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Betty Johnson NEUMAR

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer?
Characteristics: Murder for hire
Number of victims: 0 - 1 +
Date of murder: July 14, 1986
Date of arrest: May 2008
Date of birth: November 1931
Victim profile: Harold Gentry (her fourth husband)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Norwood, Stanly County, North Carolina, USA
Status: Died before trial on June 13, 2011
 
 

 
 

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Betty Neumar (November 1931 – June 13, 2011) was an American woman charged with arranging the murder of her fourth husband, Harold Gentry, who died in 1986. Al Gentry, brother of Neumar's fourth husband Harold, had urged police to investigate his death for 22 years, prior to her arrest in 2007. Following this arrest, and learning of the fact that Neumar had had five husbands in total who had all died, the case generated much media interest in the United States, who dubbed Neumar the "Black Widow". On June 13, 2011 Betty Neumar died in a Louisiana hospital of an undisclosed illness.

Husbands

Betty Johnson was born in November 1931 in Ironton, Ohio to Odis and Elizabeth Walden Johnson. She graduated from South Point High School in 1949.

She was married five times:

  1. Clarence Malone (1950–1952) remarried twice after the couple split and died November 27, 1970 in Medina, Ohio;

  2. James Flynn (? – 1955) was shot dead on a pier in New York in 1955;

  3. Richard Sills (? –1965) died from an allegedly self-inflicted gunshot wound sustained during an argument the couple was having in a closed room in their Big Coppitt Key, Florida home;

  4. Thomas Harold Gentry (1968–1986) was found dead in the couple's Norwood, North Carolina home, shot multiple times; and

  5. John Neumar (1991–2007) was found dead from apparent natural causes.

Mr. Neumar's cause of death was listed as sepsis, ischemic bowel, and ileus - symptoms that could point to death by arsenic poisoning. Additional reasons his death were considered suspicious came from Neumar's son, John Neumar, Jr., who told authorities he was not informed of the death until reading about it in a newspaper. When he contacted the widow about the death, he was told that his father had already been cremated despite having previously bought a burial plot.

Investigation

In May 2008 Neumar was charged with hiring a hit man to kill her husband.

Investigators are taking a closer look at the deaths of her other husbands, three of whom had been shot dead.

Neumar was extradited to Albemarle, North Carolina in June 2008, a month after her arrest. She was charged with the murder of her fourth husband, Harold Gentry, by North Carolina officials after receiving a tip pointing to her involvement. The indictment alleges that Neumar "sought out a former police officer and her neighbor to kill her husband in the months before his death", with the motive allegedly being his $20,000 life insurance policy.

As of (December 23, 2012), none of the deaths of her five dead husbands are actively being re-investigated, as well as the death of her first child, Gary Flynn, whose 1985 death was ruled as suicide.

Neumar was released in October 2008 on a $300,000 bail bond.

Charged with three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, as of May 2009 Neumar remained free on bond while she waited for the trial. Investigators had the ashes of her fifth husband John Neumar seized, and analysed for traces of arsenic. The results were negative. As of November 2009, no trial date had been set

BBC documentary

The case of Betty Neumar was the subject of a BBC television documentary, Black Widow Granny?, first aired on BBC One on 3 November 2009. The film featured interviews with friends and relatives, as well as an interview with Neumar, who had otherwise avoided the media.

Death

On June 13, 2011 Betty Neumar died in a Louisiana hospital of an undisclosed illness. Police stated that they would look into her death.

In the "Matriarchs of Murder" episode of Investigation Discovery's anthology Deadly Women, writers claimed that Neumar's death was caused by cancer.

Wikipedia.org


Man's desperate bid to prove brother's killer was 'Black Widow' who left trail of five dead husbands in five states

Associated Press

December 24, 2012

Al Gentry is running out of time to find his brother's killer.

After years of chasing leads, he thought he'd found the person responsible for the 1986 murder -- an elderly Georgia widow who was married to his brother and left a decades-long trail of five dead husbands in five states.

Betty Neumar was charged in 2008 with three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder in the death of Harold Gentry.

But weeks before her trial in 2011, Neumar, 79, died of cancer.

That hasn't stopped Gentry from continuing to press law enforcement authorities for answers.

'The question I have is, who killed my brother?' said Gentry, 67, of Rockwell, N.C. 'That person is still out there. I'm going to fight to my last breath until I find out who killed him.'

Stanly County Sheriff Rick Burris said the case is no longer active, even though it's still open.

'We're really at a dead end,' Burris said.

Gentry spent much of his adult life pushing law enforcement authorities to solve the slaying. He always believed that Neumar — a diminutive Georgia grandmother with a shock of white hair who operated beauty shops, attended church and raised money for charity — was responsible.

The case was finally reopened in January 2008 after he asked Burris, then the newly elected sheriff, to look into it. When investigators did, they found Neumar's trail of dark secrets.

Authorities discovered Neumar had been married five times since the 1950s and each union ended in her husband's death. Investigators in three states reopened several of the cases but have since closed them.

Burris said his department still wants to solve Harold Gentry's homicide, but has no fresh leads.

From the beginning, law enforcement authorities told The Associated Press they had struggled to piece together details of her life because her story kept changing.

But interviews, documents and court records provided an outline of her history in North Carolina, Ohio, Florida and Georgia, the states where she was married.

Her first husband was Clarence Malone. They married in Ironton, Ohio, in 1950, but it's unclear when their marriage broke up. They had a son, Gary, who was born in 1952.

Malone remarried twice. He was killed with a gunshot in the back of the head outside his auto shop in a small town southwest of Cleveland in November 1970. His death was ruled a homicide.

Gary was adopted by Neumar's second husband, James Flynn, although it's unclear when she met or married him. She told investigators that he 'died on a pier' somewhere in New York in the mid-1950s. She and Flynn had a daughter, Peggy.

In the mid-1960s, Neumar, then a beautician in Jacksonville, Fla., married husband No. 3: Richard Sills, who was in the Navy. In April, 1967, police found his body in the bedroom of the couple's home in Big Coppitt Key, Florida. Neumar told police they were alone and arguing when he pulled out a gun and shot himself. Police ruled his death suicide.

But after Neumar was charged in North Carolina, Florida authorities took another look.

They uncovered Navy medical examiner documents revealing Sills may have been shot twice -- not once, as Neumar told police. One bullet from the .22-caliber pistol pierced his heart, while a second may have sliced his liver. No autopsy was performed.

Florida investigators planned in 2009 to exhume Sills' body for an autopsy, but then determined a statute of limitations applied to the case.

After Florida authorities closed the case, Richard Sills' son, Michael Sills, asked the Naval Criminal Investigative Service cold case squad to investigate. They did, but the investigation ended with Neumar's death.

In January, 1968, Neumar married Harold Gentry, who was in the Army. The couple moved to Norwood, N.C., about an hour east of Charlotte, in the late 1970s after he retired.

Al Gentry said the couple fought constantly and, just before his brother's murder, she had asked Harold to move out. After his death, Neumar collected about $20,000 in insurance money.

Authorities said Neumar had tried to hire three different people to kill Gentry in the six weeks before his bullet-riddled body was found in his rural North Carolina home. If it was a hired killing, the perpetrator has never been identified.

She also had a life insurance policy on husband No. 5, John Neumar, who died in October, 2007. She met him when she moved to Augusta, Ga.

Georgia authorities three years ago closed their re-examination of the death of John Neumar, saying they had no evidence his widow was involved. His family has criticized the conclusion.

At the time, John Neumar's family said she isolated him from the rest of the family, and they didn't know he had died until his obituary appeared in the local newspaper. When they visited the funeral home, they discovered he had been cremated.

Meanwhile, Gentry said he hopes someone will come forward with new information in his brother's case.

'It's consumed my life. I know that. But I can't give up.'


Betty Neumar, the ‘black widow' granny

By Elissa Hunt - HeraldSun.com.au

July 6, 2012

AMERICAN grandmother Betty Neumar was either a serial spouse-killer or shockingly unlucky.

Tragedy beset Neumar all her life.

And it’s unlikely we’ll ever know if it was misfortune, or murder.

The five-times married American died last year aged 79, while awaiting trial over the death of her fourth husband.

All of her husbands died: two were shot dead by strangers and a third supposedly shot himself. One died after a long illness.

Another husband was an alcoholic who reportedly died of exposure, but details of his death remain murky.

It was the shooting murder of fourth husband Harold Gentry in 1986 that resulted in her arrest – but not until more than two decades later, in 2008.

She married Gentry in 1968. He was shot six times at their home in North Carolina in July 1986.

Neumar told police she was out of town at the time.

She walked away with a life insurance payout, sold the family home and received military benefits.

Al Gentry’s brother always suspected Neumar was behind the murder, and hounded local police for year to re-examine the case.

When they did, their investigation led them to the discovery of Neumar’s other ill-fated unions.

They charged her with soliciting the murder of Gentry, with allegations she had approached three different men to have her husband killed in the weeks before his death.

After her 2008 arrest, US authorities would allege she used more than two dozen aliases, including on drivers licences and passports.

There were claims of secret overseas bank accounts held by the former beautician and bus driver, whose only income was social security that added to the mystery.

Born a coal-miner’s daughter in Ohio in 1931, she married her first husband, Clarence Malone, as an 18 year old in 1950.

The split after less than two years but had a son, Gary, in 1952. That son would also die a violent death in 1985, shot in a suspected suicide. Neumar collected a $10,000 payout as his beneficiary.

Malone was shot dead outside his car repair shop in 1970 and the murder remains unsolved.

It seems unlikely Neumar was involved. Malone had remarried twice since their divorce.

Second husband James A Flynn was an alcoholic who died in New York in 1955.

Neumar variously told people he’d died on a pier, or in a truck, and had frozen to death – or been shot.

Neumar told police husband number three, sailor Richard Sills, fatally shot himself in the side during an argument at their Florida mobile home in 1965.

Daughter Peggy was 11 at the time and in another room when the shooting took place.

Neumar told investigators they’d been fighting when a drunken Sills pulled out the gun and shot himself.

When Neumar was arrested in 2008 a medical report emerged that allegedly noted Sills may have suffered two gunshot wounds, not one.

But local authorities declined to exhume his body because the legal time limit had run out. And the Naval Criminal Investigative Services – who were involved because Sills was in the Navy – dropped their investigation when Neumar died.

After Gentry’s murder in 1986 Neumar did not remarry again until 1991, when she wed final husband John Neumar.

He died of sepsis after a long illness in 2007.

Relatives of John Neumar thought she may have poisoned him with arsenic when she had his body cremated almost immediately, despite him having bought a burial plot.

His son, John Jr, said he had no idea his father was dead until he read his obituary in the newspaper.

The couple had been declared bankrupt a few years earlier after racking up debts of more than $200,000 on 43 credit cards.

Investigators reopened the case but it was closed without uncovering anything implicating Neumar.

She was on bail awaiting trial for Gentry’s murder when film-maker Norman Hull decided to make her case the focus of a documentary.

Hull spoke to relatives of the dead husbands, and Neumar’s own children, and the BBC aired the documentary in 2009.

In the documentary, Neumar herself explained: “I cannot control when somebody dies. That’s God’s work.”

But even Neumar’s own death, after a long illness, was greeted with scepticism by relatives of her former husbands. The daughter of her last husband told a local television station she wouldn’t put it past Neumar to fake her own death.


'Black widow' grandmother with a trail of five dead husbands in five states dies before facing trial on murder charges

DailyMail.co.uk

June 14, 2011

A black widow grandmother who left a trail of five dead husbands in five states over the last 56 years has died after an illness, leaving a longer trail of questions for survivors of her spouses that might never be answered.

Betty Neumar's son-in-law Terry Sanders said she died late Sunday or early Monday in a hospital in Louisiana.

Stanly County, North Carolina Sheriff Rick Burris said authorities are looking into her death.

Mr Sanders, who has been married 38 years to Neumar's daughter, said: 'She was tough country girl and fought through a lot of pain.

Neumar, dubbed the 'black widow' in U.S. media, was free on $300,000 bond on three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder in the 1986 death of her fourth husband, Harold Gentry.

Her trial was postponed numerous times since her arrest in 2008.

Sheriff Rick Burris of Stanly County, North Carolina said: 'We're going to make sure we examine the death certificate.'

While investigating Gentry's death, authorities discovered Neumar had been married five times since the 1950s and each union ended in her husband's death.

Investigators in three states reopened several of the cases, but have since closed them.

Neumar's death is bittersweet for Gentry's brother, Al Gentry, 65, of Rockwell, North Carolina.

For two decades, he pressed investigators in vain to re-examine his brother's shooting death.

The case was finally reopened in January 2008 after he asked Burris, then the newly elected sheriff, to look into it.

Mr Gentry said: 'I'm numb. I wanted justice and we're not going to get it.'

He said there were too many delays: the first was in the initial police investigation in 1986 and later with prosecutors. Her trial was supposed to have started this February, but was postponed to give a newly elected prosecutor more time to prepare.

'We still haven't answered the question: Who actually killed my brother?' he said.

The mysteries in Neumar's past may never be solved.

From the beginning, law enforcement authorities said they had struggled to piece together details of Neumar's life because her story kept changing. But interviews, documents and court records provided an outline of her history in North Carolina, Ohio, Florida and Georgia, the states where she was married.

She was born Betty Johnson in 1931 in Ironton, a hardscrabble southeastern Ohio town along the West Virginia border. She graduated from high school in 1949 and married Clarence Malone in November 1950. It's unclear when their marriage broke up. Their son, Gary, was born March 13, 1952.

Malone remarried twice. He was shot once in the back of the head outside his auto shop in a small town southwest of Cleveland in November 1970. His death was ruled a homicide, although police said there were no signs of robbery.

Gary was eventually adopted by Neumar's second husband, James A Flynn, although it's unclear when she met or married him.

She told investigators that he 'died on a pier' somewhere in New York in the mid-1950s. She and Flynn had a daughter, Peggy.

In the mid-1960s, she married husband Number three: Richard Sills, who was in the Navy. For the last two years, Sills' son, Michael, has been urging police to reinvestigate his father's death, which was ruled a suicide.

On April 18, 1967, police found his body in the bedroom of the couple's mobile home in Big Coppitt Key, Florida. Neumar told police they were alone and arguing, when he pulled out a gun and shot himself.

Sills said he knew nothing about how his father died until he was contacted by the media in 2009 about Neumar's past. Since then, he has been drilling into the records.

After Neumar was charged in North Carolina, the Monroe County Sheriff's Department in Florida took another look at the death. They uncovered Navy medical examiner documents revealing that Richard Sills may have been shot twice - not once, as Neumar told police. One bullet from the .22-caliber pistol pierced his heart, while a second may have sliced his liver.

The Navy medical examiner at the time said that without an autopsy, he would be unable to determine if Richard Sills was shot once or twice. No autopsy was performed when he died. And without knowing the number of gunshot wounds, there's no way to know if his death was a suicide or homicide.

County investigators planned in 2009 to exhume Richard Sills' body from an Ocala, Florida cemetery for an autopsy, but then determined that a statute of limitations applied to the case. Investigators have said Florida law sets a time limit on prosecution of some categories of homicide, including involuntary manslaughter, but not on premeditated - or first-degree - murder.

Michael Sills then turned to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) cold case squad. The unit is studying the evidence and could decide to investigate. But that could end with Neumar's death.

Georgia authorities two years ago closed their re-examination of the death of Neumar's fifth husband, John Neumar, saying they had no evidence she was involved. His family has criticized the conclusion.

Al Gentry said he had hoped lingering questions about Neumar's past would be answered.


Tangled web of 'Black Widow' case

BBC.co.uk

November 3, 2009

Grandmother Betty Neumar has had five husbands, some of whom died in suspicious circumstances. As she awaits trial in the US over the death of husband number four, film-maker Norman Hull investigates whether the woman known as 'The Black Widow' could really have been a serial killer.

For 22 years, Al Gentry begged investigators to take another look at the mystery surrounding the death of his brother.

Harold was shot six times in the home he shared with his wife Betty in North Carolina. The police investigation revealed no motive and no suspect.

Al was sure he knew the identity of the murderer and visited the sheriff's office dozens of times.

In 2007, Betty was arrested. The 77-year-old is now awaiting trial, charged with hiring a hit-man to shoot her husband.

Marriages revealed

"This is something I've been waiting a long time for," Al told me.

Betty, who says she was in Augusta, Georgia, the day her husband was killed, showed no emotion when she returned home to the news, he claims.

"If she had gotten out of that car with tears in her eyes and asked me why would anybody kill Harold, I would never have suspected her at all," he said.

Al believes Betty hired someone to kill Harold because he was seeing another woman.

After her arrest, authorities discovered that Betty had been married five times, and that each union had ended with the death of the husband.

The American media had a field day, suggesting that Betty had murdered all five of her husbands and dubbing her the Black Widow.

But where is the evidence? The more I looked into the story, the more it seemed to me to be a matter of assumption, presumption and speculation.

Born Betty Johnson in 1931 in Ohio, she graduated from high school in 1949, and married Clarence Malone in 1950. She was 18 and he was 19.

They were married for just over a year before they split up. A single shot to the head killed Clarence outside his car repair shop in 1970. His death was ruled a homicide.

It is unclear when Betty and husband number two, James Flynn, met. But James died in 1955, a year or so after the couple's daughter Peggy was born. Betty told investigators he had "died on a pier" somewhere in New York.

Self-inflicted wound?

A decade later, Betty's third husband Richard Sills was shot dead in the bedroom of the couple's trailer home in Florida.

Peggy, who was 11 at the time, was in the room next door. She heard her mother and stepfather arguing, and then a single gunshot.

"He was laying on the bed and he went in to snorting and he rolled off the bed, and I asked the paramedic if he was dead, and they said to get me out of there - that's all I remember," she said

Betty told police they were alone in the room arguing when he pulled out a gun and shot himself. Authorities, who ruled it a suicide, are now reinvestigating the death.

In 1968 Betty married Harold Gentry. They were together for 18 years before Harold was murdered.

After Harold's death, Betty moved to Augusta, Georgia.

In 1991, she married John Neumar. Sixteen years later, he died from apparent natural causes but with symptoms consistent with arsenic poisoning. He was 76.

Mr Neumar's son, John Neumar Junior, says he was not told about his father's death until he read about it in the newspaper.

"I'm sitting there at work. I found out he was dead when I saw his obituary. When I went to check on him, she had already had him cremated," John told me.

"I mean, it's just strange, why do you do that? I don't think my daddy ever said he wanted to be cremated."

Seemingly frank

After Betty's arrest, Georgia police reinvestigated the death of John Neumar, but could find no evidence of foul play.

Betty's two daughters Peggy and Kelly are convinced of their mother's innocence.

"She has been a caring, loving mother, and she's a loving, caring grandmother. I think that she was dealt a bad hand," Peggy told me.

I also spoke to Richard Sills's biological son Michael, who had never known his father. Michael wanted the case reopened and his father's remains exhumed.

Betty denies all the accusations against her, including soliciting Harold's murder.

Husband number one had been shot, yes, but he and Betty had been separated for 18 years when that happened.

Husband number two froze to death, she says, in a truck in New York.

She describes how husband number three grabbed a gun and shot himself in his side during a drunken row.

She says she was out of town at the time husband number four died, while husband number five's death certificate says he died of sepsis.

When I interviewed her, she described her accusers as "nuts".

"Later on it's going to eat their heart out. The hate and discontent that they are living in now will make them miserable," she said.

And she says accusations that she may have benefited financially from her husbands' deaths are not true.

"I got no insurance from the first one, no insurance from the third one. After Harold died I got $50,000. But as far as all this money and all this stuff goes, there wasn't none," she said.

Despite the torment caused by the accusations, Betty says she is prepared to forgive.

"If you're going to heaven you have to forgive. You don't have to forget, but you do have to forgive," she says.

Al Gentry says the pain of his brother's murder still lingers.

After Betty's arrest, he visited his brother's grave, where he delivered a simple message: "Brother, we got her."

But have they? It has been almost two years since Betty was arrested and no trial date has been set.

Could this little old lady really be a serial killer? Or is she just unlucky in love?

Only Betty knows the answer. But all she will say is: "I cannot control when somebody dies. That's God's work."


Free on bond, Neumar awaits trial

By Adam Folk - The Augusta Chronicle

Thursday, May 21, 2009

One year ago today, Richmond County Sheriff's Investigator Josh Faison led a slight, white-haired grandmother down the steps of her west Augusta home and into a police car.

He didn't know it at the time, but the woman who politely cooperated that day soon would be under scrutiny in the deaths of five former husbands -- gaining a Black Widow nickname and attracting international media attention.

"She was calm, not excited or anything," said Investigator Faison, who led Betty Neumar, then 76, away from her Cambridge Court home without handcuffs. "We told her some people from North Carolina wanted to talk to her, and she said, 'Sure.'"

Ms. Neumar -- now free on bond -- is charged with three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, accused of trying to hire three different people to kill her fourth husband, Harold Gentry, in the 1980s.

The case has been moving through the system for 12 months, but it's likely to be some time before a trial date is set, according to Stanly County, N.C., authorities.

Ms. Neumar's attorney, Charles Parnell, said in a telephone interview that he is going through nearly 9,000 pages of discovery documents related to his client's case. He said the next step is for the state to finish with its case and set the trial date.

He would not say where Ms. Neumar is, but did say she's doing "OK," adjusting to the media attention.

"Considering all things, she's just doing what she's got to do, as far as adapting to whatever she needs to do," he said. "I'm sure it's tough."

Ginger Efrid, of the Stanly County District Attorney's Office, said the case is still pending.

"I don't know at this point when a trial date will be set on it," Ms. Efrid said this week.

The bullet-riddled body of Mr. Gentry, Ms. Neumar's fourth husband, was found in 1986 in their rural North Carolina home about 45 miles east of Charlotte. Last July's indictment against Ms. Neumar alleged she sought out a former police officer and her neighbor to kill her husband in the months before his death.

She needed cash and was trying to collect on her husband's $20,000 life insurance, the indictment said. The case was reopened last year after two decades of pleading from Al Gentry, her dead husband's brother.

After her arrest, authorities in Ohio, Florida and Augusta re-examined the deaths of her first child and the other four of her five husbands.

Richmond County investigators seized the ashes of her fifth husband, John Neumar, from their home in Augusta on May 30. They had the ashes examined for traces of arsenic, which authorities believed could have been a factor in Mr. Neumar's death. The tests were negative.

TIMELINE

Harold Gentry, Betty Neumar's fourth husband, was found shot to death in their Norwood, N.C., home in July 1986. Nearly 22 years later, Ms. Neumar was charged with three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder in Mr. Gentry's death and came under scrutiny in the deaths of her first child and four other husbands. A look at the events of the past year:

MAY 2008: Richmond County Sheriff's deputies take Ms. Neumar into custody. Later, they return to her Cambridge Court home in west Augusta to serve a search warrant and seize several items, including an urn containing the ashes of her fifth husband, John Neumar.

JUNE 2008: Ms. Neumar is extradited to Stanly County, N.C. More information surfaces about her previous husbands and their deaths, three of which were violent.

JULY 2008: Authorities indict Ms. Neumar on three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder.

OCTOBER 2008: Ms. Neumar is released from the Stanly County Jail after posting a $300,000 bond.

FEBRUARY 2009: A BBC documentary crew arrives in Augusta and travels to North Carolina and Florida as part of a documentary on Ms. Neumar. She conducts her first interview with the press for their program.

MAY 2009: Her attorneys are reviewing nearly 9,000 pages of discovery related to her case. A trial date has not been set.

HUSBANDS

All five of Ms. Neumar's husbands have died; three deaths involved guns.

1. Clarence Malone: They married in 1950. He was shot to death in 1970, many years after the two divorced.

2. James Flynn: Supposedly died on a New York City pier in 1955. The details of his death are unclear.

3. Richard Sills: Committed suicide with a shotgun in Florida in 1965. Reports have said that Ms. Neumar claims to have been in the room with him at the time.

4. Harold Gentry: Died from multiple gunshot wounds in his Norwood, N.C., home in 1986. Ms. Neumar was reportedly in Augusta at the time of the shooting.

5. John Neumar: Died of sepsis, an illness caused by a bacterial infection of the body's blood and tissues, at the Downtown Division of the Augusta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in October 2007. He was 79.


Family: Woman with dead spouses liked cash

Betty Neumar is accused of hiring a hit man to kill her fourth husband

Associated Press

July 14, 2008

ALBEMARLE, N.C. — Jeff Carstensen was spooked when he learned his grandmother planned to buy him a $100,000 life insurance policy — and name herself the beneficiary.

"She told me that people of our stature have insurance policies on each other," he said. "That way, if something happens to you, you take care of me, and if something happens to me, I take care of you. It was all too suspicious. So I got out of there any way I could, as soon as I could."

As he and many others who came into Betty Neumar's orbit have learned, bad things tend to happen to the people around her.

The 76-year-old Georgia woman sits in a North Carolina jail, accused of hiring a hit man to kill fourth husband Harold Gentry. Authorities are re-examining the deaths of her first child and four of the five men she married, including Gentry.

Domineering matriarch

No motive has been discussed, but records and interviews with relatives and police officials paint Neumar as a domineering matriarch consumed by money.

Said Al Gentry, who pressed North Carolina authorities for 22 years to reopen their investigation of his brother's death: "You can't trust her. You can't believe a word she says."

She collected at least $20,000 in 1986 when Harold Gentry was shot to death in his home. A year earlier, she had collected $10,000 in life insurance when her son died.

She also had a life insurance policy on husband No. 5, John Neumar, who died in October. The official cause of death was listed as sepsis, but authorities are investigating whether he was poisoned.

Betty Neumar's attorney has declined requests for comment. A North Carolina judge on Monday refused to lower Neumar's $500,000 bond at a hearing in Stanly County, about 40 miles northeast of Charlotte. Prosecutors called her a flight risk and said other jurisdictions were ramping up their investigations into her past.

To the outside world, family members said, she was Bee — a friendly woman who operated beauty shops, attended church and raised money for charity.

But Carstensen saw another side: fist fights at family functions, use of obscenities and belittling of relatives, how she would act "one way in public — especially church — and another behind closed doors."

Ohio police probe death

Police in Ohio are looking into the death of Carstensen's stepfather, Neumar's son Gary Flynn, who was found shot to death in his apartment in November 1985. It was ruled a suicide, but his family has questions. A decision on whether to formally reopen the case is pending.

Law enforcement authorities told The Associated Press they have struggled to piece together details of Betty Neumar's life because her story keeps changing. But interviews, documents and court records provide an outline of her history in North Carolina, Ohio, Florida and Georgia, the states where she was married.

She was born Betty Johnson in 1931 in Ironton, a hardscrabble southeastern Ohio town along the West Virginia border. She graduated from high school in 1949 and married Clarence Malone in November 1950. She was 18, he was 19.

In December 1951, she claimed in court papers that Malone abused her. It's unclear what happened to that complaint or when the marriage broke up. Their son, Gary, was born March 13, 1952.

Malone remarried twice. He was shot once in the back of the head outside his auto shop in a small town southwest of Cleveland in November 1970. His death was ruled a homicide, although police said there were no signs of robbery.

Gary was eventually adopted by Betty Neumar's second husband, James A. Flynn, although it's unclear when she met or married him. She told investigators that he "died on a pier" somewhere in New York in the mid-1950s. She and Flynn had a daughter, Peggy, and his death is the only one officials are not reinvestigating.

Records from Florida show she was living in Jacksonville when she enrolled in beauty college in 1960 under the name Betty Flynn. At some point, she met her third husband, Richard Sills, who was found dead in his apartment in the Florida Keys in 1965. Neumar told police they were alone in a room arguing when he pulled out a gun and shot himself. Authorities who ruled it a suicide are now reinvestigating.

Three years later, Neumar married Gentry. Five years after he died, she married John Neumar.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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