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Eerie story of murder finally told

By Staff
Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Feb. 11, 2001
Jurors in the the murder trial of Mary Ann Adams and John Barrett said they used nine hours of deliberation time to scrutinize evidence.
Another juror said jury members were fairly certain of guilty verdicts for both Adams and Barrett when they were dismissed for deliberations on Friday afternoon, but they examined the evidence carefully to verify their decisions in the case.
Jury members went into the jury room to deliberate at 4:15 p.m. Friday. They emerged at 10 p.m. without a verdict and Roberts allowed them to spend the rest of the night at a local hotel, where they had been sequestered all week. They returned the verdict three hours after resuming deliberations on Saturday morning.
Vanessa Lawrence, an alternate juror, was dismissed after the trial.
Some spectators referred to the case as a "James Gresham novel in the making."
The story weaves a pattern of conspiracy and deceit, patience and planning, beginning with the bizarre event surrounding Adams in January 1992. A month earlier, Adams had bought a life insurance policy on her friend, Sherron B. Walters, falsely naming Walters as her sister.
Walters would testify nine years later she was told by Adams the policy was for health insurance, and she learned about the life insurance policy after waking in an intensive care unit, the victim of a bizarre train-car collision.
Investigators would look into the matter after discovering the doors to the car were locked and the ignition and lights were turned off. The investigation yielded little at the time, but served as a large piece of circumstantial evidence in the puzzle that prosecutors would present to jurors in the murder case of Mary Ann Woolf.
Six years after the 1992 event, Adams' most recent best friend, Woolf, would be discovered dead, floating in a shallow creek, the apparent victim of a car accident. The cases were tied by two significant pieces of evidence Adams had been listed as beneficiary on both policies, each of which carried double indemnities for accidental death, and both accidents appeared to be the results of the deliberate actions of others.
One by one, Woolf's family members took the stand with damaging testimony of Adams' actions on the night of Woolf's disappearance. The testimony of Woolf's daughter revealed she feared for her life as Adams drove her in search of her mother down a dark dirt road, the same road off which Woolf's body would later be found.
Another woman not related to Adams told of Adams' unusual statements that night, that Woolf would be found on a dirt road.
Another witness would testify Barrett bragged about his alibi and one Barrett friend claimed he questioned Barrett about his involvement in Woolf's death.
Walters said she felt vindicated by the trial's outcome and happy for Woolf's children.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at