10 Notorious Real Life Black Widows

Among some people in our society, there remains a certain fascination when it comes to horror tales of murderous women who were responsible for the violent deaths of those around them.

These women are known throughout history as Black Widows. Despite all seeking to cause the demise of the male figures in their lives – not all Black Widows are the same. They have a number of ‘Weapons of Choice’ – from the slow and agonizing death from poison to a short, sharp push from a great height or the pull of a trigger.

Black Widows are cunning, perfectly matching the female spiders for which they are named, who kill their partners after mating. We can’t say that these are the most brutal or dangerous Black Widows that history has ever seen, but they’ve certainly made an impression.

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1. Jill Coit – The Black Widow Who Was Married 11 Times

  • Country: America
  • Body Count: 2
  • Sentence: Life Imprisonment

Born as Jill Lonita Billiot in 1943, Jill Coit is one of the most notorious examples of the Black Widows. She was a seductress, known for her striking eyebrows and curly hair, and a personality full of wit and spirit. A former model, she never had trouble finding men interested in her. In fact, she was married 11 times, with some of her marriages overlapping, thanks to her carefree attitude towards bigamy. Unfortunately, for some of her husbands, the cost of the marriage was their lives.

Jill lived large, thanks to several dubious activities. She took money from each of her marriages, and at one point, convinced a wealthy elderly man to adopt her so she could inherit the money prior to his death. During her criminal endeavours, she was known by 16 different aliases and maintained a complex web of lies that resulted in two murders. The first being her third husband who was murdered and robbed not long after their separation. Coit was the main suspect, but as police could find nothing to tie her to the crime, she was allowed to slip from the grasp of justice.

Unfortunately, police weren’t able to catch up with her until Coit had already struck again, killing her ninth husband Gerald Boggs with the assistance of her lover (and possible husband as well) Michael Backus. At this point, police were finally able to connect the dots, thanks in part to the sloppy habits of Coit and the confession of one of her sons. She was convicted and is currently serving a very long sentence.

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2. Karla Faye Tucker – The Pick Axe Killer

  • Country: America
  • Body Count: 2
  • Sentence: Death

Karla Faye Tucker, also known chillingly as the “Pickaxe Killer” was born in Houston, Texas in a broken family in 1959. The atmosphere at her home was a turbulent nightmare that experts believe likely scarred her for life. During the divorce of her parents, she was told that she was conceived in an extramarital affair. In her adolescent years, she turned to drugs and became a sexual predator, later a prostitute as well, following in the footsteps of her damaged mother.

Tucker entered the biking community in her early 20s, a move that would prove to be a lethal turn in her life. After a weekend-long drug-fuelled party session on the 13th of June 1983, Tucker and her friend Danny Garrett broke into the home of another biker named Jerry Dean. They had intended to steal his motorcycle, but things quickly got out of hand. Garrett subdued Dean with a hammer, and then, high on a cocktail of alcohol and other drugs, Tucker murdered him with a pickaxe to stop him making noise. It was at this point that Tucker spotted a woman hiding under the bed covers, who she also killed violently with the pickaxe.

It didn’t take long for police to figure out who had killed Dean and the woman, and Tucker and Garrett were both arrested not long after the crime. They were trialled separately, with Tucker convicted of murdering two people by butchering them with 28 hits of the pickaxe. Against common behaviour at the time, Tucker was given the death penalty, a sentence that was served 14 years later. During this time, Tucker converted to Christianity and claimed she had been born again and was not a threat, but there was no changing the mind of justice.

Tucker was eventually put to death on the 3rd of February 1998. She became the first woman to be executed in Texas since 1863. According to the stories, the executioner was so rattled by being involved in the execution of Tucker, that he broke down and quit.

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3. Belle Gunness – The One That Got Away With It….

  • Country: America
  • Body Count: 25 – 40
  • Sentence: Never Caught

Belle Sorenson Gunness was a very large woman: six feet tall and over 200 pounds, she was a physically strong woman who violently killed not only her suitors and boyfriends but also two of her children. Over the course of her life, she is suspected to have killed between 25 and 40 people, usually for monetary gain, to remove witnesses, or simply for some evil pleasure.

Gunness was born in 1859 in Norway, and emigrated to the United States in 1881. She is thought to have started on a life of crime after collecting insurance money for a business she owned with her husband that burned down. She then went on to insure the lives of her two daughters, who she poisoned. Gunness also killed her husband, Mads Ditlev Anton Sorenson, on a day when two insurance policies she had taken out on him overlapped, allowing her to collect twice the money, which she used to buy a farm.

On the farm, she met another Norwegian widower named Peter Gunness. Belle is thought to have killed his infant daughter while she was looking after her, and then she also killed Peter Gunness and made it look like an accident. This was just the start of the killing that was to come. Belle listed adverts in matrimonial columns of all the state’s newspapers, saying she was looking for a husband. Many men came to her farm, with their wealth in tow, but almost nobody left the farm alive.

Eventually, Belle simply disappeared, leaving behind the remains of her victims buried all over the farm property.

Belle-Gunness

4. Marjorie Ann Orbin – The Showgirl Black Widow

  • Country: America
  • Body Count: 1
  • Sentence: Life Imprisonment

Majorie Ann Orbin was a beautiful Las Vegas showgirl born in 1961 who had dedicated her life to partying, marrying and, finally, murdering her spouse. Orbin has married a massive seven times before she turned 35. After that, she was married to a wealthy jewellery dealer Jay Orbin who she went on to murder on the day of his 45th birthday in the hope of inheriting his money.

Jay Orbin was a jewellery dealer who had just returned home after a business trip selling Native American jewellery and art. Marjorie had planned her crime and lay in waiting for her husband to return home. When he arrived, she shot him dead in cold blood, and then dismembered him with a power saw.

Thinking that she would get away with her crimes, and indeed she nearly did, Marjorie cut her husband into several pieces and hid them all over the city of Phoenix. Several weeks after Jay’s death police discovered his torso in a 50-gallon plastic tub, but the rest of him was never found.

Marjorie Ann Orbin was arrested and then convicted of Jay’s murder after a trial that lasted 8 months and saw her compared to some of the most notorious killers in Arizona’s history. Of course, she claimed that she was innocent, and tried to shift the blame onto her husband’s brother, but it didn’t work.

She is currently serving life imprisonment for her crimes.

5. Judy Buenoano – The Black Widow and Child Killer

  • Country: America
  • Body Count: 2 – 4
  • Sentence: Death

A lethal woman by any other name remains lethal, and this was the case for Judias Buenoano, who throughout her career as a killer was known by several names, including Judy Morris, Judias Goodyear, Judy Goodyear and Judias Morris. Born in 1943 as Judias Welty, she was convicted of killing her son Michael Buenoano and her husband James Goodyear, as well as attempting to murder her fiancé John Gentry. She is also almost certainly behind the death of an earlier boyfriend, Bobby Joe Morris, despite never having been charged.

Her spree started in 1971 when she was married to a sergeant in the United States Air Force named James Goodyear. Motivated by the insurance money, Buenoano killed Goodyear with lethal doses of arsenic, and his death was initially thought to have been from natural causes. Then in 1973, she moved in with boyfriend Bobby Joe Morris, who also suspiciously died in 1978, with tissue samples showing that he too died of arsenic poisoning. Buenoano left and changed her name, but she couldn’t stop killing.

In 1979, her 19-year-old son Michael started to become very sick. He was already disabled from severe arsenic poisoning, but apparently, Buenoano was impatient. She took Michael out in a canoe, and drowned him. Things finally unravelled when in 1983 her new fiancé John Gentry was injured in a car explosion. When he was recovering, police uncovered discrepancies in Buenoano’s background, which they took to Gentry. In turn, Gentry gave them the ‘vitamin pills’ that Buenoano have given him, which were found to contain arsenic.

This led to the exhumation of her three previous victims, at which point, it was proven that arsenic had been behind all of their deaths.

She was put to death by electric chair in 1998.

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6. Celeste Beard – The Beard with a Beard

  • Country: America
  • Body Count: 1
  • Sentence: Life Imprisonment

Celeste Beard Johnson, more commonly known as Celeste Beard, had a troubled childhood, according to her. She was married and a mother at 17 to twin girls, whom she lost custody of during the divorce. Beard went on to marry two more times before finally meeting the man of her dreams. His name was Steven Beard, a retired Fox Broadcasting Company executive who was twice her age and a self-made multi-millionaire. He was also a widower.

Celeste moved in with Beard when he told her that he could help her to get her daughters back, and when they eventually won the case they started dating in secret. They were finally discovered by Celeste’s daughter, and eventually went on to marry in 1995, although some of Steven’s friends and family held suspicions that Celeste had only married him for his money.

This was confirmed in October of 1999 when Steven was shot in the stomach while he was sleeping. He lived for some time, but the wound eventually became infected and he died in January of 2000. It turned out that a woman named Tracey Tarlton, with a history of mental illness, had committed the murder. However, police still had suspicions of Celeste, who seemed oddly relaxed after the death of her husband, and was not sleeping in the same bed the night he was shot.

As police dug deeper into Celeste’s web of lies they uncovered that Tracey was not just some stranger, but was in fact Celeste’s lesbian lover. According to Tracey, Celeste had emotionally abused her to the point and encouraged her to kill Steven so they could both inherit his wealth. Celeste maintained her innocence, but the jury found her guilty. She is currently serving life in prison for conspiring to shoot her husband.

Celeste Beard & Bernice Ahrens (2008)Celeste Beard and Bernice Ahrens on their wedding day in 2008. Image via IMDB

7. Betty Lou Beets – The Black Widow of Henderson County

  • Country: America
  • Body Count: 1
  • Sentence: Executed by Lethal Injection

Betty Lou Beets, born in North Carolina in 1937, is sometimes known as the Black Widow of Henderson County. Although she was an incredibly violent woman by accounts of her actions, she was also a chilling example of a Black Widow. Beets was hearing-impaired and claimed to come from a home of abuse and domestic violence. Still she was beautiful in her youth and had no trouble attracting men. She was married five times, tried to kill two of her husbands, and successfully killed two others.

Still she may very well have never been caught if it wasn’t for the effective police work of the Texas Rangers. It all came apart on the 6th of August 1983 when Beets reported that her fifth husband Jimmy Don Beets was missing from their home. Several days later, police found her husband’s boat and heart medication washed up on the lake, and spent weeks dragging the area for his body. When they found nothing, the case went cold, but not forever.

In 1985, new information was received that was enough to charge Beets for the murder of her fifth husband. A search of Beets’ home resulted in the remains of Jimmy Don Beets being found in a filled-in wishing well. As it turned out, Beets had killed her husband and then coerced her son into helping to bury him and misleading the police with the boat. Even more chilling was that a second body was found on the property, hidden behind the garage. It was the body of her another former husband, Doyle Wayne Barker.

Beets was never charged with Barker’s murder, but she was tried for Jimmy Don Beets’. She was sentenced to death for this crime, despite trying to claim that two of her children had committed the crime. After more than a decade of appeals, she was finally executed in February of 2000 by lethal injection.

Black Widow of Texas almost got away with killing two husbands in 1980s -  New York Daily NewsBetty Lou Beets

8. Nannie Doss – The Lonely Hearts Killer

  • Country: America
  • Body Count: 11
  • Sentence: Life Imprisonment

Nannie Doss, sometimes known as the Jolly Black Widow, was an American serial killer responsible for the deaths of 11 people between the 1920s and 1954. Born in 1905 as Nancy Hazel, Doss spent her childhood working laboriously on a farm in Alabama. Her very strict father supervised her, and this lifestyle left her uneducated and barely able to read. She also suffered a head injury when she was seven, that she claimed left her with constant headaches and blackouts, and possibly caused her mental instability.

When she was just 16, she married her first husband Charley Braggs, who was the son of an unmarried mother who moved into their marital home. Braggs and Doss went on to have four children, but eventually, the constant annoyance of Braggs’ mother turned Doss to heavy drinking and unfaithful behaviour. Then in 1927, two of Doss’ children passed away from suspected food poisoning. However, Braggs believed that Doss had murdered them, and he fled with their eldest child. When he returned, his mother had died, and Doss filed for divorce, taking back her child from Braggs.

Doss met her second husband, Robert (Frank) Harrelson, through a lonely-hearts column in a local newspaper. He was a violent drunk, but their marriage lasted for 16 years. During this time, Doss’ eldest daughter had two children, both of whom mysteriously died. Next to go was Harrelson, whom Doss dispatched via rat poison in his liquor after he wouldn’t stop abusing her while drunk. Her third husband, another heavy drinker, died in his sleep of apparent heart failure, after which Doss’ family home burned down. Doss received the insurance money, and then her third husband’s mother, and Doss’ own sister also mysteriously died.

The deaths continued with her fourth husband, Richard Morton, along with Doss’ own mother. She was finally caught when she poisoned her fifth husband, a nice churchgoing fellow named Samuel Doss. People were concerned when Samuel died so suddenly, and an autopsy was ordered that showed the poison. She was charged with only the murder of Samuel Doss, and died in prison.

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9. Blanche Moore – The Arsenic Poisoner

  • Country: America
  • Body Count: 3 confirmed (but thought to be 5)
  • Sentence: Death Penalty

Blanche Taylor Moore is now an 85-year-old woman, currently sitting on death row in North Carolina after being charged with three confirmed killings, and an attempted killing, through arsenic poisoning. Born to an amoral mother and an abusive, alcoholic father, Moore was allegedly pushed into prostitution by her father when she was just nine years old, in order to repay gambling debts. She married James Taylor in 1952, with whom she had two children. Around the time of her second child’s birth, her father died with the cause being listed as a heart attack.

Not long after this, Moore began having an affair with a manager at the store where she was working named Raymond Reid. Then in 1971, her husband James Taylor also died, with the cause being listed as a suspected heart attack. At this point, Moore and Reid began dating openly. By 1985, the relationship wasn’t interesting enough and Moore had allegedly started seeing another man named Kevin Denton, also a manager. When things didn’t work out, Moore filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company and won, proving her with $275,000.

The same year, she met a reverend named Dwight Moore, whom she started seeing secretly despite also being in a relationship with Reid. She asked that the reverend get her some arsenic-based ant killer, and in 1986, Reid started to get sick. He died in October of 1986 of suspected Guillain-Barré syndrome.

This freed Blanche up to marry the reverend, which she did in 1989 after a delay caused by Blanche’s own health problems. Not long after their honeymoon, the reverend collapsed after eating a chicken sandwich. He was eventually found to have more than 20 times a lethal dose of arsenic in his system, but amazingly survived. This led to exhumations on Taylor, Reid and Blanche’s father, proving that she had killed them as well. She was tried for the murder of Reid in the end, although she was implicated in several other deaths, and is currently appealing her death penalty.

Blanche Taylor Moore Investigated For Poisoning Multiple Husbands, On Death  Row | Crime News

10. Betty Neumar – Arsenic and Hit Men

  • Body Count: Possibly 4
  • Country: America
  • Sentence: Died before she could be sentenced

Betty Neumar, born Betty Johnson in 1931, was an American Black Widow who was married five times, and widowed five times. The first marriage happened in 1950 and dissolved in 1952. Although it’s unlikely that Betty was responsible, it’s interesting to note that her first husband, Clarence Malone, also died, but not until many years later in 1970.

Now back to Betty. She moved on quickly, marrying James A. Flynn not long after her first divorce, who adopted her son from her first marriage before being mysteriously shot on a pier in New York in 1955. Sometime in the mid-sixties, Betty married her third husband, Richard Sills, who was a Navy man. He also died in the mid-1960s, apparently after shooting himself during an argument the two were having. However, despite Neumar’s son asking the police to re-open the case, they ruled it a suicide.

Betty’s fourth husband was Thomas Harold Gentry, whom she married in 1968. This was the longest of her marriages so far, with Gentry managing to stay alive until 1986. This was when he was found in the couple’s North Carolina home shot multiple times. However, despite being husband number four who was shot, police still hadn’t connected the dots.

Things didn’t start to unravel until the death of her fifth husband, John Neumar, in 2007. Neumar’s official cause of death was sepsis, but his symptoms were similar to that of arsenic poisoning. His son urged police to investigate the death after Betty had him cremated, despite the man already buying a burial plot. His persistence paid off because in 2008, Betty was finally charged with hiring a hitman to kill her fourth husband, Thomas Harold Gentry.

None of the other murders could be proven, but Neumar died of an undisclosed illness in 2011 before justice could catch up with her and the truth could be revealed.

Monday Mystery: With 5 husbands dead, Augusta grandmother investigated

These black widows are truly evil….

10 Notorious Real Life Black Widows | Stay at Home Mum