Pennsylvania's oldest female inmate — in prison for a 1971 Society Hill murder — dies at 91

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Lois Farquharson, then 80, at the women's state prison at Muncy, Pa., in December 2005. The former Philadelphia psychiatrist, convicted in 1974 of masterminding a colleague's murder, died Jan. 4, 2017, at 91.

Former Philadelphia psychiatrist Lois Farquharson, 91, Pennsylvania's oldest female prison inmate, died Wednesday  after four decades behind bars in the Society Hill slaying of a colleague.

She died in the infirmary of the medium-security prison in Cambridge Springs in Northwestern Pennsylvania in the company of a trained inmate hospice worker, who was also a longtime friend, and a chaplain, the Department of Corrections said. 

Farquharson had been behind bars since 1974.

She was convicted of masterminding the August 1971 murder of Leon Weingrad, a physician who worked with her at the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry.

Gloria Burnette, a former patient of Farquharson's who became her lover, fatally shot Weingrad in the parking lot of Society Hill Towers. All three lived in the building. 

Burnette testified at trial that she killed Weingrad to please Farquharson, who  had accused her of having an affair with him.

In a 2006 interview, Farquharson acknowledged that the couple had troubles with Weingrad. They believed he was homophobic and was trying to get Farquharson fired.

Farquharson denied plotting the crime and said she regretted not anticipating Burnette's intentions.

In 1976, Burnette recanted her testimony implicating Farquharson, saying  prosecutors encouraged her to lie. Prosecutors denied that, and a judge declared Burnette's statements unbelievable.

Farquharson's case drew the attention of an advocacy group that seeks commutations for prisoners who it argues are serving unjustifiably harsh sentences. 

Farquharson, her supporters claimed, didn't pull the trigger and didn’t deserve to die in prison when Burnette served only 20 years.

Volunteers with the Clemency Project, a statewide effort launched by Philadelphia Quakers in 1998, pleaded for Farquharson's release in applications to the state Pardons Board.

Farquharson exhausted her appeals and applied for clemency twice.

Her death makes Alice Green, 86, who is serving a life term for a 1977 murder in Philadelphia, the state's oldest female inmate.

The oldest male inmate is William Welsh, 93, who is serving a 6- to 12-year sentence for a third-degree murder conviction in Allegheny County.  He started his sentence when he was 91. Welsh shot William Menni, a 59-year-old contractor, during an argument outside Welsh's funeral home in July 2013.

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