Link to BBC Homepage

Front Page







World News in Audio

On Air


Talking Point


Low Graphics


Site Map

Monday, March 30, 1998 Published at 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK

World: Americas

Black Widow executed
image: [ Judy Buenoano's supporters hoped for an 11th-hour reprieve ]
Judy Buenoano's supporters hoped for an 11th-hour reprieve

A woman known as the "Black Widow" who poisoned her husband, drowned her paralysed son and tried to blow up her fiance has been executed in the electric chair.

The BBC's Simon Whelan reports (1'17')
Judy Buenoano, 54, was the first woman put to death in Florida since 1848 and the third woman executed in the United States since the death penalty was re-instated in 1976 by the Supreme Court.

Prison officials said the routine of her execution would be the same as for the 41 men who have already died sitting in Old Sparky, the nickname for Florida's electric chair.

"Coldest killer"

After being jailed, Buenoano taught Bible studies to other inmates and claims to be a born-again Christian.

[ image: The Black Widow prepares for her execution]
The Black Widow prepares for her execution
But Detective Ted Chamberlain of Pensacola police, Florida, said: "She was the coldest killer I ever knew."

In 1971, Buenoano welcomed her husband Air Force Sergeant James Goodyear home from Vietnam and fed him a steady diet of arsenic until he died. She collected $85,000 (£50,500) insurance money.

Nine years later she pushed her handicapped son out of a canoe and watched him drown. She collected $125,000 (£74,000) from insurance policies.

Buenoano was convicted of the murders in 1985. By then she was already in jail for trying to blow up a boyfriend in 1983.

Past catching up

She had changed her name from Goodyear to Buenoano to distance herself from the first murders before meeting her new boyfriend John Gentry.

[ image: Gentry: Survived the Black Widow]
Gentry: Survived the Black Widow
In 1983 Mr Gentry's car was blown up. He survived the attack but it was the beginning of the end for the Black Widow.

Mr Gentry told detectives about the vitamin pills Buenoano had given him. Forensic tests showed they contained arsenic.

She was convicted of attempted murder in 1983 but detectives digging into her past discovered the deaths of her husband and son.

Like Velma Barfield and Karla Faye Tucker, the two other women executed in the United States since 1976, Buenoano says she has found religion and counts many evangelicals among her friends.

Tucker was executed by lethal injection in Texas earlier this year and Barfield died in North Carolina, also by lethal injection, in 1984.

Buenoano also maintained her innocence, although the courts have rejected her appeals.

Detective Chamberlain said: "Judy just went one murder too far. If she'd just let that last boyfriend alone, she probably could have walked away from the other murders."

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage


Link to BBC Homepage

  Relevant Stories

23 Mar 98 | World
'Old Sparky' executes serial killer

04 Feb 98 | World
Tucker: I'm going to Jesus now

28 Dec 97 | Despatches
Number of US executions hits 40-year high

  Internet Links

Death Penalty Information Centre

Women On Death Row in America

Pro Death Penalty page

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
In this section

From Business
Microsoft trial mediator appointed

Safety chief deplores crash speculation

From Entertainment
Taxman scoops a million

Violence greets Clinton visit

Bush outlines foreign policy

Boy held after US school shooting

Memorial for bonfire dead

Senate passes US budget

New constitution for Venezuela

North Korea expels US 'spy'

Hurricane Lenny abates

UN welcomes US paying dues

Chavez praises 'advanced' constitution

In pictures: Castro strikes out Chavez

WTO: arbitration in EU-Ecuador banana dispute

Colombian army chief says rebels defeated

Colombian president lambasts rebels

Americas Contents

Country profiles