Real Name: Patricia Virginia Bolton Wright
Location: Arlington, Texas
Date: October 23, 1987
Details: Forty-three-year-old Patsy Wright was found dead in her Arlington, Texas home on October 23, 1987. At first, her family thought she died from natural causes. Eight days after her funeral, an autopsy was performed. A mass spectrometer checked for 56,000 different foreign substances in her blood samples. It showed a sudden, violent reaction. The tests showed that strychnine was in Patsy's bloodstream. Strychnine poisoning with its horrible side effects is extremely brutal and also extremely rare. Authorities now had to review the last days of Patsy's life to determine who may have poisoned her.
At 3AM on the morning of October 23, 1987, Patsy called her sister, Sally Horning, and frantically told her that she couldn't breathe. She said that she had taken some cold medicine and was having a violent reaction to it. Suddenly, she stopped talking and dropped the phone. Sally and her husband, Steve, immediately drove over to Patsy's house. The door was locked, so Steve went to an open window on the side. He entered through it, which went into Patsy's bedroom. He let Sally inside, and they tried to wake Patsy up; however, she was unresponsive. Sally called 911 as Steve performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Patsy. During that, a large amount of green fluid came out of her mouth.
Paramedics arrived a few minutes later and took her to the hospital. Sadly, they were unable to save her. At the time, her family and the police did not suspect foul play. Since she mentioned taking cold medicine in her phone call, the investigators took the bottle for possible analysis. After the results came back from the autopsy, investigators had the medicine tested. Large amounts of strychnine were also found in the medicine. The FBI ruled out product tampering, so it was assumed that either Patsy committed suicide or someone close to her had placed the deadly poison in her medicine.
However, Patsy seemed to have everything to live for; she was very close to her two children, along with Sally. The sisters co-owned two wax museums worth over $6 million. Also, Patsy had recently bought three prized quarter horses that she planned on training. Based on the evidence, the investigators felt suicide was unlikely. The case was then investigated as a homicide. It was believed that her murderer was someone that she had known very well. She had not set her burglar alarm on the night that she died. Also, only those close to her knew that she took night-time cold medicine when she had trouble sleeping.
There were several possible suspects in Patsy's murder. Two of the first people considered were Sally and Steve Horning, however, they were later cleared. Her ex-boyfriend, Leo Fikes, was also considered a suspect and later cleared. Her ex-husband, Robert Cox, was and is still considered a suspect in her murder. However, investigators did find some evidence that may have pointed to another, unknown individual being responsible for her murder.
On the day after Patsy's death, her daughter, Leslie, received a strange phone call. The caller insisted that she had to speak with Patsy, and Leslie told her that her mother had passed away. The caller then said, "Good, I wanted her dead," Leslie believes that either the call was a hoax or the caller wanted to ensure that Patsy was dead.
The strychnine that killed Patsy was in a pure powder form, the most concentrated type of strychnine available. Fewer than 600 outlets nationwide deal with this type of poison and all sales are regulated by the federal government. To this day, the case remains shrouded in mystery.
Suspects: Based on the evidence, investigators believe that Patsy was killed by someone that was close to her. They first investigated Sally and Steve Horning. A possible motive for them wanting Patsy dead involved the wax museums. Along with being tourist attractions, the museums were also centers of social life in Arlington. When Patsy died, the museums were inherited by the Hornings. However, investigators did not believe that Steve would have given Patsy mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if he had poisoned her, since that would potentially put him at risk of getting dangerous poison in his mouth. He and Sally, along with other family members, voluntarily took polygraphs; they all passed.
Leo Fikes was considered a suspect, as he was very close to her and knew that she took the cold medicine before bed. He also took a polygraph and passed. He claims that they were not close anymore, and he had rarely seen her in the months prior to her death.
Robert "Bob" Cox was considered a suspect after police learned that she had gotten a restraining order against him because he was harassing her. She told family members that he had been watching her in the days before her death. She was also afraid to testify against him in an arson trial that was to take place around the time of her murder. He had called her on several occasions, telling her that she should change her story; however, she told him that she was going to tell the truth. After her death, he refused to take a polygraph test.
Some evidence pointed to another, unknown individual being responsible for Patsy's death. The Hornings and the paramedics that arrived at her house that night noticed that there were two dinner plates on a tray next to her bed. It seemed unlikely that she would have had a dinner date with either Leo or Robert. This could suggest that she had someone over that night that ended up poisoning her.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 26, 1989 episode.
Although not mentioned in the segment, another employee of the museum, Patsy's secretary Lori Ann Williams, mysteriously died in 1984. Shortly before her death, she had complained of stomach problems. Her cause of death was officially listed as "viral pneumonia". However, a forensic scientist believed she was also poisoned. It is not known if the two deaths are related.
Also not mentioned in the segment was that the wax museum was burned down in an apparent arson fire in 1988. A man named Stanley Poyner was later caught trying to steal a ledger from the museum's ashes. He had a previous arrest for arson; as a result, he was investigated in the case along with Patsy and Lori Ann's deaths. However, he was never charged in any of the cases. He died in a police-involved incident in 1991.
Results: Unsolved. Leo Fikes was later ruled out as a suspect in Patsy's death; he passed away in 2014. Sadly, Patsy's case remains unsolved.
- Patsy Wright on Unsolved.com
- Strychnine poisoning on Wikipedia
- Friends question suicide theory
- The Wax Museum Murder Mystery
- The Name is Dear. Bill Dear.
- Wax sculpting for museums is livelihood for Texas artist
- Texas waxworks reopens after fire, owners death
- InMarket: Mysterious happenings
- News Video with Stanley Poyner
- Patsy Wright Facebook Page
- SitcomsOnline Discussion of Patsy Wright
- Reddit Discussion of Patsy Wright
- Patsy Wright on Find a Grave