The Final Meal Of Serial Killer Velma Barfield

If you only had one more meal left to eat in this life, what would it be? Would you go for some ostentatious spread of foie gras and truffle soup? Spicy chana masala with vegetable biryani and a couple samosas? A bunch of al pastor tacos? Or would you do as many death row inmates have done and opt for the ever-classic hamburger and fries combo, or maybe just a big ole' pepperoni pizza?

Well, if you're an inmate on death row you might have fewer choices for a last meal than you think. As MyLawQuestions outlines, it's not the case that a maître d' with a cloth napkin over their forearm saunters into an inmate's cell and asks, "And what will you be having tonight?" There are rules about what inmates can order that vary by state. Usually requests for last meals have to be restricted to whatever a prison has on hand — no food from the outside. Cost is an issue, too, and in some places the meal can't exceed $40, for instance. Oh yeah, and no tobacco or alcohol.

But out of all available choices for a final earthly feast, why oh why would someone choose trash from a vending machine? As Crime Museum says, this is exactly what Velma Barfield ate before receiving a lethal injection on November 2, 1984. She'd murdered one person after another with rat poison, and before the end ate only a Coca-Cola and a bag of Cheez Doodles. 

The death of 'Death Row Granny'

If we've any chance of understanding why Velma Barfield ordered a Coke and a bag of cheesy-puffy snacks for a final meal, we've got to look at what led her to her final days — sitting in isolation in a men's correctional facility right across from the door to the execution chamber, per a 1984 interview on YouTube

Velma Barfield was born in South Carolina in 1932. At the time of her death, she was the first woman to be executed in the United States in 22 years, per All That's Interesting. She was a serial killer, and her weapon of choice was arsenic. She was also a regular church-goer, fervently religious (on the surface), and a devout Billy Graham fan. Some sites — including All That's Interesting and Crime Museum — tend to approach her actions apologetically because she had an abusive father, married young at 17, had a hysterectomy, got addicted to painkillers, and more. This is all true. In interviews like the aforementioned death row interview, she even comes across as borderline affable — hence her nickname, "Death Row Granny."

Barfield, however, was more of a black widow than a doting grandmother. Her first husband and house burned down while she was away, her second husband died mysteriously, then her mother, two elderly people she cared for, and her final boyfriend followed. She confessed to poisoning four of them. As All That's Interesting quotes her about her boyfriend, who started keeling over in church, "I only meant to make him sick."

Coca-Cola, Cheez Doodles, and the gateway to heaven

We can't ask Velma Barfield what she was thinking when she elected to be executed with the lingering chemical taste of Coke on her tongue and the dust of processed cheese coating her fingertips. But based on her order, we're probably looking at a couple options: 1) She didn't care at all, or, 2) She cared a whole, whole lot and had a very specific request.

Some death row inmates — presumably not limited by spending ceilings — have ordered enough for a family of five or six, like Lawrence Russell Brewer in 2011 in Texas: two chicken fried steaks, one triple meat bacon cheeseburger, three fajitas, one pizza, a pound of barbecue, and much more. Others like Timothy McVeigh wanted two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Aileen Carol Wuornos — played by Charlize Theron in 2003's "Monster" — just wanted coffee. Gary Carl Simmons Jr., by contrast, ordered about 30,000 calories for his last meal in 2012. 

As All That's Interesting cites, Barfield sat and ate her last meal, then stood up and followed the guards to the execution chamber. Demonstrators outside chanted, "Die, b****! Die" Others prayed for her salvation, having bought into Barfield's re-turn toward God behind bars, which she discusses in her 1984 interview on YouTube. "When I go into that gas chamber at 2 a.m., it's my gateway to heaven," she told loved ones before her death (per The New York Times).