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A wealthy Texas woman is murdered with strychnine.

Patsy Wright

Lab tests showed strychnine killed her

CASE DETAILS

In October of 1987, the friends and family of 43-year-old Patsy Bolton Wright mourned her tragic and unexpected death.  Her daughter, Leslie, was shocked when she heard the news:

“You would never expect that to happen… she was so alive, she was so healthy, there was nothing wrong with her, and when it happened, you’re just in awe because you would never ever have expected that to happen to her.”

Strychnine was found in her medicine

Eight days after Patsy’s memorial service, a routine autopsy was performed.  The lab technician checked for 56,000 different foreign substances in Patsy’s blood samples.  Suddenly the machine showed a violent positive reaction.  Within seconds, the substance was identified … strychnine.  Because of its horrible side effects, strychnine poisoning is considered an unusually cruel way to die.  Death by strychnine is also very rare.  In the death of Patsy Wright, the Arlington, Texas, authorities faced a puzzling question:  How had this dangerous poison entered Patsy’s bloodstream? 

The morning of Patsy’s death, a frantic phone call woke up Steve and Sally Horning.  The caller was Sally’s sister, Patsy Wright.  Patsy told her sister that she took some cold medicine and was feeling nauseous.  She then collapsed while still on the phone.  Fearing for her sister’s safety, Sally and her husband drove to Patsy’s house:

“We got to the house and went to the front door.  And of course, the door was locked and we couldn’t get in… When we got in, she was in the bedroom.  She just looked like she had kind of fainted.  And so I thought, that’s what had happened.  And so we tried to get her up, and that didn’t work.

Sally’s husband Steve began mouth to mouth resuscitation:

“During that, a lot of green fluid came up from her, and I would continually spit that out onto the bed, or there was a towel there as I remember.  Sometime after that, the medics came.”

Patsy’s family tried to save her

But the medics were unable to save her and Patsy died shortly after.  At first no one suspected foul play.  But, in her phone call, Patsy had mentioned taking cold medicine, which was later found to contain huge amounts of strychnine.  Authorities ruled out product tampering or suicide.

Patsy Wright seemed to have everything to live for.  She had two children to whom she was very close.  Patsy and her sister, Sally, were successful businesswomen.  They owned two wax museums worth millions.  Also, Patsy had just bought three quarter horses and planned to train them herself.

Sergeant Jay Gustafson of the Arlington police began to investigate Patsy’s  death as a murder.  He had two clues which made him think that the killer was probably someone Patsy knew very well.  First, the burglar alarm had not been set on the night she died.  Second, only those close to Patsy knew she had a habit of taking nighttime cold  medicine before bed.  The first people Sergeant Gustafson questioned were Patsy’s sister and brother in law.

He was seen watching her from the car

The Sergeant looked for a motive.  Patsy’s wealth came from the two wax museums she owned with Sally.  Not only were the museums tourist attractions, they were also centers of social life in their respective towns.  When Patsy died, the museums were inherited by Sally, and her husband, Steve:

“We as family members were being asked questions that you never even think you’re ever going to be asked.”

Authorities felt that if Steve had poisoned Patsy, he would not have used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to try to save her, taking potentially deadly liquid into his own mouth.
Steve and Sally Horning, along with other family members, voluntarily took polygraph tests.  All of them passed.

Patsy’s ex-husband, Robert Cox, was also questioned by Sergeant Gustafson:

“He was offered a polygraph test, the same as several others that I had interviewed and taken statements from and he refused to take the polygraph test.”

Patsy had obtained a restraining order against Cox during their separation because she claimed he was harassing her.  But Robert Cox maintained his innocence and there was no evidence to suggest he was guilty.

On the night she died, it appeared that someone had been with Patsy.  Next to her bed were two empty dinner plates on a tray.  Could there have been an unknown visitor that night, intimate enough to know Patsy’s personal habits and to share a late-night dinner with her?

The strychnine that killed Patsy was in a pure powder form, the most concentrated type of the poison available.  Very few outlets sell strychnine and all sales are controlled by the federal government. Authorities hope that someone will remember a suspicious sale around the time of Patsy’s death.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season one with Robert Stack and season three with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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21 Comments

  1. anon

    women are almost always who poisons. Fact.

    Reply

  2. Michael

    The show stated that her wax museum business was worth 4 million in the early ’80s. 4 mill seems insane to us NOW– and consider that it would be more than ten mill in 2017 accounting for inflation. It’s partly why I don’t want to be mega-wealthy… the predators probably come at you from every angle.

    Reply

  3. Annie

    I hope they find out who killed her.

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    The Husband of the Sister, and the Husband Worked to work her against her also, and the Sister and Her Husband wanted Patsy more flexible about business and her lover, and a third Person were involved in the deed. The Sister’s Husband even used Patsy’s Lover, with his help, to get to her, to control her, so they offed her. I Get from the Gift of Jehovah Lord God, 1 Cor ch 12.

    Reply

  5. Anonymous

    The Murderer was a Worker, for them in the wax bus. cleaning, I see him with a key, using, he knocked her out, the mouth to mouth was a cover up, know what was to come.

    Reply

  6. Anonymous

    If it was prepmaned murder , steve would of cleverly performed mouth to mouth and made sure to tell authorities he did this to elimunate him as a suspect. He knew to spir out the green fluid and made sure he told authorities.

    Reply

    • Shirley

      He knew to spit out the green stuff, so because of that, he’s guilty? Would you wanna swallow something from someone else’s mouth when doing CPR? Absolutely not. He’s not guilty for trying to save her life and using common sense at the same time.

      Reply

  7. james Ferguson

    Check the Mansfield feed stores, that is where he most likely purchased the Strychnine (simple rat poison) He may even have had a federal license to purchase it.

    Reply

  8. James Ferguson

    The person I’ve mention in the above post also dated Lori Ann Williams who worked at Patsy Wrights wax museum, she also died mysteriously before Patsy’s death.

    Reply

  9. James Ferguson

    If there was an unknown person with Patsy that night I think I know who that person is. This person was seeing Patsy and had ask me to be sure not to mention this to anyone. This person was a horse trainer and was working for a lady in Arlington, and as I remember was also involved in the purchase of of some of the horses she had purchased.
    I have other information on this guy which I would share with the proper people.

    Reply

  10. June

    Both Leslie and Wayne (Patsy’s children) took and passed polygraphs. Sally Horning (Patsy’s sister) did phone the police for an ambulance (did not have 911 back in1987) when Patsy called them, but they did not know her address #. It was a rent house. So they drove there and called the police again. There is only Steve Horning’s word that he gave Patsy CPR. Same with the plates – only Steve noticed them. Even if two plates were there, so what? Maybe she used two plates. You’d think the cops would have taken photos, analyzed the leftover food, etc. That would have helped. Patsy’s windows had been broken sometime before this happened. That’s why she got the alarm system. But nothing had been stolen. Was someone hired to break in and put the strychnine in her Nyquil? When did the breaking of the windows happen? Did the neighbors notice any cars? A lot is left out. Patsy was supposed to testify, in about 10 days, in Bob Cox’s insurance trial, that an item he said was lost in a fire (insurance company thought he set it), was actually in his office. He had been trying to talk her out of it. She didn’t testify, and he won the case and was awarded 1.3 million.

    Reply

  11. Anonymous

    Her daughter had the guilty face and her sadness was very fake looking.

    Reply

  12. marshal william

    Sent by

    Reply

  13. Anonymous

    Why didnt sally n steve call 911 if they feared she collapsed while she was on the phone wirh them. Why would they thinkbthey would of been able to get there faster n save her over the medics.

    Reply

    • Brittany Howard

      They didn’t come in one one because Patsy had just moved into a rental and her sister did not know the address and she dialed 911 the operator told her she could not send police if they did not have an address that’s why they drove over there

      Reply

  14. Anonymous

    Was the daughter interrigated. She seemed to b3 decisive when seen on the program unsolved mystetious. Did she take a polygraph

    Reply