IRONTON, OHIO — Born in 1931, Betty Neumar grew up in an impoverished, rough-and-tumble coal mining community where mere survival could sometimes prove to be a challenge — although not so much so as being married to her.
Neumar, who worked as a beautician and a bus driver, married five different husbands in five different states over the course of her lifetime. She also buried every one of them.
Violence, mystery, and “coincidences” surrounded the demises of Neumar’s first four spouses, as well as the 1985 passing of her 23-year-old son Gary Flynn, whose fatal shooting was ruled to be a suicide — and who named his mom the beneficiary of a $10,000 insurance policy.
Regardless, it took authorities decades to connect the dots between Betty Neumar and the slew of male corpses piled up in her wake.
Consider the lineup that succumbed, in one way or another, to Neumar’s apparently lethal charms.
• Clarence Malone: Neumar married Malone, her first husband, in 1950. They divorced in ’52. Malone remarried twice after that and, in 1970, a still officially unknown gunman in Medina, Ohio, blew off his head.
• James Flynn: In 1955, not long after he wed Neumar, Flynn died “on a New York pier.” Details beyond that are close to nonexistent. The union produced a daughter named Peggy.
• Richard Sills: A decade after losing Flynn, Neumar traded vows with Sills. In 1967, he allegedly took a shotgun to himself in the couple’s Florida home. Neumar happened to be in the room at the time. They had been “arguing.”
• Harold Gentry: The following year, Neumar got hitched to Gentry. They had a daughter, Kelly. In 1986, somebody pumped at least one .22-caliber bullet through his heart.
• John Neumar: Georgia resident John Neumar gave Betty her final last name in 1991. They remained together for 16 years until he succumbed to sepsis at 79. Doctors looked for traces of arsenic, but couldn’t precisely pin his passing on poison.
Throughout all this fatality, mayhem, and simple moving on, Betty Neumar somehow skated by without so much as a serious investigation, let alone getting arrested. That would change — in time.
Only in 2007, after 21 years of active campaigning by Al Gentry, the brother of Betty’s fourth husband Harold, did police reopen one of the cases.
Al Gentry said he immediately suspected Neumar on the night of Harold’s death. She stunned him with an utter lack of emotion upon driving up to find her home awash with squad car lights and emergency responders rushing around.
The first words out of Neumar’s mouth, according to witnesses, consisted of a loud alibi. Neumar blurted that she’d been out of town the previous night and all that day. Al Gentry said:
“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. That’s where she slipped up.”
After questions of foul play surrounded the death of Neumar’s fifth husband in Georgia, North Carolina authorities agreed to take a look back at the Harold Gentry shooting. They had plenty to see.
Neumar, who at that point had become a grandmother, turned out to be in possession of numerous driver’s licenses, passports, credit cards, and hidden bank accounts. She was also hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
Nontheless, detectives put together that Neumar had come up with sufficient cash to hire a hitman to take out Gentry.
Police arrested Neumar in 2008 and extradited her to North Carolina. Three other states reopened their investigations into the deaths of her former spouses. Answers seemed, at last, to be forthcoming regarding all those bodies.
Alas, while awaiting trial in 2011, Betty Neumar died from cancer-related complications. She was 79 and known in the press as the “Black Widow Granny.” Those who Neumar left behind — the ones who remained alive, at least — can only speculate as to what secrets she took to her grave.
Watch the season premiere of Deadly Women on Investigation Discovery, Friday, September 1 at 10/9c!
Main photo: Betty Neumar [Augusta Police Department]