Betty Lou Beets is among the nastiest Black Widows in the annals of American crime. She was almost a serial killer and not for lack of trying. Betty Lou was hearing-impaired since her childhood yet she also proved to be prolific, cunning and generally very lucky in her deadly endeavors. Betty Lou managed to kill and/or assault 4 husbands in only a few years of each other. All of her cold-blooded murders involved premeditation and planning. Fittingly, she lived in a small town called Gun Barrel City in Texas.
Born Betty Lou Dunevant, she eventually became Betty Lou Barber through marriage. By any name she was an enigma. She was neither abused or neglected as a child even though she claimed she was sexually abused by her father. This allegation only came after her criminal trial and sentencing. She could have any man she pretty much set her sights on. Her life wasn’t too bad at that yet she was dissatisfied with what she had. She could only focus on what she didn’t have and wanted. And what she wanted she obtained in the most heinous manner possible.
Her fourth husband, Doyle Wayne Barker had vanished one year before she met her fifth husband. He wasn’t far, however. Betty Lou buried him in her back yard, perhaps for nostalgia’s sake. Prior to Barker’s murder Betty Lou had the good grace to dump her pathological plan on her daughter Shirley, who urged her to get a divorce. “Winter’s coming and then I’ll lose the trailer. I would be out here in the cold,” was Betty Lou’s practical reply. Well, can’t blame a girl for keeping warm. Betty Lou told Shirley she was going to kill Barker. Shirley laughed, thinking her mother was trying to be funny. Barker didn’t laugh. A few days later Betty Lou shot him to death. Shirley, the dutiful daughter helped her clean up the unsightly mess.
Enter husband number five… fire captain Jimmy Don Beets. Beets met Betty Lou at a bar where she waitressed. She took a shine to the Texan cowboy, seduced him quickly, and he married her after only nine months. Yipe. They settled near Cedar Creek Lake in Henderson County, Texas. Her charm, however faded quickly after the wedding ring went on (why is that’s how it always seems to go)? Betty Lou asked Beets if he would build her a wishing well in the front yard. A peculiar request but he was happy to help. The poor man had no idea he’d just dug his own grave. In gratitude Betty Lou shot him in the head as she had Barker.
Perhaps in an attempt to bring herself and her children closer, Betty Lou forced her son Robert (Bobby) Branson, to partake in a little nepotism, and help her to dispose of the body. On August 6, 1983, Beets reported that her husband was missing. It had been exactly six months since they were wedded. However Jimmy Don’s body wasn’t recovered from the water and it seemed odd that Jimmy Don had died in a lake accident, as Betty Lou claimed. He wasn’t the careless type. Three days after the deed, Betty Lou inquired about life insurance. The cops were speechless but you certainly can’t arrest someone on cold-hearted greed.
Two years passed. Betty Lou put the moves on a new man she met while working at the bar. She jokingly told him she’d buried her previous husband in the well in front of her house. Alas, he was unaware that loose lips sink ships, and it isn’t long before Detective Rick Rose searches Betty Lou’s property. Beneath the soil filling the wishing well Rose found poor Jimmy Don. He also dug up Barker in the back yard, fertilizing the daisies.
At her trial Betty Lou couldn’t contain her disdain for her previous husbands. She had no problem revealing the details about her efforts to kill husband two by shooting him, and husband three by running him over, but she must have been a bit slow on the gas pedal and on the draw. They lived. Found guilty of two first degree murders, Betty Lou was sentenced to death by lethal injection. One thing you must keep in mind when you decide to commit murder in Texas: if you get caught expect no mercy. Texans dispatch justice in their own old-fashioned way.
Betty Lou was executed at 6:18 p.m. CST on February 24, 2000 in the Huntsville Unit. She did not request a final meal nor did she make a final statement.She was the second woman executed in the state after the reintroduction of the death penalty. At the time of the execution she was 62 years old and had five children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. My, but family reunions just wouldn’t be the same anymore without Granny and her 38.