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A Black Widow’s Trail?

(A mild health issue has slowed my writing for a couple of days. The following really couldn’t wait, in part because I’m sure some readers will find this unfolding story just as fascinating as I do. I decided to be careful with this post because it touches on a long-term, ongoing investigation that stretches from Missouri to Utah. Only a few names are real, the rest are pseudonyms and marked with asterisks [*]. At the moment, I only have public records and a source close to one family involved in this story to go on for background info, so some details are sketchy, but that will change. To my knowledge, no arrest has been made in this case.)

Eugenia Howell* married Dennis Spriggs in 1967. A photo made 5 years after the couple tied the knot showed a slender woman with a pleasant face, long straight nose, engaging smile. By 1972 the pair had two children, and Eugenia Spriggs was occasionally working as a subsitute teacher. When she wasn’t taking care of her kids or substituting, she was involved with the Rho Delta Chapter of ESA International, a leadership and service organization for women. In November, 1972, Mrs. Spriggs received the organization’s highest honor, the First Pearl Award. A local paper said the award was given for “educational and philanthropic accomplishments.”

Dennis Spriggs passed away 20 years after his wife received the First Pearl Award. He was 47. There was no autopsy. Spriggs was buried with little fanfare in the Highland Park Cemetery in Kirksville, Missouri.

Eugenia moved on to Ottumwa, Iowa. She married Ray Don Ford*, became a member of the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce. It only lasted a few years — a petition for the dissolution of the marriage was filed by either Mr. Ford or his counsel on August 27, 1998.

Then something happened to Ray Ford. Just 3 weeks after he filed for divorce from the former Mrs. Spriggs, a new petition was filed. The court records regarding the “Guardianship of Ray Don Ford” indicate the guardianship was “involuntary.” A new petition was made on December 2, 1998. This motion was to appoint a “guardian and conservator” for Mr. Ford. At 59, Ray Ford apparently could no longer care for himself.

Eugenia Spriggs Ford moved West, to Utah. In June, 1999, Utah’s business journal, The Enterprise, reported that she had been appointed executive director of the Murray, UT Chamber of Commerce. The Fords’ divorce was final on September 9, 1999.

That same year, Mrs. Spriggs Ford married Brice Fulton*, a fifty-something father of 6 (by a previous marriage) and an Industrial Engineer who worked for UPS.

In 2003, Brice Fulton’s heart nearly gave out. After a cardiac arrest Fulton received a Left Ventricular Assist Device. He lived 3.5 more years, and died on January 4, 2007.

Just over one year later, police were in the Highland Park Cemetery in Kirksville, Missouri. They were there to dig up the remains of Dennis Spriggs. The following quote is from an article published February 27, 2008 on ABC4.com, the website for Salt Lake City’s ABC affiliate:

The FBI may be on the trail of a serial killer with Utah ties. ABC 4 News has learned agents have ordered at least three bodies exhumed as part of their investigation.

One body was buried in the Highland Park Cemetery in Kirksville, Missouri. 47-year old Dennis Spriggs died back in 1992. It was an apparently unremarkable death. The local newspaper made no mention of it. But now investigators have reason to believe he may have been murdered, so the Adair County Coroner, Brian Noe, dug up the body and took it to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy…

Coroner Noe went on to say he had questions about Spriggs’s death that needed answers. He wanted to determine “an exact cause of death.”

On February 28, 2008, Kansas City, MO TV station KMBC published a similar article on their website about the Spriggs exhumation. From that piece:

The FBI in Salt Lake City confirmed that similar procedures have been performed on two bodies in Utah and that their offices in both states are working together. The FBI said the investigation has been going on for months but is expected to wrap up very soon…

Eugenia Spriggs left behind her widowhood and traveled to Iowa in the early 1990s, where she became Mrs. Ford. A few years later, something happened to Mr. Ford that left him incapable of caring for his own affairs — just as he was in the process of divorcing Eugenia.

Mrs. Spriggs Ford ended up in Utah, married to Brice Fulton. He nearly died in 2003, but lasted another 3-plus years, passing away “quietly” at his home, according to his obit.

One woman, moving across the years from Missouri to Utah, leaving either dead or infirm men along the way.

She is said to be charming, attractive, intelligent. She’s always found her way into socially prominent situations. Eugenia was a leader in the Rho Delta Chapter of ESA in the late 60s and early 70s, and some online records still listed her as executive director of the Murray CoC, though she could not be found on the Chambers’ website.

When Dennis Spriggs’s body was autopsied in late February, it was reported that tests on his remains may take a few weeks to come back.

Is the pseudonymous Eugenia Spriggs Ford Fulton a “serial killer,” or simply one of the unluckier people you’ve ever heard of? Those tests may give us an idea.

*= Pseudonym