On February 24, 2000, the Black Widow of Texas was put to death by lethal injection, with a smile on her face. 62-year-old great-grandmother Betty Lou Beets murdered two of her husbands, and according to another, there could have been three.
Back when she was 46, Beets had a wishing well in her Gun Barrel City, Texas yard. Authorities say she planted some petunias and begonias there, as well as one of her husbands.
Just days before she murdered her fifth husband, Betty Beets asked him to rebuild and improve the well so it would bring more curb appeal to the trailer home where they lived. Jimmy Beats, a retired Dallas Fire Department Captain, obliged.
Little did he know he was literally digging his own grave.
Its real purpose was to conceal the final resting place of husband No. 4, Doyle Barker. When Barker vanished in 1981, Betty told friends and neighbors that the couple had had a fight and he took off, leaving his truck behind, wrote Irene Pence in a book on the case, “Buried Memories.”
Betty reported Capt. Beets missing on Aug. 6, 1983, saying he had gone night fishing and never came home. About a week later, people spotted his boat drifting in a lake, empty. Nitroglycerin tablets scattered at the bottom of the boat suggested that he had had a heart attack and fallen into the water.
Most people bought both stories, but there were skeptics.
“Every time we would walk by their place, my dog would run straight to that wishing well and stand there and bark,” one neighbor told the Dallas Morning News.
Betty may well have gotten away with killing two husbands had it not been for a few errors in judgment. For one, she got drunk and bragged about the killings to a new boyfriend.
Second, she turned her children into accomplices, telling them about her plans and forcing them to help her hide the bodies. Then there was the matter of the $10,000 life insurance policy she had taken out on Beets without his knowledge.
Some acquaintances called her a “good old gal,” but among those who knew her well, few were surprised that her final two marriages ended in murder. Violence had marred all five of her unions.