I was just out in the Asheville area of North Carolina near where the events this ballad is based on happened. There was some discussion in a workshop I attended given by Betty Smith ( a wonderful ballad singer and collector and a genuinely nice woman) about the Tom Dula/ Laurie Foster case and some of the "facts" that have recently come to light.
One of the things that Betty mentioned was that the people in the town where this happened still believe that Laurie Foster was the next best thing to a saint and that Tom Dula was "no better than he should have been", as the saying goes. As I understand it, the people around there maintain that Dula killed her because she wouldn't have sex with him. Apparently Betty mentioned the possibility that Ms. Foster may have been pregnant or had VD and the woman she mentioned it to about had apoplexy! Amazing that people can still be so passionate about something that happened well over 100 years ago!
Still and all, it's a wonderful song.