Return of the Black Widow

Death and rumors have followed Sandra Bridewell for decades. But no one could predict the strange turn her life has taken today.

A 1962 graduate of Kimball High School, Sandra rarely dated and is hardly mentioned in the school annual. That changed during her 20s, when Sandra was besieged with suitors mesmerized by her Southern Belle persona and what a friend described as her "ladylike, 'poor helpless me' routine."

Sandra instinctively knew what men desired: a beautiful woman intensely focused on them. While her single girlfriends read movie magazines, Sandra subscribed to Southern Living, learning how to cook gourmet meals and decorate her apartment. Though she attended only one year of junior college, Sandra was a fiercely focused autodidact. When she got interested in a subject, she read and memorized until she knew as much or more than those she was trying to impress.

In May 1967, Sandra Powers married David Stegall, a dentist from Fort Worth. Sandra told friends she'd dated a lot of people, but she waited to marry someone with a good financial upside. Stegall, who'd studied under a Los Angeles dentist with a Hollywood clientele, had that potential.

A tangled web, clockwise from top left: Sandra married Alan Rehrig in December 1984; Alan in his office on December 6, 1985, the day before he was found dead; this photograph of Sandra and unidentified children was found among her belongings--Sandra claimed she'd ministered to kids in India, smuggled Bibles into China and hid in caves in Pakistan while handing out Christian tracts; a recent photo of Sandra, now 59.
A tangled web, clockwise from top left: Sandra married Alan Rehrig in December 1984; Alan in his office on December 6, 1985, the day before he was found dead; this photograph of Sandra and unidentified children was found among her belongings--Sandra claimed she'd ministered to kids in India, smuggled Bibles into China and hid in caves in Pakistan while handing out Christian tracts; a recent photo of Sandra, now 59.

During the early '70s, Sandra reinvented herself as a chic Highland Park wife. The Stegalls bought a bungalow in Greenway Park, the Park Cities neighborhood on the west side of the Dallas North Tollway. David drove a Cadillac, and Sandra had a live-in maid from Mexico long before anyone else in her group did. She read voraciously about art, decorating, antiques, china and porcelain. Paying $35,000 to a society decorator, Sandra filled her home with fine furniture and fabrics. Everything she did had to be in the best of taste.

While caring for three children, Sandra taught herself photography and began to take pictures for charity groups, using that as leverage in her efforts to join the Junior League and other society clubs. But while she worked on many blue-chip projects, there was something unsettling about Sandra that kept her from being completely accepted by other women.

Behind the elegant exterior, in fact, the Stegalls were drowning in debt, thanks to Sandra's extravagances. By early 1974, the IRS was threatening to foreclose on their house, and David borrowed $100,000 from his father to pay off creditors. Depressed, he began seeing a psychiatrist. After a frantic phone call from Sandra, his attorney Jack Sides rushed over to the Stegall house one night to find David crouched in a closet, a pistol to his head. Sides took it away.

David seemed to improve, insisting he'd never kill himself, because of his children--Britt, Kathryn and Emily. A psychiatrist concluded that David was no longer suicidal. A week after the suicide attempt, an upbeat David told Sides he was filing for divorce. "He was in good spirits," the attorney says. "He was going to change his life."

Sides and other friends were entirely unprepared for what happened on February 22, 1976. An emotional Sandra called a doctor friend at 7 a.m. "I think something has happened to David," she said. The doctor and his wife raced to the Stegall home. Sandra explained that she'd been sleeping in a child's bedroom and had heard something ominous; she hadn't looked in the master bedroom.

The doctor found David slumped in the king-size bed. He'd slashed his wrists and shot himself in the head with a .22-caliber pistol. The doctor was puzzled because the wrist slashes ran horizontally. A dentist would have known to slash the arteries vertically if he wanted to die.

Before his death, Sandra had called their insurance company to find out if it paid in case of suicide. It did. The insurance and the sale of David's practice settled Sandra's debts, with enough left over for a vacation.

Marry a Millionaire

"Surprise!" Sandra popped out of a closet to the astonishment of the guest of honor. The occasion was a dinner party thrown specifically so that the young widow could meet Bobby Bridewell, the son of a wealthy oilman. Knowing Bridewell owned racehorses, Sandra had boned up on Thoroughbred breeding lines. Bobby, reeling from the discovery that his wife was in love with her horse trainer, became fascinated with Sandra.

After Stegall's death, Sandra began looking for a man the way other people looked for a job. She told one friend the names of three millionaires she wanted to meet. Men, in turn, seemed enthralled by her.

"She truly does make you feel special," Dick Romine, an Oklahoma oilman who dated Sandra briefly after she left Dallas, told me. It wasn't that she dressed provocatively or was a great beauty. It was the way she patted his arm, focused her dark eyes on his and hung on his every word. "She's very forward. It's nice to have someone touching you. It's absolutely powerful. And she makes herself very vulnerable."

Other men loved her frank sexuality and unabashed aggressiveness. One wealthy bachelor who met her on a blind date described Sandra to a friend as the most "sexually insatiable" woman he'd ever met.

During the fall of 1976, Sandra researched wealthy restaurateur Norman Brinker, then in the middle of a divorce. She maneuvered a 7:30 a.m. encounter with Brinker at a car wash. They had their first date that night. Sandra began regaling friends with tales about Brinker's ex-wife breaking into her house and writing threats in lipstick, destroying her collectibles, even throwing a knife at her. Brinker briefly hired a bodyguard for Sandra. But some friends were skeptical, noticing that none of the broken knickknacks was valuable. (Brinker has never spoken publicly about Sandra.)

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
5 comments
Northrup Julia
Northrup Julia

I was in jail with camille and she confessed to the murders to another inmate. while in brunswick county.

JESS MASHBURN
JESS MASHBURN

I was completely shocked to find this out about one of my moms next door neighbors. She is still lying about her past and still claiming to have just returned from missionary work( although I have learned that she was recently released from prison in Raleigh, NC). Camille is still trying to use church going people to fund her life. This is crazy, I can't believe I have had the run in chance of meeting this woman and then find this "book" on her disturbed life.

Buffin
Buffin

would like know if there is a end to this story, live in Dallas, I have heard of some of the people in the story.Would make a good movie.

jose
jose

Wow, when is the movie going to come out. She probably can get the rights to her life story and make money while in jail!It's going to make a great movie. I definitely, will watch it.

Kelly Oneill
Kelly Oneill

The Black Widow was arrested in Charlotte, NC on 3/2/07. She is charged with forgery and false pretense.

Arrest info @ http://arrestinquiryweb.co.mec...

She was using the name Sandra Powers and is still acting religious...

 
Dallas Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...