Special Assignment: Augusta's Black Widow? Part One

By: Lynnsey Gardner Email
By: Lynnsey Gardner Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock, April 23, 2009

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- She's an alleged black widow arrested in Augusta and for the last year, Betty Neumar's case has gotten worldwide attention.

Now the British Broadcasting Corporation, or the BBC, is working on a documentary about the case.

They came to Augusta, and News 12's Lynnsey Gardner turned the camera around on the filmmaker for an exclusive story you'll see Only on News 12.

You may remember News 12 broke Betty Neumar's story last May.
She's charged with three counts of solicitation of murder in the death of her fourth husband. She's been widowed four times, and three, maybe four, of her five husbands died from gunshot wounds, as did her only son. Needless to say it's suspicious, not only to these men's families, but also to investigators across the country.

Now one year later, a film crew made a trek across the ocean to tell her story; a story they say is "only in America".

It's not everyday you see a 76-year-old grandmother shackled and cuffed answering to three solicitation of murder charges in the death of her fourth husband Harold Gentry 23 years ago. But Betty Neumar is that grandmother and some say she's also a black widow.

And while she may not be a fan of the attention, her story is one people can't ignore with a tangled web of husbands, children, and suspicious deaths that have followed Betty across the country from New York to Florida, and three states in between, for more than fifty years.

"I don't know why you should shackle a 76 year old woman? What harm could she do? Why chain her up like a beast?" Norman Hull is a British filmmaker with AVPFilms. He's in the Garden City working on his 109th film, Betty Neumar's life story, a documentary to be aired on the BBC.

His crew met with Betty and interviewed her at her Augusta home, they also met with John Neumar's children, and with News 12, to interview Lynnsey Gardner for the worldwide story News 12 first broke last May, but we wanted to know some answers too.

Gardner, "So why Betty Neumar?"

Hull, "Here's a story of a black widow story, which is always a sexy kind of headline."

A headline in papers continents away, magazines too, like People magazine. Search "Betty Neumar" on Google, and you'll get 83,800 results and counting. She even has her own Wikipedia page. Her story constantly published across Great Britain from the Daily Mail in London, to the Scotsman in Scotland so it's no surprise the BBC is banking on Hull's film as well.

Hull said,"The Brits will be fascinated because it's sensational isn't it? Black widow? Five dead husbands? Standing trial, sensational story."

Gardner, " But it's reality for Betty."

Hull, "Um, yes.."

A reality that's filled with a great story of loss for the families of several of these men. Four of their death's were re-examined after Betty's arrest in Augusta last May.

But, with so much time now gone, and evidence lost, all but one case was closed; including John Neumar's death. His death certificate says he died at an Augusta hospital of sepsis, a blood infection, in 2007.

Richmond County investigators searched her home, and took his ashes to test them for traces of arsenic, or other poisons, but found nothing.
John Neumar's children don't buy it.

"When he passed away she never called me and told me he was sick or nothing." says Neumar's son, John Neumar. "And when I found out he was dead I read about it in the paper. And before I could go see him, he was cremated."

Odd, considering John had already bought a burial plot next to his first wife and mother of his children, Virginia Neumar.

"She shouldn't be alone" says Kathy Neumar Scarlett. "He made it very clear to my brother and I that this is where he wanted to be. Now all these other families are coming forward and they want something done. They want to know what happened to their husbands and their fathers and I don't blame them and I think they closed the case on my dad too soon."

The Neumar siblings now believe their only hope for justice, now hinging on the murder for hire trial for Betty in the death of husband number four, Harold Gentry. He was killed in his Albermarle, North Carolina home in 1986, shot several times.

However, Harold wasn't Betty's first husband murdered.

The other, her first husband Clarence Malone, shot to death at his Ohio business 18 years after the couple divorced. But Clarence Malone's family doesn't believe Betty was involved. In fact, local papers reported at the time, Clarence had too many enemies to count.

Back in North Carolina, at the time of Harold's murder, Betty and her youngest daughter were reportedly out of town in Augusta when the homicide happened.

Harold Gentry's brother pushed investigators for more than two decades saying Harold died, because Betty ordered it.

Al Gentry, Harold Gentry's brother, "There's a lot more to this than anybody's let out, and I'm not at liberty to say any of it."

23 years later, the Stanly County Sheriff's Office moved forward with an arrest after they say enough witnesses came forward to say Betty solicited them to murder Harold, offering everything from money to a truck.

Hull, " To me, it's a very American story."

Gardner, "Why is that? Why do you call it an American story?"

Hull "Uh, because I don't think in England a woman could marry and be widowed five times in such suspicious circumstances. I don't think she would have got to five. The alarm bells would've rung much earlier. Someone dying of a gunshot wound in England is a major major story, here's it's an everyday thing isn't it?"

Betty's husbands died in five different states over a period of six decades, she had more than 16 aliases which would make it hard for investigators to notice a pattern, especially in the days before computers and the Internet.

The same technological advances, that have now helped propel her life story into the worldwide spotlight.

Gardner, "So you walk away from this story with what?"

Hull, "A mystery. An unsolved mystery. We'll let people make up their own mind I think."

Gardner, "How does it rank?"

Hull, " Potentially it's a very powerful film. It's just such a meaty story."

Gardner, "Do you think we'll ever know the truth?"

Hull, "I don't think we'll ever know the truth about husbands one, two, three, and five and number four, if a jury finds her guilty, then we have to accept that verdict I guess."

The Stanly County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina says they've turned over all of their investigative findings to their District Attorney, but no trial date is set.

Tonight all new at 11, we talk to Norman in depth about his interview with Betty Neumar and what she has to say about it all is jaw dropping.

As for the documentary, Hull told News 12 today it still has four more weeks of editing. He seemed very happy about his trip to the United States, and Augusta, Georgia saying the film came out "brilliant".

No exact air date is scheduled yet, but we'll keep you posted


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