Serial Killer in Appalachia

The song “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood & The Destroyers should have been written about a man named Bobby E. Barbagallo.

He was born July 16, 1939 in Elliott County KY. During this time the Great Depression was ending, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President of the United States.

World War ll started just a few months after Bobby was born, Bobby’s father, Able, went off to war to never return so he really didn’t know him at all.

After five years Bobby’s mom, Eve, had literally dumped him on her mom’s porch and fled the country and was never heard from again. As Bobby grew older he learned his mamaw, Annie, was a stern woman and her husband had died and she never remarried and stayed to herself in the hills of Eastern KY. She had three grown sons that lived on the property and helped run her “business.” She lived off the land, hunting her food, raising a garden, making her own clothes. She also made moonshine and sold it.

Bobby’s mamaw was stern but she was also a lot more than Bobby could have imagined. She was similar to a mob boss Appalachian style. There were several people that “worked” for her, she was the person to go to if you needed drugs, marijuana to be specific. Of course she sold her shine too. Bobby witnessed just how ruthless his mamaw could be when he turned 11 years old. She invited this man from down the road, Bobby didn’t know his name but he had seen him at mamaw’s house several times over the years.

She told me to come sit down here at the table that I was of the right age to start learning the business and how we operated it. She called the man John and asked him to sit at the table. Her three sons were present also Tom, Jake, Bart were there names. They didn’t talk to Bobby much. Bobby’s mamaw offered John a drink of her Blackberry moonshine. She got a little glass jar that looked like a mason jar but a lot smaller and she had lots of them. Jake her son knew how to blow glass to create the jars.

She poured out a amount that was about a half of the small glass jar full for John. She poured herself the same amount from the same size glass jar but it was in a different part of the cupboard where she kept the glasses and jars. She handed John his drink and she sat back down in her seat. They toasted and drank and she started telling John that she knew he had been stealing from her marijuana stash. She said I even mentioned it to you about three weeks ago that you needed to pay for what you had taken. She told him today he was paying it in full. John started coughing and wheezing as if he couldn’t breathe.

Bobby’s mamaw reached and grabbed John’s hand and told it was too late because it was in the glass not the moonshine. He kind of fell back in the chair and foamed at the mouth and was trying to breathe but nothing was going in or coming out. He writhed a couple of more times and then slumped over, dead. Bobby had witnessed his first of many killings that his mamaw would do.

She explained to Bobby about what it was that she had done. She said that John had stolen from her marijuana stock and that he had to pay for what he had done. She told Bobby that Jake blow glass to make the little jars. The one jar that John had his drink in has a poison fused into the glass that is inactive until liquid is added for drinks. She told Bobby that she had found that if you temper a lead crystal with hillbilly hemlock, and just cook it down like you have to and blow the glass it makes for a great way to kill someone with no traces because it is all natural.

Part 2

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Author: Paul Cox

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