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Sunday, July 10, 2022

The Betty Neumar Black Widow Murder Case

     In November 1950, Betty Johnson, an 18-year-old coal miner's daughter who had grown up in Ironton, a town in southeastern Ohio along the West Virginia border, married Clarence Malone. In 1952, shortly after the birth of their son Gary the couple divorced. At the time they were living outside of Cleveland. A year later, Betty married an alcoholic from New York City named James F. Flynn who died suddenly in 1955. In the years following Mr. Flynn's passing, Betty told people various stories of his death. She said that he had been killed in a car accident, was murdered on a New York City pier, and died in the snow from exposure. The cause and circumstances of his death are, to this day, unknown.

     In 1964, while working in Jacksonville Florida as a beautician, Betty, now 36, married a 29-year-old Navy man named Richard Sills. In April 1967 police officers found Mr. Sills shot to death in the bedroom of the couple's mobile home in Big Coppitt Key Florida. Betty told investigators that her husband, during an argument they were having, pulled out a .22-caliber pistol and shot himself in the heart. Mr Sill's highly suspicious death, without the benefit of an autopsy, was ruled a suicide. (Years later a forensic pathologist determined that Richard Sills had been shot twice.)

     Betty married an Army man named Harold Gentry in January 1968. Two years later Betty's first husband, Clarence Malone, was shot to death outside his automobile repair shop near Cleveland. Police never identified the gunman who in execution style shot Mr. Malone in the back of the head.

     Betty's 33-year-old son Gary Malone, in November 1985, was shot to death in his Cleveland area apartment. As the beneficiary to his life insurance policy Betty received $10,000. The police never identified Gary's killer.

     In July 1986, Betty and Harold Gentry who was now retired from the Army, were living in Norwood, North Carolina about 50 miles east of Charlotte. That month, someone fired six bullets into Mr. Gentry. Betty claimed to have been out of town when her fourth husband was shot to death in his own home. The police never identified the shooter. As a result of her fourth husband's untimely and sudden death, Betty enjoyed another life insurance payday.

     In 1991, the 60-year-old serial widow married her fifth and last husband, John Neumar. Nine years later while living in Augusta Georgia the couple owed $200,000 on 43 credit cards. They filed for bankruptcy. In October 2007 Mr. Neumar, at age 79, died. While his cause of death was listed as sepsis (a bacterial blood infection) Mr. Neumar's children believed his wife Betty had poisoned him to death with arsenic. Even though they had paid for a burial plot Betty had her husband's body quickly cremated. Those who suspect her of murdering Mr. Neumar believed she had him cremated to avoid an autopsy and telltale toxicology tests.

     In 2008, following a cold-case homicide investigation in North Carolina, a grand jury indicted Betty Neumar on three counts of solicitation to commit the first-degree murder of her fourth husband, Harold Gentry. According to investigators, Betty had asked three people-- a former cop, a neighbor and a third man--to kill her husband. None of the potential hitmen carried out the murder, but a fourth person who was not identified, did follow through on the suspected contract killing.

     Almost a year after her arrest in the Harold Gentry case Betty Neumar posted her $300,000 bail. (Where did she get the money for that?) After being released from jail she moved to Louisiana. That year a television documentary about Betty Neumar called "Black Widow Granny" was aired on the BBC in the United Kingdom. Film-maker Norman Hull interviewed Betty and the relatives of her dead husbands who believed she had murdered them for their insurance money. In response to these accusations Betty said, "I cannot control when somebody dies. That's God's work." 

     Betty Neuman died of cancer in June 2011 while being treated a Fork Polk, Louisiana hospital. The so-called Black Widow passed away before the authorities in North Carolina could try her for soliciting Harold Gentry's murder. Under the law, Betty Neuman went to her death presumed innocent. Her former in-laws, however, did not share that presumption. 


  1. This is a good one! It almost reads like an old-fashioned crime novel. Someone has to write a book or make an LMN movie from it. Maybe Mr. Fisher

  2. I actually met Betty and John while I was working as a teller at a local credit union in Augusta many years ago and always admired how happy they were.

    1. Looks are deceiving. She got away with it, running , lying, and hiding all the way to Judgement Day.