2017-2018 Season

The Dark Side of Passion: Three NC True Crime Tales

Rehearsals are underway for our upcoming World Premiere thriller The Passion of Teresa Rae King (April 29 – May 20, 2018), and we’re run across some interesting true crime stories from our own state during our research for the show that we thought we’d share to help set the mood! Our marketing intern Caroline put together this collection of stories of passions that ran cold – and deadly.

Carthage Nursing Home

In March of 2009, 45-year-old Robert Stewart entered a nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina with the intention of murdering his wife, who was employed there. His wife had left him two weeks earlier.

Upon reaching the nursing home, Stewart shot at his wife’s parked car several times. After this, he shot at a moving car of a visitor pulling up to the home, hitting the driver in the shoulder. The wounded driver was able to get inside and warn some residents of the approaching attacker.

After entering the facility, Stewart went searching for his wife. He shot and killed seven residents on his rampage, including two who were wheelchair-bound. He also shot a nurse who worked in the facility who attempted to stop him from attacking any further.

Stewart was apprehended by Police Officer Justin Garner, whom he shot in the leg before Garner was able to land a shot at Stewart’s chest, taking him down.

Stewart lived through the attack, and was convicted of eight counts of second degree murder, one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, one count of discharging a firearm into occupied property, one count of assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer, and two counts of assault by pointing a gun. This was enough for him to be convicted of 141-179 years in prison, which he began serving in 2011 after his trial and sentencing.

Wanda Neal, the wife that Robert Stewart went hunting for that fateful March morning, remarked upon leaving the courthouse after his sentencing that she hopes Stewart “rots in hell”.


(photo credit: CBS News)

Valentine’s Day Murders

On February 12th, 1971, a couple by the names of Patricia Mann and Jesse McBane headed to a Valentine’s dance in Durham. After the dance, Patricia signed out of her college dormitory saying she would be back before the 1:00 A.M. curfew. However, she never returned.

The next morning, Patricia’s worried roommates went looking for her. They found Jesse’s car parked Hillandale Golf Course, where many young lovers liked to go “parking”. The car was locked, but there was no sight of Jesse or Pat. They called the police, but the police weren’t thrilled to go looking for two young people who were only missing a few hours. The parents of the couple were notified that they were missing, and that was the last they heard for several days.

On February 25th, nearly two weeks after the couple was last seen,  a surveyor working in the woods found the bodies of two young adults, tied with their backs to a tree. They were bound at the hands and around their necks. Based on post-mortem marks, investigators believe that the ropes around their necks were loosened and tightened at intervals until they eventually expired.

Several suspects were interviewed and polygraphed, but there was little physical evidence to go on, and no witnesses. Police had two lead suspects in the 1970s, and one of them is still alive today. However, more than forty years later, there has never been enough evidence for a prosecution, and the killer of Patricia Mann and Jesse McBane remains at large, and will likely remain that way.


(photo credit: The News and Observer)

Frankie Silver

The story of Frances Stewart Silver has many twists and turns, some of which inspired a play, a book, a movie, and an episode of Investigation Discovery.

In December of 1831, nineteen-year-old Charles “Johnny” Silver was murdered with an axe, and later dismembered, at his cabin in Morganton. Three persons were arrested for the grisly murder: Johnny’s eighteen-year-old wife Frances “Frankie” Silver, Frankie’s mother Barbara Stewart, and Frankie’s brother Jackson “Blackstone” Stewart. Both her mother and brother pled not guilty and were released, but Frankie refused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, and went on to stand trial alone.

There is no clear reason as to why Frankie murdered her husband in the same cabin that their 13-month-old daughter lived with them. Speculation ranged from infidelity to abusive, or and some thought Johnny had threatened her or her child physically and that the murder was in self defense. Inside of the cabin were pieces of bone, blood splatters along the walls and floor, as well as fireplace contents that led investigators to believe that Frankie had attempted to burn her husband’s remains to cover up the crime. Frankie was found guilty and sentenced to hang for the murder of her husband, but then things start to get interesting once again.

Between her sentencing and her hanging, Frankie was broken out of prison by her own family. They cut her hair short, dressed her as a man, and attempted to smuggle her out of town. They were caught, however, and she was taken back into custody to face her death sentence.

Frankie was hanged on July 12th, 1833. She is believed to be the first white woman to ever be put to death in North Carolina, and the only woman ever hanged in Burke County.

Despite misreportings in some location newspapers at the time, Frankie never confessed to the crime or discussed any motive she may have had. It is said that when she was asked for her last words before hanging, her father shouted “Die with it in you, Frankie!”, which adds to the theory that her family assisted in the murder or attempted cleanup of Johnny Silver.

Wayne Silver, a descendant of the victim, holds that he as well as much of his family believes that Frankie acted in self defense, and that this was not a premeditated act nor an act of random violence.

Nancy Silver, the 13-month-old daughter of the victim and the accused, was taken by Frankie’s parents and raised in Elijay, North Carolina. A book has been written about her life from 1832-1901, entitled “A Life for Nancy: Daughter of Frankie Silver” that chronicles the way that the tragic events before Christmas of 1833 affected Frankie and Johnny’s little girl.


(photo credit: Historic Horrors)

The following confession was run by The Lenoir Topic several months after the hanging:

(photo courtesy of ncpedia.com)

If these stories have tickled your true crime fancy, then join us for our April Book Club meeting when we discuss Jerry Bledsoe’s Bitter Blood: A True Story of Southern Family Pride, Madness, and Multiple Murder, on Tuesday, April 17, 6:00 p.m. at Scuppernong Books! The book recounts an infamous killing spree with Guilford County at its heart. Join us!

Find more details on the Facebook event page.

And don’t forget to get your tickets to The Passion of Teresa Rae King!

Triad Stage

Triad Stage is a North Carolina theater company that produces and performs live, professional theater in the Piedmont Triad region. With local and national talent, a focus on artistic excellence, and a distinctly Southern voice, Triad Stage offers a wide sampling of quality theater, including original works and re-imagined classics. You can see Triad Stage’s work at two world-class performance venues in the state: The Pyrle Theater in Greensboro and Hanesbrands Theatre in Winston-Salem.

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