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Woman Kills Boyfriend With Poisoned Ice Cream — But Was He Her First Victim?
When authorities tested ice cream Bud Phillips had eaten before he died, they discovered it had been poisoned. They also learned his girlfriend, Purdie Clark, was no stranger to Texas law enforcement.
Purdie Guerra Clark never went long without a husband or boyfriend. However, some of the men around her ended up dead.
James Thomas Phillips was one of many who fell under Clark’s spell. Known to friends as “Bud,” he was born in 1948 and lived in San Angelo, Texas.
In his youth, he got caught up in the drug trade and stayed in it until he was 43, when a bust sent him to prison for 20 years. He was released after 14 and decided to go straight, reconnecting with his adult son, Michael Phillips.
Bud and Purdie then started dating in 2007. Despite an almost 30-year age difference, things moved fast for them.
“Mr. Phillips and Purdie Clark lived together and the considered each other husband and wife but were not legally married,” San Angelo Police Detective Eddie Chavarria told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
But on the morning of February 16, 2009, San Angelo 911 received a call from a woman who said she was with a man in distress. She was driving past his home with a friend when the man came screaming out his front door before collapsing on the ground. It was Bud Phillips.
One of the women attempted CPR to no avail. Paramedics arrived on the scene and took him to the nearest hospital, but he died in the ER. Authorities believed he had suffered a cardiac event.
Michael Phillips arrived at the hospital and was devastated to learn of his father’s death. He found it unlikely, however, that his father died of a heart attack and requested an autopsy.
The following day, Michael called San Angelo Police from his father’s home. He said Purdie Clark had showed up and was making trouble.
“Ms. Clark no longer lived there but she was now trying to take possession of the house,” San Angelo Police Detective Lynn Dye told “Snapped.”
According to Michael, Purdie had moved out four months earlier, though she and Bud still saw each other off and on. Having no legal title to the property, authorities ordered her to leave.
Purdie Clark, as it turned out, was no stranger to Texas’ various law enforcement agencies.
“We had been investigating her for some time. She had committed felony theft, forged a felony amount of checks, and in 2006 we had been contacted by members of the Collin County Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Rangers about an incident that occurred in Collin County. They were investigating a homicide at that time and the victim was identified as Kim Clark,” said Dye.
Kimberly Alan Clark was an engineer with the technology company Texas Instruments. He and Purdie had three children together and lived in McKinney, Texas, outside of Dallas. He was reported missing in September 2006.
According to Purdie, she last saw Kim the night before he disappeared. They had an argument and she went out to a bar with friends. When she got home, he was gone.
Five days later, Kim’s badly decomposed body was discovered off a county road north of McKinney. The 41-year-old had been shot twice in the head, reported The Dallas Morning News.
Following Kim’s death, his twin brother, Tim Clark, filed a civil case against Purdie over her husband’s assets and custody of the children. Purdie eventually agreed to terminate her parental rights and allowed Tim Clark and his wife to adopt the three boys.
The Clarks had been married for 14 years, and investigators learned they had an open marriage. In 2006, Purdie had started a relationship with Robert Dwayne Murphy, 24, who would later move in with the Clarks and help take care of their children.
“Purdie Clark and Robert Murphy soon became prime suspects in Kim Clark’s death,” former Texas Ranger Philip Kemp told “Snapped.”
A month after Kim’s death, Murphy was found dead at a San Angelo motel. He died from a heroin overdose, according to The Dallas Morning News; however, no drug paraphernalia was found at the scene.
Days later, the San Angelo Police Department received a “suicide note” from Murphy, in which he claimed to murder Kim Clark. Authorities, however, doubted Murphy actually wrote the note.
“Purdie Clark was and still remains to be a person of interest. She’s the common link between her husband and Mr. Murphy, both of whom are deceased,” said Dye.
When Bud Phillips’ autopsy came in it revealed he died from a lethal dose of strychnine, according to The Dallas Morning News. Strychnine is commonly found on ranches in West Texas to keep predators at bay and has a bitter taste, which must be disguised with a sweetener.
Michael Phillips told detectives he had found an overturned ice cream container on the floor of his father’s home. Detectives found it in the trash and sent it out for testing.
“The chemist at the Tarrant County Medical’s Office told us that there was a lethal dose of strychnine in the chocolate ice cream,” Kemp told "Snapped."
Michael said that after Purdie moved in with his father, they fought often. Bud liked his house clean and orderly, while Purdie was a hoarder who collected junk.He claimed the relationship began to go south a year earlier, when Purdie had tried to sell some of Bud’s property without his knowledge. It had been deeded to him by his mother and the sale fell through when Purdie was unable to prove title.
Investigators learned Purdie had been staying with Bud in the days before his death. A neighbor spotted her being picked up by her mother on the morning he died.
“We could place her at the scene of the crime within 20 to 30 minutes of his death. That was too much of a coincidence for us,” said Chavarria.
In early March 2009, authorities obtained a warrant to arrest Purdie for murder but were unable to find her, according to the San Angelo Standard-Times newspaper.
Investigators soon learned Purdie was currently living on a ranch in Eldorado, Texas, that was owned by the family of her new boyfriend, Shawn Taylor. On the property, detectives found a bottle of strychnine they believe she used to poison Bud.
Taylor said Purdie had multiple IDs and credit cards in other people’s names and that he also suspected her of selling drugs. He said he had last seen her the previous night, when she left to buy groceries and never returned. She called Taylor as he was talking with investigators.
“She asked me what was going on and I said, ‘Well, the cops are here looking for you and going through all your s--t,’ and I said, ‘I done told them they could look,’ and she got all mad at me,” Taylor told “Snapped.”
Taylor also told investigators Purdie regularly traveled to Dallas to buy drugs from a chop shop that she then sold in other parts of Texas. Fortunately, authorities were already well aware of it.
“There was an active federal investigation into this chop shop and they were dealing methamphetamines,” said Kemp.
On March 23, authorities spotted Purdie driving in the area. When police attempted a traffic stop, she sped off, eventually crashing her vehicle and taking off on foot. She was captured shortly thereafter and taken into custody.
“Inside the car she was in, she had identifications for different people. She also had a shotgun. She had several phones,” said Kemp.
In June 2011, Purdie Guerra Clark pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for a 40-year prison sentence, according to the McKinney Courier Gazette newspaper. She will first be eligible for parole in 2029.
The investigations into the deaths of Kim Clark and Robert Dwayne Murphy remain open to this day. Purdie Clark has never been charged in relation to their deaths.