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Before He Wakes: A True Story of Money, Marriage, Sex and Murder Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1996

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Onyx; Reprint edition (February 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451406095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451406095
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 1.2 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #871,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Veteran true-crime readers are familiar with the cold murder committed by a sociopath, versus the hot murder committed in a moment of rage or jealousy. But what to make of someone who murders her spouse simply to keep him from finding out that she borrowed a few thousand from the bank? This story of a Durham, North Carolina, woman who appeared to be a devoted mother, meticulous housekeeper, loving wife, and church leader, is even more puzzling when we learn that what's beneath is not all that shocking: she lies, she's promiscuous, she's a perfectionist, and she spends too much money. The mystery is the motive in this tale of a murderer, both of whose husbands died, in bed, of "accidents with guns." Jerry Bledsoe has a crisp, unemotional prose style. His expertly paced courtroom cliffhangers kept this reviewer up reading long past midnight. Before He Wakes was a finalist for the 1995 Edgar Award in Fact Crime.

From Publishers Weekly

In 1988, high school coach Russ Stager of Durham, N.C., was "accidentally" killed by his wife, Barbara, shot with a loaded gun he allegedly kept under his pillow. A seemingly happy and popular couple, both active in their church, the two were compulsive overspenders--and she was a sexual overachiever with a string of extramarital affairs. As the case developed, it became clear she was a liar and a thief as well. Then detectives discovered that exactly 10 years earlier Barbara's first husband, Larry Ford, had died in an identical fashion but police had done nothing about their reservations concerning that "accident." Barbara was convicted of murder and eventually sentenced to life. The greatest strength of Bledsoe's ( Blood Games ) fine study is less his account of the murder case than his picture of the Baptist culture of the Bible Belt, where the baptized Barbara was assumed to be a "good Christian woman" because her church work meant she could do no evil. Photographs not seen by PW. Television rights to CBS.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Very well researched and written.
Eileen Nash
I would highly recommend this book to true crime readers!
This is a very interesting story and good read.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 18, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I had to read this book when I found out that the woman Jerry Bledsoe tells the story of in Before He Wakes is the mother of the troubled young man who was involved in the robbery of my son 2 years ago. When I first saw her son in court, he appeared to be a clean-cut young man that had evidently been with the wrong people. I wondered what his parents must be feeling to know that their son was in court charged with a felony. He was in the car with a female waiting for the robber to return with money so that they could buy more drugs. As the criminal procedings continued through the next year, Jason cooperated with the commonwealth attorny in testifying against the others involved. When the time came for sentencing, Jason's past was uncovered and we were all shocked. Jason had received no counseling after all that he had been through with his mother and still, at that time, believed his mother was innocent. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison with 18 years, 5 months suspended and to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the events told in this book. It is unbelievable that a mother, who by all appearances was normal, could have been the type of person that everyone should fear. It really makes you look at many people you know and wonder.... Thanks to the author for shedding a very revealing light on our whole situation.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 19, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a well-researched, well-written book that devotees of the true crime genre will enjoy. The author, Jerry Bledsoe, is right up there with the other true crime greats, Jack Olsen and Ann Rule. The book, which contains eight pages of photographs, reveals an astounding tapestry of deceit, lies, and greed, all of which led to a cold blooded murder of a husband by his seemingly devoted wife.
Barbara Stager was a middle-aged woman with expensive tastes. Unfortunately, she and her husband Russ, a high school coach, did not earn the kind of money that could pay for the finer things in life. She needed money. He was insured. So, this church going, ostensibly devoted wife and mother, shot her husband while he slept, claiming that it was an accident. Funny thing, almost the same thing had happened to her first husband, who had died in bed of a gunshot wound, when a gun she claimed he was handling went off accidentally.
The investigation following the death of her second husband revealed a web of lies and a private woman far different from her public image. Barbara Stagers was a woman given to sexual licentiousness, excess spending, thievery, and compulsive lying. The investigation of the murder of Russ Stager led the police to believe that the death of her first husband, Larry Ford, a death that had originally been classified as accidental, was also almost certainly murder. The scary thing is that she almost got away with it a second time. This book is a fascinating look at a real life, black widow.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Terry M. Callen on November 16, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a woman who is the ultimate sociopath. So long as she gets what she wants, she could not possibly care less who gets hurt...or murdered in the process. The manner in which she brainwashed her two sons and turned them against their paternal grandparents is indicative of the way her sick mind works.
Those oh so "god-fearing" friends and neighbors of hers who thought she was SO "righteous" are as bad as she is!
I just hope this vampire doesn't find a third man to marry and murder.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Glenda Wolff on January 12, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book some time ago. I originally selected it because of my interest in Anne Rule's books. I was in for the surprise of my life when I realized that this story involves the city where I was born and raised (Durham, NC). I became completely engrossed in the story of how someone who grew up and lived in the same town I did could turn out as Barbara did. I felt many chills reading the names of former Durham High School classmates who were character witnesses for Barbara at her murder trial. In looking back, I can say that Durham could be a town where everyone wanted to keep up with the Joneses in whatever manner they wanted to accomplish it. Barbara stepped over the line. I think Mr. Bledsoe wrote an excellent book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By TawnTawn on June 21, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Good true crime about a female psychopath. In order to get spending money and get rid of pesky husbands, Barbara killed them in their sleep for their insurance benefits. She was also a thief, brazenly stealing from the bank she worked at, and getting off with only having to resign, and a liar: when she didn't want to come into work, she merely said that she, one of her sons, or her husband was having surgery that day! And even when her mother-in-law was so upset about this that she told Barbara's mother, her mother acted like it was nothing! So you can see how Barb was raised: lying to get what you want is perfectly acceptable, even recommended. Barbara wanted to live the high life, with "nice" (expensive) things, but she knew no other way to get them but to kill her husbands for insurance money.

This book was well-written, descriptive, and in depth. Barbara was apparently an amazing employee and spotless housekeeper, she just couldn't stop competing with the Joneses or stop cheating on her husbands. There was something going on with the relationship with her mother that just wasn't quite right - of course her mother always stuck up for her just like Pat's mother in "Everything She Wanted", by Ann Rule. It's amazing how similar these psychopaths are when you've read as many of these books as I have.

I keep remembering how one of her former friends saw her driving around in her convertible, a big grin on her face, just out enjoying herself, right after her second husband's death (before she was arrested). I wonder if her two boys ever realized that she deliberately lied about and kept them from seeing their paternal grandparents. In my opinion, the death penalty should have been carried out on Barbara. She is breathing up other people's air.
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