The Bizarre 1993 Poisioning Murder Of Steven Robards

Marie Robards certainly didn't fit the profile of a killer. The 16-year-old high school junior was popular, beautiful, and one of the top students in her suburban Fort Worth high school class (per Texas Monthly). But underneath her many layers was a young woman who prosecutors accused of being a ruthless predator, and her prey was her own father. She worked out a plan to poison the man and very nearly got away with it.

In February 1993, Robards was in her chemistry class when she decided to make her move. When her teacher was distracted, Robards poured some barium acetate from a classroom bottle into a napkin. She quickly tucked the poison into her bag without anyone noticing. Several nights later, on February 18, she put the contents of the napkin into some refried beans that her father used to make himself tacos. He finished his meal and left to go to his Wednesday night church service. An hour later, he returned quite ill.

He began vomiting and was quickly weakening. Robards left and went to the apartment of her father's girlfriend, Sandra Hudgins, to alert her of her father's sudden illness. Hudgins rushed to his home and found him in bad shape. His limbs were beginning to stiffen, and he wasn't able to swallow. Hudgins phoned for paramedics, who tried to intubate him so he could get oxygen. But by then, his throat had already swollen shut. A coroner would later rule that the cause of death was a heart attack (via Sword and Scale).

Reading Shakespeare made Marie Robards begin to crack

Time passed, and the world moved on from the death of Steven Robards. But his daughter found herself slowly consumed by guilt and the urge to confess her crime to someone. Ten months after her father's death, Marie Robards was studying Shakespeare with her friend, Stacey High (per Texas Monthly). The two were pouring over "Hamlet" when Stacey began to quote Claudius' lines about whether or not he will ever be able to repent for the murder he committed. This discussion made Marie quite emotional, and she eventually confessed what she had done to her father. She made High promise to keep her secret. The guilt didn't take long to work on High, though. A month after Marie's confession to High, High told the police everything.

Even though police took High's statement in February, it took court orders to exhume the body, and Marie wasn't arrested until October. Compounding the problem was that the county didn't have the equipment necessary to perform the tests for barium acetate. When officials had all their ducks in a row, the test was finally completed and showed that Steven Robards' father had more than 250 times the normal amount of barium acetate in his body when he died.

Marie was arrested and released on bond. She used the life insurance proceeds from her father's death to pay for a defense team that tried to spin her deadly act as one that was unintentional. They maintained that she was only trying to make her father sick. It didn't work.

She had a surprising motive to kill her father

In many cases of parricide (the act of killing one's parents or stepparents), a building rage is behind the act. In a report from the Poughkeepsie Journal, experts maintain that the act of killing a parent is very rare. And when it happens, it's usually a reaction to abuse. But that wasn't the case when it came to Marie Robards. 

Robards was a child of divorce. She told detectives that she wanted to live with her mother but that her stepfather wouldn't allow for it. Robards revealed that she believed the only way she would be able to be reunited with her mother full time is if her father were either dead or too sick to care for her.  In an ironic twist, Robards' mother left her stepfather around the same time as the murder and made plans to move to Florida. Later, her mother lamented the fact that if she had only told Robards of her plans a week earlier, the murder would have been avoided (per Texas Monthly).

The jury did not buy Robards' defense — they found her guilty and sentenced her to 28 years in prison, with a minimum of seven years to be served. Sword and Scale reports that Robards was released in 2003 after eight years behind bars and now lives under a new identity.