply depressed that she decided to go for professional help. Her doctor diagnosed her with Schizophrenia and put her on medications which did little to help her condition.

Bobbie Sue's illness took a toll on the marriage along with the added stress of having a newly adopted child. But when the baby was hospitalized after suffering from a drug overdose, the marriage came to an abrupt end. Danny Dudley filed for divorce and won full custody of the couple's son after offering convincing evidence that Dudley had been giving the boy her Schizophrenia medicine—not once, but at least four times.

The divorce had a debilitating impact on Dudley's mental and physical health. She ended up in and out of the hospital for a variety of medical reasons that required surgery. She also had a complete hysterectomy and had problems with a broken arm that would not heal. Unable to cope on her own, she went to a mental health facility where she stayed a year before getting a clean bill of health to return to work.

First Permanent Job

After getting out of the mental health facility she began working at a nursing home in Greenville, Illinois, which is an hour away from Woodlawn. It did not take long for her mental problems to start resurfacing. She began fainting while on the job, but doctors were unable to determine any medical reason that would cause it to happen.

Rumors that she pretended to faint for attention began circulating among the staff. When it was discovered that she had purposely slashed her vagina several times with a pair of scissors out of rage for her inability to have children, the nursing home administrators terminated her and recommended that she get professional help.

Relocation to Florida

Dudley decided that instead of getting help, she would move to Florida. In August 1984, she got her Florida nursing license and worked in temporary positions in the Tampa Bay area. The move did not cure her constant health issues, however, and she continued checking in at the local hospitals with different ailments. One such trip led to her having an emergency colostomy due to excessive rectal bleeding.

Still, by October, she had managed to move to St. Petersburg and get a permanent position as a night shift supervisor on the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at the North Horizon Health Care Center.

A Serial Killer

Within weeks after Dudley started working there was an increase in the number of patients dying during her shift. Since the patients were elderly the deaths did not raise any immediate alarms.

The first death was Aggie Marsh, 97, on Nov. 13, 1984, from what was deemed as natural causes.

Days later a patient nearly died from an insulin overdose that had the staff talking. The insulin was kept in a locked cabinet and Dudley was the only one with the key.

Ten days later, on November 23, the second patient to die during Dudley's shift was Leathy McKnight, 85, from an overdose of insulin. There was also a suspicious fire that broke out in the linen closet that same evening.

On November 25, Mary Cartwright, 79 and Stella Bradham, 85, died during the night shift.

On the following night, November 26, five patients died. That same night an anonymous woman contacted the police and whispered into the phone that there was a serial killer murdering patients at the nursing home. When the police went to the nursing home to investigate the call they found Dudley suffering from a stab wound, claiming that she had been stabbed by an intruder.

The Investigation

A full police investigation began into the 12 deaths and one near death of patients in a 13-day span, with Dudley quickly jumping to the number one person of interest after police could find no evidence to back up her claims of being stabbed by an intruder.

Investigators discovered Dudley's history of ongoing health issues, Schizophrenia, and the incident of self-mutilation that led to her being fired from her position in Illinois. They turned the information over to her supervisors and in December her employment at the nursing home was terminated.

Without a job and no income, Dudley decided to try for workman's compensation from the nursing home since she was stabbed while at work. In response, the nursing home's insurance company asked for Dudley to undergo a full psychiatric examination. The psychiatric report concluded that Dudley suffered from Schizophrenia and Munchausen Syndrome and that she probably stabbed herself. The incident in Illinois of her stabbing herself was also revealed and she was denied workman's compensation.

On Jan. 31, 1985, unable to cope, Dudley checked herself into a hospital for both psychiatric and medical reasons. It was during her stay at the hospital that she learned that the Florida Department of Professional Regulation had issued an immediate suspension of her nursing license because she was a high risk of being a danger to herself and others.

The Arrest

The fact that Dudley was no longer employed at the nursing home did not deter the investigation into the patient's deaths. The bodies of nine of the patients that died were exhumed and autopsies were underway.

Dudley left the hospital and soon after married 38-year-old Ron Terrell who was an unemployed plumber. Unable to afford an apartment, the newlywed couple moved into a tent. On March 17, 1984, enough evidence had been uncovered for investigators to charge Dudley on four counts of murder, Aggie Marsh, Leathy McKnight, Stella Bradham, and Mary Cartwright, and one count of attempted murder of Anna Larson.

Dudley never had to face a jury. Instead, she worked out a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder in exchange for a 95-year-sentence.

Bobbie Sue Dudley Terrell would end up serving only 22 years of her sentence. She died in prison in 2007.