On the night of July 3, 1974, while the residents of Zebulon, Georgia, were busy celebrating Independence Day with picnics and fireworks, prominent local couple Walter and Carolyn Allanson were viciously gunned down in the basement of their home.
Earlier in the evening, Walter had received an anonymous phone call telling him that someone had broken into his basement. Furious, Walter rushed home to confront the man he believed was on a mission to kill him — his own son, Tom.
Walter walked into a dark basement and yelled for Tom to come out and face him. When he received no response, he began firing a gun wildly while yelling at Carolyn to call the police.
Police found their bodies several hours later, but it would be years before they would be able to piece together the entire story, which began with Tom’s wife, a beautiful, charming woman named Pat Allanson who would earn the nickname “The Deadly Magnolia.”
Pat was born in 1937. A beautiful child, she grew up being spoiled by her mother and grandmother. If Pat didn’t get her way, she would throw a tantrum. She learned early how to manipulate and charm people to give her what she wanted.
Pat married Gil Taylor, a hopeful young Army sergeant, at the young age of 15 and soon had three children, Susan, Debbie, and Ronnie.
But she soon discovered that life as a military wife was not living up to her dreams of owning a fine home and raising horses. She went back to live with her parents, who helped Pat and the children. In 1971, Pat and Gil divorced.
In 1973, she met Tom Allanson, a young, handsome man from a wealthy Georgia family. His father, Walter Allanson, was a prominent Georgia attorney. Six years her junior, Tom was already married with a young child — but once Pat set her sights on him, it was not long before he was divorced and they were planning their own wedding.
The couple’s wedding had a Gone With the Wind theme, where Pat and Tom dressed in Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler style clothing and the bridesmaids wore the dresses of Southern Belles, complete with parasols.
Tom, it seemed, was “Everything She Ever Wanted,” which became the title of the book that Ann Rule would later write about the murders.
She was finally living her dream — but dark clouds soon appeared on the horizon.
Pat quickly realized that Tom’s parents were the ones who controlled the family’s money, and Walter and Carolyn Allanson had taken an immediate dislike to Pat, and refused to accept their son’s divorce. The rift between Tom and his parents began to grow.
Despite the cost, Tom and Pat purchased a Zebulon, Georgia, 52-acre farm with a gorgeous old home Pat named Tara after Scarlett’s plantation in Gone With the Wind, and set about their life raising Morgan horses.
Walter and Carolyn eventually made the decision to cut Tom off and remove him from their wills. Pat was outraged — and, according to sources, hellbent on revenge.
One day, Tom came home to find his wife crying. She explained that his father Walter had exposed himself to her while making lewd remarks to her. The couple got a restraining order against Walter, and, after it was granted, Pat told Tom that she had heard his father planned to kill him.
Meanwhile, Walter was telling his friends he believed Tom was planning his murder. Things began escalating fast between Tom and his parents: Walter and Carolyn reported to the police that a pistol and rifle had been stolen from their home, and an unknown assailant fired shots at Walter and Carolyn as they drove along a country road.
Both Allanson homes received anonymous threatening phone calls.
After the shooting, Tom was arrested and charged with two counts of homicide. To represent her husband, Pat immediately retained the services of a local attorney, who was often at odds with her due to the fact that she was bossy and controlling.
Pat used her jail visits to pour guilt on her husband about how hard life had become for her, and tried to convince him to commit suicide.
Tom was found guilty of his parents’ murder and was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences. Pat moved back to the property and brought Tom’s paternal grandparents, Papaw and Nona, to live with her. She convinced the elderly couple that she was the best person to provide their care, and soon convinced them to update their wills and cut Tom’s aunt, Jean Boggs, out completely.
Nona had always been healthy, but soon after moving in with Pat she began to decline rapidly. Before long, she was bedridden — and mysteriously, so was her husband.
Boggs went to the police, and Papaw and Nona were both found to have arsenic in their systems. Pat’s daughter Susan also testified that she saw her mother put arsenic in the elderly couple’s food and drink.
Pat was arrested and tried but, incredibly, was released after serving only a few years.
She convinced a prominent Atlanta couple, Jimmy and Betty Crist, to hire her and her daughter, Debbie, as at-home caregivers.
Jimmy died soon afterward, and his family became convinced that Pat was responsible for his death, and for also poisoning Debbie. But the only thing that they could prove was theft: Pat had stolen money and valuables from the family, and also lied about being a licensed nurse.
Pat pleaded guilty to multiple charges of theft in June 1991, and — once again — was given a relatively short sentence. She was released after only eight years behind bars.
Eventually, Tom Allanson spoke out about what really happened around the time of the murders, and said that he believed that his wife had manipulated the entire situation, and that she hoped he would commit suicide in prison so that she would inherit everything.
After serving 15 years in prison, Tom was released. He married an old friend named Liz and, according to author Ann Rule, went on to live a quiet life. Tom is active in his church: He wrote in his testimonial on the website for Full Gospel Buisinessman’s Training:
“My third wife set me up to be killed, but she didn’t know that God had another plan for my life.
“I was shot at seven times at very close range and all missed. I did go to prison with two life sentences. The down side was that my family was killed, and she poisoned my grandparents while trying to get their land and money. Eventually, she went to prison and continued her desire to get whatever she wanted after prison. Thank you Lord for coming into my life when You did.”
Pat was released from prison in 1999. She went to live with her stepfather and his new wife and opened a doll shop she named Pat’s Pretty Play Things.
In February 2008, Pat, at age 70, was arrested and charged with doctor-shopping for thousands of pain pills. Her bond was set at $22,500 for three felony counts of unauthorized distribution.