The message found at the Carr family home in 1988 was anonymous, but threatening. “You and all your so-called family have two weeks to move out of Florida forever or else you all die,” it read. The note further warned, “This is no joke.” The prediction on a yellow Post-it would come partially true the following year, with the death of family matriarch Peggy Carr.
The Carr family was, as so many others in our society since the last half of the 20th century, a blended family. Peggy brought a daughter and son to the marriage, while her husband Parealyn “Pye” Carr had a daughter and son of his own. Both boys were teenagers, and had a tendency to play their music a little too loud and ride ATVs off the family’s property, traits that annoyed the Carrs’ nearest neighbors, married couple George Trepal and Diana Carr (no relation to the Pye and Peggy Carr family).
A few months after receiving the note, Peggy grew ill. What began as chest pains, nausea, and tingling hands and feet quickly progressed until the 41-year-old was hospitalized. Based on her symptoms, her doctor suspected Peggy was a victim of thallium poisoning, a diagnosis which was quickly confirmed by testing. By this time, Peggy’s son Duane Dubberly and stepson Travis Carr were also hospitalized with similar symptoms. Further testing revealed they, along with Pye and other family members, also had thallium in their systems.
Thallium is a chemical element that was used in insect and rat killers up until 1975. It is odorless and tasteless, making it an ideal choice of poison in both fiction and real-life cases. Patients with small concentrations of the poison can often be saved, although they may become very ill. Dubberly lost over 80 pounds but survived his poisoning, as did his stepbrother Travis Carr. However, the amount of poison in Peggy’s system was too great, at 50 times the maximum exposure level. After she spent four months in a coma, Pye elected to remove his wife from life support. She died on March 3, 1989.
What began as a poisoning investigation was now a murder case. Authorities initially suspected Pye’s involvement, as they had heard rumors of his infidelity. The couple had also briefly separated for a time not long before Peggy fell ill. However, the absence of any life insurance policies, combined with the fact that others, including Pye himself, had been poisoned seemed to rule this possibility out.
Further complicating matters was the apparent expertise of the killer. The thallium was traced to an eight-pack of Coca-Cola Classic found in the Carr home, with the poison found in both the empty bottles as well as those that had not been opened. The poisoner took extraordinary care, leaving no fingerprints on the bottles. No signs of tampering were visible to the naked eye, with only small scratches on the bottle caps visible under a microscope. The beverages themselves had no change in color or taste, only a slight decrease in carbonation, meaning the killer knew his poison well.
Police were stumped until they found out about the note received by the Carrs several months earlier. Keeping the information in the note out of the public eye, they began to question family members, friends and neighbors, searching for any clue, no matter how small. When they got to George Trepal, they found that he, unlike most others they questioned, had a definite theory as to why someone would want to poison the Carrs. “To get them to move,” he said, echoing the note that he should not have known about. Trepal had just become the number one suspect in the death of Peggy Carr.