85-year-old woman to be paroled in 1973 death of young stepson, killing of husband 2 decades later

KINSTON, N.C. — An 85-year-old North Carolina woman serving life for the murders of her 4-year-old stepson and her husband decades apart has been granted parole.

Sylvia Ipock White’s release date has been set for Dec. 2, 2022, according to WITN in Greenville. White, of Kinston, was convicted in 1993 of hiring two men to kill her husband, prominent insurance agent Billy Carlyle White Sr.

She was also convicted in the 1973 murder of her young stepson, Billy Carlyle White II, who died after suffocating on a plastic bag.

The boy’s death was not determined to be a homicide until White, a soft-spoken grandmother who volunteered at a local hospital, came under suspicion in her husband’s fatal 1992 shooting. According to records, White had tried to kill her husband with poison prior to the shooting but was unsuccessful.

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Authorities also reexamined the 1967 shooting death of White’s second husband, Leslie Elton Ipock, but were unable to tie her to the suspected crime. Ipock, 32, died in June 1967 of what was determined to be suicide.

WITN and WNCT in Greenville reported that Sylvia White has been eligible for parole since 2005. The family of the victims has fought adamantly against her release.

“I want to keep her in prison,” Teresa Murray told WNCT in 2018.

Murray’s brother was White’s victim in 1973. The siblings’ father was her victim 19 years later.

“It was horrible,” Murray said. “As far as my little brother’s death, he just started life. And my daddy was only 59 years old, just turned 59 in December. This was January.”

‘It’s not that hard to do’

Court records detail the sensational cases that landed White in the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women.

According to prosecutors, White and two men, James Lynwood Taylor and his uncle, Ernest West Basden, began conspiring in the spring of 1991 to kill her husband. She met with Taylor at least six times to discuss details of the plot.

“During one of these meetings between Taylor and (White), Taylor expressed hesitation about taking someone’s life, and (the) defendant encouraged Taylor to murder her husband,” documents state.

Taylor would later testify that White, then 55, had a chilling response.

“It’s not that hard to do. I had a stepchild. I put a bag over it until it stopped breathing. It was better off,” White allegedly told the hitman.

Watch highlights of Sylvia White’s “Snapped” episode below.

The plot against Billy White Sr. went according to plan. Taylor and Basden met the unsuspecting salesman on a Jones County logging road the night of Jan. 20, 1992.

The News & Record in Greensboro reported that one of the men fired two shotgun blasts at Billy White, killing him. Sylvia White reported her husband missing the following day, telling authorities he failed to return home from meeting a potential client in a nearby town.

The day after Billy White was reported missing, searchers flying overhead spotted his burgundy van on the logging road, located 12 miles south of Kinston. His body lay next to the vehicle.

Sylvia White and the hitmen were arrested three weeks later and charged with Billy White’s murder. According to a 1992 report in the Chicago Tribune, an informant told police that Taylor had shown him Billy White’s photo six months before the shooting.

Taylor told the informant he’d been offered $20,000 and a van to kill the well-known and well-liked salesman. Sylvia White was having an affair and wanted her husband of 20 years out of the way, the Tribune reported.

When confronted by police, Taylor confessed, according to the newspaper. He told investigators he posed as the prospective client Billy White was supposed to meet with.

During the meeting, Taylor told White he had to urinate and as he stepped away, Basden pulled out a shotgun and killed their target.

Learn more about Billy White Sr.’s death below on “The New Detectives.”

Residents of Kinston were stunned by the murder — and terrified that a killer was in their midst. Murray, the victim’s daughter, told a reporter that people did what they could to console the new widow.

“The whole town baby-sat her, me included,” Murray said, according to the Tribune.

Murray stopped by her stepmother’s home after her father’s funeral to check on her and found her in the living room, talking to a man with a ponytail whom she did not recognize.

Only after the arrests did Murray realize the man was Taylor.

Taylor, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1996, was released on parole last year, state prison records indicate.

Basden, whom Taylor paid $300 for his participation in the murder, was sentenced to death. He was executed by lethal injection in December 2002.

“I killed Billy White. I’m sorry for it, and I pray that his family will come to forgive me and let time heal their wounds,” Basden said just before he was executed. “And that’s all we can do.”

‘Little Bill’

Suspicions about Billy White II’s death arose as soon as the handcuffs were slapped on Sylvia White’s wrists.

“It’s mighty suspicious for a young’un to choke on plastic,” Leslie White, Billy White Sr.’s brother, told the Tribune.

News accounts indicate that Billy White Sr. married Sylvia Ipock in 1971, following the breakup of his first marriage. At the time, he was a single father of four, the youngest of whom was Billy White II, known to family as Little Bill.

The newly minted stepmother brought along three children of her own from her first two marriages.

It was less than two years later when tragedy struck. On June 21, 1973, Little Bill was home with Sylvia White while his siblings were at school.

That afternoon, Sylvia White rushed the boy to the emergency room, where he was pronounced dead, according to court records.

Sylvia White told the medical staff that her young stepson had swallowed a piece of plastic before he became unresponsive. The nurses could not see the plastic at the time the boy was treated, but the medical examiner found a “large piece of a plastic laundry bag” in Little Bill’s throat.

Anita McGirt, the hospital’s operating room manager and a friend of Billy White Sr., later testified that the plastic was tightly wadded up in the boy’s throat but that it unfolded “like a flower” once removed, the records state.

The nurses who treated the boy, identified as Peggy Chrisco and Susan Manning, also described what they saw after the fact.

“Chrisco testified that the piece of plastic was large enough to cover her hand and three-fourths of her arm. There were no torn edges, teeth imprints, or bite or chew marks on the plastic,” court documents state. “(The medical examiner) placed the plastic in Manning’s hands and she threw it in the sink. The piece of plastic was later thrown away as trash.”

The medical examiner ruled Little Bill’s death an accident. Records indicate that the emergency room report stated nothing about the plastic found in the boy’s throat.

The nurses were suspicious, however.

“Manning testified at trial that the piece of plastic was too large to have been swallowed by a human being, much less a 4-year-old child,” the records state. “Chrisco testified that the piece of plastic could not have been swallowed accidentally.”

Despite their misgivings, neither nurse reported their suspicions at the time.

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Over the years, Sylvia White’s story about Little Bill’s death changed. The night after he died, she told the boy’s grandparents that she had gone to the garage for some string beans and when she returned, she found him choking.

“Years later, defendant claimed that the child liked to pull plastic from the garment bags and pretend it was chewing gum,” according to the court documents. “She claimed that on the morning of his death, she took plastic out of his mouth and then went to another room to get dressed. When she returned, the child had his head on the table.”

Sylvia White said she tried to remove the plastic from Little Bill’s throat but could not.

Leslie White told the Tribune in 1992 that his nephew was afraid of Sylvia White.

“Every time he came out here, if he did the least little something, like he was eating or setting the table and he turned over a glass or spilled something, he would go to crying and hollering, ‘Don’t tell my mama, don’t tell my mama,’” Leslie White said.

Little Bill’s body was exhumed and a different medical examiner determined a boy his age could not have forced such a large piece of plastic down his own throat.

Sylvia White was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in September 1992.

Murray said in 2018 that she felt like she never got the chance to properly grieve her losses. She expressed certainty that, if released, her former stepmother would kill again.

“I hope she doesn’t get out, because someone else will lose their life,” Murray told WNCT. “It might be you, your brother or your dad. She needs to rot there.”

Murray died of pancreatic cancer last year. She was 66.

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