Before He Wakes
A True Story of Money, Marriage, Sex and Murder
She led an almost perfect life, and committed an almost perfect crime.
Barbara Stager appeared to be a devoted mother, loving wife, and dedicated church leader in her Durham, North Carolina, community. When she “accidentally” shot her husband, popular high school coach Russ, the police were inclined to believe her—until they found out ten years earlier her first husband had died in a strangely similar way. Detective Rick Buchanan’s relentless investigations into Stager’s life revealed a stunning vortex of compulsive lying, obsessive spending, and sexual promiscuity.
With every shocking new discovery, more of Barbara’s impeccable image unraveled. But the greatest shock—a damning piece of evidence Russ Stager left behind—revealed the nightmare truth about Barbara. New York Times bestselling author Jerry Bledsoe takes us deep into one of the most spellbinding cases of double life, lethal lust, and almost perfect murder.
“Mesmerizing… Barbara Stager is yet another prime example of the fragile Southern female who will kill her men as quick as kiss them, and I loved every page about her. Bledsoe is one of a handful of natural-born true-crime writers.” —Ann Rule
“A profile of evil… fascinating, absorbing and gossipy.” —Baltimore Sun
“In the art of true-crime reportage, Jerry Bledsoe is the best in the country. Combining a journalist’s sense of fact and detail with a storyteller’s instinct for pace and plot, BEFORE HE WAKES has he suspense of a novel.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Jerry Bledsoe is one of the great chroniclers of true crime… the grand master of Southern madness and murder.” —Sharyn McCrumb
“Thanks to the fine-toothed-comb reporting of ace crime journalist Bledsoe, there’s no mistaking for fiction this seemingly incredible tale of sex, greed, and murder.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The success of Bledsoe’s book lies in his thorough reporting, objective writing, and thoughtful analysis of Barbara Stager’s character.” —Charlotte Observer
“World-class reporting at its best… Barbara Stager is truly the church lady from hell, sweet, pious, loving and lethal.” —Edna Buchanan
“Fascinating… fast-paced suspense that puts me right in the courtroom and keeps me on the edge of my bench.” —Margaret Maron
“Jerry Bledsoe is the master of true crime, the conclusion to what Truman Capote began. Three cheers for another stunning success.” —Patricia Cornwell