Suck-Up and Killer – Forensic Files Now


A Fortune Hunter Plays Faithful Servant to His Victims
(‘Penchant for Poison,’ Forensic Files)

Although it usually isn’t the main point of the episode, Forensic Files has taught us that you don’t always have to kill your well-to-do associates to win big.

Tim Scoggin walking to court with law officers
Small but lethal: Tim Scoggin, middle, in custody

Brigitte Beck, for one, inherited all the assets of a nice German couple who took her in after she first came to the U.S. (“Past Lives“). Likewise, two employees at Al Zullo’s home-improvement company became its owners when Zullo willed it to them (“Frozen Assets“) to reward their loyalty. In both cases, the benefactors died of natural causes.

Not the plan. A more common and central Forensic Files theme, however, is that of “Prints Among Thieves.” It told of how Sharon Zachary, a beloved caretaker to millionaire Robert Rogers, beat him to death in a bid to speed up her inheritance.

Such was the case with Timothy G. Scoggin, except that the petite-sized plotter used poison instead of brute force on his victims.

Like Sharon Zachary, he ended up in a prison cell instead of a Rolls Royce.

Chilling tale. For this week, I looked for background information on this outwardly virtuous man as well as the business owners he betrayed.

So let’s get going on the recap of “Penchant for Poison” along with extra information drawn from internet research:

Leita and Olgie Nobles, both born in 1918, owned Nobles Hardware & Air Conditioning in San Angelo, Texas. Thanks to the area’s hot weather and scant rain, the store did a great business.

Sieged with symptoms. Perhaps because the pair spent so much time together at home and at work, they didn’t have a whole lot of patience for each other, according to Forensic Files. They often quarreled.

But there would be no couples counseling or divorce for the Nobleses. A violent illness took hold of Olgie and he died on March 27, 1988 at age 70.

Cause revealed. At the time, no one suspected foul play.

Leita Nobles sits on the couch with a crocheted blanket covering her
Arsenic was no match for Leita Nobles

Leita, meanwhile, was suffering from horrible nausea plus other discomforts and numbness in her fingers.

She received two blood transfusions at Brownwood Regional Hospital. During a subsequent stay at Shannon Medical Center, tests revealed she had consumed three times the typically fatal dose of arsenic.

Riddled with toxin. Arsenic has no color, taste, or smell, making it easy to sneak into edible substances. A bottle of Riopan Plus found in Leita’s medicine cabinet contained arsenic.

Some wondered whether Olgie poisoned Leita before his own demise, but a hair test indicated that she ingested some of the arsenic afterward.

Investigators had Olgie’s body exhumed, and tests revealed large amounts of arsenic in all of his major organs.

Lots o’ loans. Farrice L. James, Leita’s son from a previous marriage, bore no arsenic in his blood despite that he lived in the same household. But Farrice, who used a wheel chair because of a disability, was soon cleared.

That left the aforementioned Tim Scoggin, a trusted 33-year-old mortuary professional who was a dear friend to Leita and Olgie and had bought their appliance business in 1985. He had borrowed more than $30,000 from the couple and was paying them back in increments of $1,700 a month.

He had taken out other loans and, all in all, Tim was $175,000 in debt, according to the late Texas Monthly writer Gary Cartwright.

Storefront of Nobles Appliance and Air Conditioning store
Tim Scoggin committed murder for a hardware business

Dead on. So who was this guy? According to a 1989 Texas Monthly story, Tim Scoggin had a father who was a longtime employee of El Paso Natural Gas. (No mention of Tim’s mother turned up online.) During an interview with Gary Cartwright, Tim said he grew up middle-class in El Paso.

According to Cartwright’s 1989 Texas Monthly article:

With little prompting Scoggin painted a picture of himself as a popular, hard-working, above-average student at Jal High School — editor of his yearbook, member of the drama club, officer on the student council — with an abundant talent for art and an outgoing personality. He sold paintings and mowed grass at the country club to buy a car. He also revealed himself to be acutely class-conscious.

After graduation, Tim attended mortuary school in Dallas.

Finer things. He secured an apprenticeship at Waldrope-Hatfield Funeral Home in 1975. In a quest for riches, he also tried his hand at real estate and other businesses.

In his spare time, he enjoyed painting flowers on porcelain urns, and belonged to a club devoted to the art. Tim befriended a number of older women there.

In his 2002 Texas Monthly piece, Cartwright recalled Tim as a “smarmy nerd.”

Olgie Nobles
Olgie Nobles

Friends in high places. But at the Nobles household, he had been like a family member. He helped Leita address her thank-you notes after her hands grew weak.

She considered him above suspicion.

Her nephew, a county prosecutor named Leonard Sutton, wasn’t so sure. He kick-started an investigation into Leita’s 5-foot-4-inch auburn-haired “friend.”

It turned out that before Olgie and Leita Nobles became sick, Tim had grown close to wealthy sisters Catherine and Cordelia Norton, who lived in a mansion on a hill above Llano, Texas.

Parties galore. Catherine and Cordelia were the remaining two of five daughters born to owners of a profitable granite-mining operation. Tom W. Norton and Mary Agnes “Lady” Norton had bought the house in 1915 and moved their family in the following year.

When the daughters were growing up, the Nortons hosted many festivities at the abode, which had a wraparound porch and an observation deck.

“That’s where I learned to dance,” Lucille Patton, who had known the sisters since childhood, told the Austin American-Statesman. “It was a big meeting place for us kids. It was a whole lot of fun back then.”

Untimely deaths. None of the Norton daughters married or had children. Only one of them, Polly Norton, moved away from Llano; she lived in Washington, D.C.

Their father, known as T.W., died in 1948, followed by Lady in 1962. Three of their daughters died of cancer, according to a friend quoted in the Austin American-Statesman.

Catherine, 75, and Cordelia, 83, remained in the gigantic house.

The Nortons' light yellow mansion with a huge porch
The Civil War-era house’s original owner, F.R. Malone, went broke, and the structure later served as a tuberculosis sanatorium. The Nortons remodeled the structure and turned it into a happy home, moving there in 1916

The sisters were entrepreneurial and ambitious. Cordelia, described as the rough-mannered one, owned the Lone Star Beer distributorship and operated a ranch. “The only dress she owned was to go to a funeral,” friend T.D. “Dutch” Swenson told the Austin-American Statesmen.

Local philanthropy. Catherine, nicknamed “Girlie,” ran two retail businesses, Norton’s Flowers and Norton’s Dress Shop. (Multiple sources describe Catherine as the feminine sister, but for some reason Forensic Files used a photo that makes her look like Orville Redenbacher.)

In their adulthood, the two sisters, whose combined wealth totaled around $5 million, were not socialites and liked to keep a low profile — no more galas. But they weren’t recluses either. They went out to dinner in town and had a circle of close friends.

Catherine and Cordelia quietly donated money to causes benefitting the town of Llano, their friend Ann Lottie Wyckoff told the Dallas Morning News for a September 10, 1988 story.

L.T. Des Champs, the Nortons’ estate lawyer, said the sisters had “hearts of gold” and respected people from all walks of life — but they weren’t suckers for every opportunist with a sob story, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

A framed photo of young Tim Scoggin
A youthful Tim Scoggin

Presumptuous panderer. Tim managed to ingratiate himself to the Nortons after meeting Catherine through her work as a florist. He became their driver and helper at home. He prepared their food. They reportedly considered Tim — whose high-pitched voice prompted people to mistakenly call him “ma’am” over the phone — like one of the family. Sometimes he stayed overnight at their house. (It’s not clear whether the Nortons paid Tim for his services or he gave them for free under the guise of kindheartedness.)

Apparently, Tim believed the women had written him into their wills. He told people he was going to be rich, according to Charlotte Harris, the county prosecutor who appeared on Forensic Files.

In February 1988, the sisters died within a day of each other. Tim immediately called Mary Moursund, executor of the estate, and inquired about the will.

“When the will is filed for probate, you’ll get to see what you got,” Moursund replied “tersely,” according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Grocer spills it. The Nortons were cremated at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. But Rod McCutcheon, a toxicologist for the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab, knew that a fire can’t completely burn away a metallic substance like arsenic.

Leita Nobles and her son, Farrice James
Leita Nobles outlived her son, Farrice James, who died at 58 in 1995

Tests on Catherine’s ashes were inconclusive, but McCutcheon found huge amounts of arsenic in Cordelia’s.

The owner of local supermarket Abbott’s told police he recalled selling Tim Scoggin some Cowley’s Original Rat and Mouse Poison, which contained arsenic. (Note to poisoners: Buy your toxic substances out of state.)

Convenient crucible. But even before the truth came out about the Nortons’ deaths, Tim had received some bad news. The sisters never got around to changing their wills to include him.

Tim consoled himself by forging a $30,000 check with Catherine’s name. And in an inept move reminiscent of Ron Gillette‘s and Jason Funk‘s crimes, he dated the check the day after Catherine died, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Next up, Tim concentrated on Leita and Olgie Nobles. Forensic Files didn’t mention it, but during this time, an unidentified person stole a large amount of cash from the store after the couple rushed to the scene of a fire at a trailer they owned — interesting because Tim had some arson in his past. A suspicious fire once befell a house he’d just bought (no one was charged and the insurance company paid off on Tim’s policy), according to Texas Monthly.

Bad edibles. Oh, and Tim was the manager of the Cactus Lane trailer park, where Olgie and Leita kept their ill-fated trailer.

Tim must have gone to work fast at the Nobles household, because Olgie died just five weeks after the Norton sisters. Police believed Tim poisoned the couples’ food in a bid for ownership of the appliance business without the pesky $1,700-a-month payments.

Authorities arrested Tim and charged him with murder and intention to commit murder. A judge set bail at $500,000.

A photo of Catherine, Marge, Elinor, Cordelia, and Polly Norton in their youth
The Austin American-Statesman published this vintage photo on October 20, 1990

Lethal concoction. At some point amid this mess, Tim filed for bankruptcy due to his financial woes over the appliance store.

In court, defense attorney Steve Lupton argued that investigators ignored potential evidence that might have implicated other suspects.

District Attorney Stephen Smith contended that the illness of Leita Nobles and the deaths of Olgie Nobles and at least one of the Norton sisters had three things in common: “old age, arsenic, and Tim Scoggin, their greedy friend.”

Treasures within. In April 1989, a jury took less than four hours to find Tim guilty. He was sentenced to 20 years for his attempt to kill Leita and life for murdering Olgie plus 10 years for forging $45,000 in checks and depositing them in his own account.

A year later, he pleaded guilty to the Norton homicides and picked up concurrent 55-year sentences plus another 10 years for forgery.

An empty glass bottle embossed with a raised rat figure
Cowley’s Original Rat and Mouse Poison is no longer manufactured, but its distinctive bottles turn up on collectibles websites

(During Tim’s friendship with the sisters, $40,000 in gold coins and securities had disappeared from a safe in their house in 1983, but authorities lacked evidence against Tim.)

With Tim behind razor wire, in October 1990, the Norton sisters’ estate began organizing an auction of their house, its contents, and 40 acres of land, with the proceeds going toward Llano’s city park and cemetery. Items for sale included Oriental rugs, “15th century icons,” and “Italian renaissance furniture believed to be from the Vatican,” according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Hard to kill. As for the victim who survived Tim’s crimes, Leita Nobles appeared on Forensic Files in the 2006 episode amid her struggle with paralysis and pain as aftereffects of the arsenic poisoning. She used a wheelchair and wore braces on her hands to prevent her fingers from curling, according to Texas Monthly.

The tough Texan died at the age of 93 in 2012.

The man who tried to kill her resides in the Wynne Unit, a medium-security prison with no air-conditioning in Huntsville, Texas. In an interview, Tim told Gary Cartwright that jail was his first encounter with “lower class” people and that he didn’t realize how unluxurious life in the joint would be.

See ya’ in five. Any charm that Tim still possesses isn’t winning him any friends in management. The board has repeatedly denied him parole, most recently in 2020, noting his “conscious selection of victim’s vulnerability” and that he poses a “threat to public safety.”

He has another shot in 2025.

That’s all for this week. Until next time, cheers. RR

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