Nannie Doss was born as Nancy Hazel on November 4th, 1905, in Blue Mountain, Alabama to Louisa and James Hazel. She had one brother and three sisters. Doss’s father would force her and her siblings to work on the family farm instead of sending them to school, and as a result, each child had limited academic exposure.
When she was 7, while Doss and her family were taking a train to visit relatives in South Alabama, she hit her head on a metal bar in front of her seat when the train stopped suddenly. For years, she suffered from blackouts, depression and severe headaches. She blamed her mental instability and these issues on this accident.
Doss’s first marriage was to a man named Charley Braggs, who was her coworker at a linen factory. She was 16 years old at the time, and with her father’s approval, got married after 4 months of dating Braggs. Unfortunately, this was not a happy marriage.
Doss moved in with Braggs and his mother after they got married, and soon after, Braggs’ mother became very controlling. Doss’s activities became limited, and her husband’s attention was more on his mother than her. During their marriage, Doss and Braggs had four daughters.
Later Marriages and Murders
Nannie soon began to drink and smoke heavily, and soon suspected her husband of being unfaithful to her. Braggs also suspected his wife of infidelity, even though he usually left their home for days at a time. Two of their daughters died from suspected food poisoning in 1927 and soon after, Braggs took their first born daughter and fled from their home. Doss’s mother in law died soon after.
Charley Braggs brought his oldest daughter back to Doss in 1928, and they got divorced soon after. Doss took her two daughters and moved back to her mother’s home.She met her second husband Robert Franklin Harrelson in 1929, and they got married the same year. Doss discovered that her second husband was an alcoholic and had a criminal record.
In 1943, Doss’s first daughter Melvina gave birth to a son named Robert Lee Haynes. Melvina had another baby two years later, but this baby soon died. She was exhausted after the birth, but Melvina recalled seeing her mother visit and stick a hatpin into her baby’s head. She asked her husband and her sister to verify this visit, and they told her that Doss said the baby was dead and that she was holding a pin. Doctors were unable to give a cause of death.
Melvina and her husband soon split, and she began to date a soldier. Her mother disapproved of her new partner, and after a particularly bad fight with her mother, Melvina’s son Robert died under mysterious circumstances while under his grandmother’s care on July 7th 1945. Melvina was visiting her father at this time.
Robert’s death was diagnosed to asphyxia, and Doss collected on a $500 insurance she had taken out on him.
In 1945, the Japanese had just surrendered to the Allied Powers at the end of World War II, and Doss’s husband Harrelson celebrated with other partiers. After one evening of heavy drinking, Harrelson raped Doss.
The following day, while gardening, she found Harrelson’s corn whiskey buried in the ground. Still upset over he rape, Doss laced the whiskey with rat poison, and Harrelson ingested the whiskey that evening. His death was extremely painful.
Doss met her third husband, Arlie Lanning, through a lonely hearts column while traveling in Lexington, North Carolina. They were married three days later. Like her second husband, Lanning was a womanizer and an alcoholic. He soon died of what was suspected to be heart failure, and Doss was given support at his funeral from the townspeople.
Lanning’s house, that was left to his sister, soon burned down and the insurance money went to Doss. After Lanning’s mother died in her sleep, Doss left North Carolina and moved in with her sister Dovie. Dovie was bedridden at the time, and soon after Doss moved in, she died.
Doss joined a dating service called the Diamond Circle Club, and soon met a man named Richard L. Morton from Jamestown, North Carolina. The two got married in 1952 in Emporia, Kansas. This husband wasn’t an alcoholic, but he was an adulterer. Doss’s mother came to live with them, and she was poisoned some time in January 1953. Doss poisoned her husband next on May 19th, 1953.
Nannie married her fifth husband, Samuel Doss, in June 1953. Samuel was a Nazarene minister who had lost his family to a tornado in Madison County, Arkansas. This husband was not an alcoholic nor womanizer, but he was strict and boring. He told Nannie that she couldn’t read romance novels, only educational magazines.
Nannie Doss with husband Samuel Doss.
In September 1953, he was admitted to the hospital with flu-like symptoms and the hospital diagnosed him with having a severe digestive tract infection. Samuel was treated and released on October 5th. He died on October 12th, and this sudden death alerted doctors to call for an autopsy. The autopsy revealed a large amount of arsenic in his system, and Nannie was soon arrested.
Nannie Doss confessed to killing four of her husbands, her sister, her mother, her grandson and her mother-in-law. The state of Oklahoma, however, only centered its case on the death of Samuel Doss. She plead guilty on May 17th, 1955, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Doss was never charged with any of the other murders she committed, and she died in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary from leukemia in 1965.