March 30, 1998
Florida
Judias “Judy” Buenoano is executed for the murder of her husband

On September 16, 1971, James Goodyear died at the age of 37; his cause of death was attributed to pneumonia and heart failure. His wife Judy Goodyear received $33,000 in life insurance benefits as well as $62,000 in indemnity compensation from the Veterans Administration. After her husband’s death, Judy changed her surname to Buenoano in an attempt to convert the name to Spanish. However, Buenoaño would have been a more accurate translation (año means year while ano means anus).

Buenoano began a relationship with Bobby Joe Morris and the pair lived together for three years, eventually moving from Florida to Trinidad, Colorado. Buenoano purchased a $30,000 life insurance policy on Morris’ life, claiming to be his wife when she took out the policy in December of 1977. In January of 1978, Morris was admitted to the hospital for low blood pressure. The medical staff could find no cause for the illness and released him when he recovered. He worsened, however, and was readmitted with new symptoms. He died days later on January 28, 1978.

On May 13, 1980, Buenoano’s 19-year-old son was killed while canoeing with his mother and younger brother. In 1979, Michael had developed a paralysis which affected his limbs, caused by “unidentified toxins.” He was given metal braces to assist with mobility, with each weighing roughly 15 lbs. (6.8 kg). According to the younger brother’s testimony years later, a series of events led to a fishing line pulling a tree branch which in turn dumped a snake into the canoe the family was using. The ensuing confusion caused the canoe to capsize and Michael, weighed down by his braces, drowned. Buenoano received over $100,000 from Michael’s insurance policy which had been taken out months before his death.

Buenoano next met John Gentry, and the pair became engaged. Buenoano soon took out an insurance policy on her fiancé’s life for $510,000, without his knowledge. Gentry became ill suddenly and was prescribed a tranquilizer, though Buenoano never filled the prescription. Instead, she offered vitamin C capsules (later revealed to have been the poison paraformaldehyde). Gentry recovered. On June 25, 1983 as Gentry turned the ignition to his car, a bomb exploded. Gentry survived but lost portions of his intestines, stomach, kidney, and liver.

While investigating the near-fatal explosion, police turned their attention to Buenoano, finding the death of her son to be suspicious. She was tried for both the murder of Michael and the attempted murder of Gentry. Buenoano denied involvement in either incident, though she did admit responsibility for Michael’s death. “I feel responsible for that,” she said. “I feel responsible for him being there.”

Buenoano’s defense attorney James Johnston called his client “a fine person and a loving mother,” and claimed the deaths which followed her had been a coincidence. The prosecution, on the other hand, argued she was motivated by financial gain from the insurance policies. She was convicted of both crimes, receiving a life sentence for Michael’s murder and 12 years for the bombing.

Because of the conviction for Michael’s murder, James’ death became suspicious as well and his body was exhumed. A tissue sample analyzed which showed he had high levels of arsenic in his system. Buenoano was charged with her husband’s murder and convicted, receiving the death sentence. Morris’ body was also exhumed and high levels of arsenic were found, but as Buenoano had already been sentenced to death she was not tried for his murder.

Buenoano was executed in the electric chair on March 30, 1998 at the age of 54, becoming the first woman to be executed in the state of Florida since 1848.

Sources:
““Black widow” hopes for memory as good mother.” Tampa Bay Times. Archived: September 12, 2005. Accessed: March 30, 2021. https://www.tampabay.com/archive/1998/03/24/black-widow-hopes-for-memory-as-good-mother/
Hallifax, Jackie. “‘Black Widow’ To Go to the Chair.” Associated Press. February 9, 1998. https://apnews.com/article/b41d1b30de8b72fa71c4022a4e074d0c
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit. IN RE: Judy A. BUENOANO, Petitioner. No. 98-1104. Decided: March 29, 1998. Archived: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-11th-circuit/1097413.html
Duffy, Brian. “‘Black Widow’ Caught In Own Web.” Chicago Tribune. November 14, 1985
Judy A. Buenoano, Petitioner-appellant, v. Harry K. Singletary, Respondent-appellee, 963 F.2d 1433 (11th Cir. 1992). June 4, 1992. Archived: https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/963/1433/243394/
Harakas, Margo. “The Black Widow.” South Florida Sun Sentinel. July 1, 1990
Shaw, Anna V. “A woman accused of dumping her paralyzed son out.” UPI. March 26, 1984. https://www.upi.com/Archives/1984/03/26/A-woman-accused-of-dumping-her-paralyzed-son-out/8981449125200/
Bennett, Elaine. “Eagan wants to test body for arsenic.” The Orlando Sentinel. March 9, 1984
“The Black Widow.” United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. Accessed: March 30, 2021. https://www.flmd.uscourts.gov/black-widow
Judias V. Buenoano. Clark County Prosecutor. Accessed: March 30, 2021. http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/US/buenoano450.htm
Robbins, H. Franklin Jr. and Mason, Steven G. “Florida’s Forgotten Execution: The Strange Case of Celia.” Florida Court History. https://www.flcourthistory.org/Resources/Documents/Execution.pdf

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