Horsing Around with Tranquilizers

Tuesday, February 5 2002 in a vineyard in the Sacramento Valley, workers discovered a human arm and contacted police.  Deputies discovered the dismembered body of a middle-aged man who was badly decomposed. Larry McNabney, husband of Elisa McNabney, a socialite, had been found after he’d gone missing for 4 months.

Elisa McNabney grew up in Brooksville, Florida in a middle-class family. She was a cheerleader, pretty, an equestrian and an IQ of 140. Despite her intelligence, Elisa dropped out of high school, had 2 daughters with 2 different men and began stealing. After being charged for stealing a box of hair dye, Elisa cut off her ankle monitor and left home for Las Vegas with her daughter, Haylie.

In July 1995, at the age of 29, she visited lawyer McNabney in his personal injury law office. He hired her as his office manager. Within 6 months they were married and Elisa became his 5th wife. All day they worked together in the law office and at night they dined in upscale restaurants. Larry considered himself very fortunate. However, his two grown children didn’t share his perspective. Elisa put a wedge between Larry and his two daughters by refusing to allow Larry and the girls to communicate. Elisa’s own interests continued unabated. She introduced larry to her favourite hobby: showing quarter horses. Larry purchased a stable and horses to keep his bride happy. Elisa lived lavishly, spending outstanding amounts of cash and purchasing herself anything her heart desired.

One day an audit revealed that $140,000 had disappeared from the law office’s accounts. Larry had to repay the money from his own pocket and his licence was revoked. The McNabneys moved to Woodbridge, California where he was able to continue his practice. They moved to a house that overlooked sprawling vineyards. Larry’s practice flourished as much as ever and Elisa continued as his office manager.  Soon she hired Sarah Dutra to assist with office chores. The two enjoyed high-end shopping, buying two of everything they liked. Not long after, the two women were inseparable.

On September 10 2001 the McNabneys took Sarah to a horse show when suddenly Larry collapsed. Once healthy and robust, he was taken away in a wheelchair. This was the last time Larry was seen alive in public. In Sacramento, Elisa took over the law office. She had no law credentials or experience but she met with lawyers and did an impressive job representing clients. Eventually Elisa hired Ginger Miller and Haylie Jordan to assist her in the office. Friends were shocked to learn that Haylie was Elisa’s daughter.

Weeks went by and there was no sign of Larry. When Elisa was confronted by friends and family, she refused to engage in details. One month after his collapse, Elisa announced Larry had moved to a foreign country and filed for divorce. Larry’s children weren’t buying her story. In November, 2 months after his disappearance, the children hired a private investigator to track down their father, but he was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Elisa and her female friends to expensive shopping trips, Elisa spending incredible amounts of money. Ginger finally filed a missing persons report with the police but they were of little help. Since Elisa told the police Larry had voluntarily left, there was nothing the police could do.

Four months after her husband’s disappearance, Elisa shut down the law office. She bought two cars, liquidated the couple’s assets, totaling more than $500,000, and on January 11, 2002, Elisa and Haylie disappeared. On February 5th, the workers found Larry’s body in the vineyards, buried in a shallow grave. Police identified Larry’s body the following morning. An autopsy revealed the grave was new but Larry had been dead via horse tranquilizer, acepromazine,for months. One of Larry’s friends revealed Elisa once asked him if a person could be killed with horse tranquilizer. Police were now in search of Elisa McNabney since she was the prime suspect in Larry’s murder. Investigators discovered Elisa McNabney didn’t exist in any legal database. Searching one of Larry’s horse trailers, police discovered a document bearing the name Laren Sims Jordan, a woman with a 113 page rap sheet, and more than 38 aliases and social security numbers. Jordan proved to be Elisa McNabney’s true identity.

It was discovered that Elisa stole the law office’s $140,000.00. On March 1, 2002, the sheriff’s department issued a murder warrant for Laren Renee Simms.  A $10,000.00 reward was offered for information leading to her arrest.   On March 18, 2002, Elisa was arrested and in Destin, Florida.  Hailey’s friends had turned her mother in for the reward money. Florida cops questioned Elisa but she refused to break. For 2 weeks she claimed she wasn’t involved in Larry’s murder until one morning she wrote a confession about killing her husband, and also implicated Sarah Dutra with injecting Larry with horse tranquilizers. When the two women brought Larry to a grave site in a Sacramento desert, they realized Larry wasn’t dead yet and they decided to let him die in his home. Elisa kept his dead body in a freezer in the garage, held shut with duct tape.

She and Sarah took Larry’s body to the San Joaquin Vineyard Elisa stated because Larry had always liked wineSarah Dutra was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Calculating and controlling to the end, on March 31, 2002, Elisa braided strips of her pillow case into a rope, stuffed it into a vent in her cell, and hung herself. She died the way she lived. Even in death however Elisa had a few tricks up her sleeve. In a suicide note, she requested that her lawyer sue the Hernando County Jail for not preventing her suicide. She also asked that her children receive any funds raised from the lawsuit. “This is all I can give to my children… My actions now will allow them to move into the future without this heavy burden. They won’t have to watch my trial on Court TV. It should all die with me,” she wrote in the note.

Sarah Dutra was released from the Central California Women’s Facility on August 26, 2011 after serving eighty-five percent of her eleven year sentence.

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