A wealthy Texas woman is murdered with strychnine.

Smiling Patsy Wright with curly light brown hair

Patsy Wright

A monitor from a lab test that reads "stychnine"

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.”

A bottle of medicine on a bathroom countertop thats filled with green liquid

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 attempting to resuscitate her while she lays in bed

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.

A man watches the house at night from his car

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.

SUBMIT A TIP

 

34 Comments

  1. Avatar

    XR

    It probably was Ted Bundy

    Reply

  2. Avatar

    David

    Poison is usually a choice for a female, and whether that female did it herself or had someone do it for her, this was done by someone with either an known or secret animosity toward Pasty Wright. If it is ever solved, I suspect that it is someone who, in some way either watched or was watching the night she died. Strychnine is a horrible way to be poisoned, and it was intended to both grab attention and also to be a taunt to someone else as well.

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    Hmmmm Interesting

    I agree with most people on here. I doubt it was the daughter, but could definitely see where other people are getting that from. My money is on the Sister and Husband. Their story makes no sense what so ever. Why would you not call the police right away when she randomly stopped talking. The perfect window, no screen open in the bed room but the door is locked and the security system is off? Oh, and it just so happens that the sisters own 50-50 stake in a multimillion dollar business together. I would look super closely at their financial records, see if a list of different things may be going on:
    1. Financial trouble on the sisters end
    2. Patsy Wanted to sell her portion

    Also, the one thing that gets them immediately exonerated is the bs about risking his own life during CPR…who even says he did CPR? there is no way to tell if he was actually taking mouthfuls of that liquid or not…

    Again, the husband didn’t seem sad at all. His story sounds like bull and the whole way they conducted themselves was crazy, on top of the fact that they and the children had by far the most to gain by her death. The only other would have possibly been her ex-husband but he was a relative non factor prior to this and for all we know her testimony may have even helped him out. The sisters statement is the only one that implicates him in any way… I wonder why that might be… saying that he asked her to lie and that “No, She was going to tell the truth”… IDK it all seems pretty fishy to me. I wonder how much the sister and her husband walked away with, couple million? sounds like motive to me.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Anonymous

      I read somewhere that CPR must be performed on a hard, flat surface. Wasn’t she still in bed when the medics arrived? Also, if he did take in liquid and spit it out, wouldn’t he have shown some symptoms? She was poisoned with almost pure strychnine (rat poison is like 3%) so even if he spit it out you would think traces would have still been ingested.

      Reply

      • Avatar

        Anne

        There’s no evidence he even performed CPR. Also, they both benefited incredibly financially from her death. To this day they never mention her death or wanting justice for her murder. I think that speaks volumes.

        Reply

    • Avatar

      Anonymous

      I think it was the daughter. The day after she gets a “call” from an unknown person saying they were glad she was dead? When the daughter said she thought the caller was referring to the poisoning, when did she think it? The call was the day after the murder. The autopsy was 8 days after.

      Reply

      • Avatar

        Cheryl Howes

        I believe it was the sister with a backup of the brother in law In looking it up, the sister was in the process of talking patsy into signing a new WILL (behind her husband’s back) and was done but not signed in time of her death, to keep the brother in law from getting any inheritance as patsy didn’t trust him by her words. This would have made her sole beneficiary, I believe. Also as stated by people, the drug in the cold medicine is a woman’s choice, it was most likely the sister with help from Bob, the ex and Payner. But unfortunately, we won’t know as another website said Payner was killed in a standoff. I believe that the sister enticed/bribed the ex as his hate for Patsy into breaking in and putting the drug in her medicine as he would have access to her house and she got ahold of the drug, which puts those two together. I also believe she had Payner torch the museum a few years later for the insurance money, which she paid him off with and also to throw off suspicion from her. I believe the plate issue was something that the brother in law added a plate to throw people off and his excuse by him that he got some poison in his mouth by resuscitation, bogus, I don’t believe it! Although the daughter suspicious, I don’t believe it was her.

        Reply

    • Avatar

      anonymous

      -Patsy’s second ex-husband, Bob Cox. After divorcing her first husband, Patsy entered a disastrous short-lived marriage with Bob, who had a severe gambling problem and pretty much lived on her money. After they divorced, Patsy was forced to obtain a restraining order against Bob because he was harassing her. Years later, Patsy was deposed to testify at a civil trial between Bob and an insurance company. Bob ran his own unsuccessful wax museum which had burned down and the insurance company believed Bob started the fire himself. Since Patsy knew a lot of unflattering information about her ex-husband, Bob tried to convince her to lie in her testimony, but she refused. Patsy was poisoned only ten days before the civil trial began and without her testimony, Bob was able to win the case. Bob refused to cooperate with investigators in Patsy’s murder investigation or take a polygraph

      However, one major complication in the case is the fact that a tray with two dinner plates was found in Patsy’s bedroom, which seemed to suggest she had an intimate dinner with someone else on the night she was murdered. Patsy had a boyfriend at the time, but he was three hours away in Austin on that particular night. Given their turbulent history, there’s no way Patsy and Bob would have had an intimate dinner together in her bedroom, leading to suspicion that Patsy’s killer was a secret lover no one else knew about. But it’s also possible that Patsy simply used two separate plates to eat dinner alone and this clue is nothing more than a red herring. There are also two other strange events which may or may not connected to this case…

      -in 1984, Lori Ann Williams, a 26-year old receptionist at Patsy’s wax museum, suddenly fell ill and died, but her cause of death was never determined. After Patsy’s death, there was suspicion that Williams might have been poisoned as well. Williams’ body was exhumed, but the autopsy results were inconclusive

      -a year after Patsy’s death, one of her wax museums burned down. Two weeks later, a man named Stanley Lester Poyner was caught trying to steal a ledger from the ashes. Since Poyner had a previous arrest for arson, he was looked at as a possible suspect in both the museum fire and Patsy’s death, but was released due to lack of evidence. In 1991, Dallas police made an attempt to re-question him. However, Poyner tried to flee the scene in his vehicle and since he nearly ran over a police officer in the process, the police opened fire on Poyner and killed him

      Reply

  4. Avatar

    Nobody

    It wasn’t sally or Steve. It was a man whom she worked with at the wax museum. That’s who killed patsy.

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    Deborah Decker

    I believe that overlooked her daughter. Her interview and body language was that of a guilty person. People who lie voice Gore’s up in timber ” no not me”, frequent blinking, plus rummaging though her mother’s home and report of strange phone call while she was there. I believe police dropped the ball right there.

    Reply

  6. Avatar

    thinkingoutloud

    steve and sally didn’t even assume patsy was poisoned when she first arrived, so why was steves first instinct to give CPR? he has some involvement so he purposefully did CPR to show the cops that she was poisoned but he spit it out to act like he didn’t know it was poison

    Reply

  7. Avatar

    anon

    women are almost always who poisons. Fact.

    Reply

  8. Avatar

    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

  9. Avatar

    Annie

    I hope they find out who killed her.

    Reply

  10. Avatar

    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

  11. Avatar

    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

  12. Avatar

    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

    • Avatar

      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

    • Avatar

      thinkingoutloud

      i agree with you anonymous, he purposely did that OR even said he did it to rule himself out as a suspect.

      Reply

  13. Avatar

    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

  14. Avatar

    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

  15. Avatar

    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

  16. Avatar

    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

  17. Avatar

    Anonymous

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

    Reply

  18. Avatar

    marshal william

    Sent by

    Reply

  19. Avatar

    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

    • Avatar

      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

  20. Avatar

    Anonymous

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

    Reply

UPDATE: The mothers from “Stolen Kids,” Allison Dansby and Rosa Glover have submitted their DNA to genetic databases. Perhaps this will help bring their sons Christopher Dansby and Shane Walker home. #unsolvedmysteries ...

How will Tim Matouk respond to questions from viewers like you? Watch his exclusive interview with Executive Producer Terry Dunn Meurer in the Unsolved Mysteries Case Files. Tap link in bio. #unsolvedmysteries ...

UPDATE: The FBI learned of a second party in La Cygne, Kansas the night Alonzo Brooks disappeared. Attendees left the party after a fight broke out, then headed to the Farmhouse where Alonzo was last seen. If you attended either party, or know someone who did, please come forward. #unsolvedmysteries ...

A haunting clip for a frightening Halloween. #unsolvedmysteries ...

We'd like to think Robert Stack would be proud. Since the release of Unsolved Mysteries: Volume 1, over 5,000 tips have been submitted to unsolved.com. Together, we can help solve mysteries. #unsolvedmysteries ...

No disguise can mask the horrific acts of Lester Eubanks. The US Marshals Service is now offering $50,000 for information leading to his capture. Submit a tip to unsolved.com/tips. #unsolvedmysteries #wanted ...