On March 30, 1998, the Florida “Black Widow” who murdered a string of men for their insurance money so that she could live the high life was sent to the electric chair.
Judy Buenoano was executed for murdering her Vietnam veteran husband James Goodyear in 1971 by poisoning him with arsenic. Pensacola juries also found her guilty of drowning her paralyzed son Michael Goodyear in 1980, and trying to firebomb her fiancé John Gentry in 1983.
Buenoano was the first woman to be executed in Florida since 1848 (when a slave named Celia was hanged for killing her master) and was only the third woman to be executed in the U.S. since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.
Prosecutors revealed that Buenoano had gotten about $240,000 in insurance money from the deaths — which she used to buy a car, jewelry, and open a nail salon. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Buenoano “drove around Pensacola in a Corvette and told bigger-than-life stories about her life, her businesses, and her Chanel perfume.”After her husband’s death, Buenoano moved in with Bobby Joe Morris. In January 1978, he died, and on analysis his tissues showed acute arsenic poisoning. Later that year, she legally changed her name to “Buenoano,” which, ironically, is Spanish for “good year.”
Buenoano’s 18-year-old son Michael became severely ill in 1979 — and in 1980, Buenoano took him out in a canoe. It capsized, and Michael, weighed down by his arm and leg braces, drowned. Like her ex-boyfriend, post-mortem analysis of Michael’s tissue showed signs of poisoning.
In 1983, Buenoano was engaged to John Gentry when his car exploded. While he was recovering from his injuries, her story began to unravel.
Police discovered that in November 1982, she had begun telling her friends that Gentry was suffering from a terminal illness. Gentry later provided the authorities with the “vitamin pills” which Buenoano gave him, which were found to contain arsenic and formaldehyde. This led to the exhumations of Michael Goodyear, James Goodyear, and Bobby Joe Morris.
Buenoano received a 12-year sentence for the Gentry case, a life sentence for the Michael Goodyear case, and a death sentence for the James Goodyear case.
She was also convicted of multiple counts of grand theft related to insurance fraud, and police say she may have been involved in at least one more murder — that of another ex-boyfriend named Gerald Dossett, who died in 1980. After her arrest, Dossett’s body was exhumed and analyzed for signs of poison, but she was never charged.
Main photo: Judy Buenoano [Broward Correctional Institution]