You think you’ve got lousy neighbours? 39-year-old George Trepal can put them all to shame. Perhaps he had too much time on his hands and needed a hobby. Most serial killers seem to fall into that category.
El Torres – Florida – June 1988 – Mine worker 44-year-old Pye Carr lived in a quite, rural cattle community. It was a quiet, pleasant place to raise a family. Pye and his wife Peggy had married a few months earlier. Unfortunately, Peggy suspected Pye was having an affair. Both had children from a previous marriage. It wasn’t a happy household. The four kids were in their teens and early twenties. They didn’t get along too well. Well, you know how young people can be.
One day, Pye received a creepy typed note in the mail. The message was quite clear: You and all your so called family have two weeks to move out of Florida forever or else you all die. This is no joke. Pye showed the note to his friend Robert Grant. The minister had bad advice: “just forget about it.”
Peggy worked in a local restaurant. One afternoon her daughter Sissy arrived at the restaurant and Peggy told Sissy she felt sick. Sissy advised her mother to go home. Peggy’s youngest son found her at home lying on the couch, unable to speak. The family brought Peggy to the hospital. Tests were run but doctors couldn’t find anything wrong. They suggested perhaps that Peggy’s illness was psychosomatic. In other words, it was all in her head. Peggy was sent home. You know what happened don’t you? The symptoms returned right after.
Peggy couldn’t talk. She had to write messages to communicate. All she could write was that “my feet are killing me.” As the family drove Peggy back to the hospital a stepson, Duane, and her own son, Travis, also got a burning sensation in their feet. Duane stated he was “just crying.” Based on the odd symptoms, doctors woke up and smelled the poison. They suggested that the family was being poisoned by a metallic substance, such as arsenic. When Peggy began to lose her hair a doctor suggested the family had been poisoned with thallium. Thallium is odorless, colorless and undetectable through standard tests.
Peggy slipped into a coma and eventually died. Travis was soon on a respirator. Detective Ernie Mincey was assigned to the case. Authorities tested the well water and hundreds of items in the house. Under the kitchen counter, authorities found an 8-pack of Coca-Cola (and you thought Bill Cosby was bad for business). Four of the bottles were empty, with traces of thallium left in them. It would have been better if Coke kept using cocaine in their formula. The investigation was no longer environmental.
Product tampering is a federal crime so the FBI got in on it. It was discovered that the bottles had been deliberately opened. No one else in the area had been poisoned so naturally detectives concluded the Carr family had been targeted by the killer. Pye was the first suspect however it was doubtful that he would poison his own son, whom he dearly loved. Evidence also showed that Pye had consumed some of the thallium.
Investigators searched for a person who could have entered the house and planted the bottles. That was easy. The Carrs never locked their door. Anyone could have entered. Next door to the unfortunate family lived an oddball named George Trepal. He was a genius and an eccentric but he seemed harmless enough. Trepal was married to Diana Carr, no relation. Diana and Trepal were members of Mensa. Diana was an orthopedic surgeon who dominated her husband. The Carrs and the Trepals argued on a frequent basis. At times Duane and Diana were at odds with one another. It annoyed Diana when the kids played loud music and played with firecrackers. Days before Peggy got sick, she and Diana had words about Duane’s behaviour. “she just started screaming and yellilng and cussin,” Duane stated referring to Carr.”She was way too mad for the situation.” For her part Diana described the confrontation with Peggy as “an ordinary disagreement.”
When detectives spoke to Trepal they found him to be nervous. He spoke with a stammer. Trepal described incidents that annoyed him about the Carrs that seemed quite trivial to the detectives. When the latter asked Trepal why anyone would poison the Carrs, Trepal stated “someone wanted them to leave.” Trepal fit the FBI description of a poisoner: an intelligent, passive person who avoids direct confrontation. Trepal was self-taught in chemistry. He experimented on people with LSD and other hallucinogens. In 1975 Trepal had been convicted for manufacturing methamphetamine for sale and distribution. Thallium is often used in making meth.
A friend named Holly Horton argued in Trepal’s defence. She saw him as “a caring person…I myself have seen George catch bugs and put them outside.” Even the Carr family thought he was harmless. Duane stated “he was a nerd. I saw him come out with black socks and shorts and slippers on. I thought this is weird.”
In 1989, Pye signed the papers to shut off Peggy’s life support. An undercover detective named Susan Goreck befriended Trepal and earned his trust. Goreck attended a murder mystery game organized by Mensa. Trepal wrote a pamphlet for it using the phrase “most items on the doorstep are just a neighbour’s way of saying move or else!” Nothing there to raise the alarm. His pamphlet also included information to Mensa members about thallium. Eventually he informed Goreck he hated people who were less intelligent than him, and people whom her couldn’t control, both traits which applied to the Carr family. He spoke in a sharp, abrupt manner when he explained this to Goreck.
Eventually the FBI discovered a small bottle in Trepal’s garage that had traces of thallium. In April 1990, Trepal was arrested for Peggy’s murder inside his home, while he wore a blue pair of bikini underwear, nothing else. Investigators discovered a separate room of Trepal’s that was used for BDSM. There were numerous torture items. The meek man appeared to have a warped fantasy life. Again Trepal’s friends defended him.
Trepal refused a plea bargain that would have sent him to life in prison. A jury found him guilty and on March 6, 1991, sentenced Trepal to death by electrocution. Over the past twenty years George Trepal has appealed for a new trial. Each time his appeal has been denied and rightly so.