Betty Lou Beets – Women Executed In The US

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Betty Lou Beets was executed by the State of Texas for the murder of her fifth husband.

Betty had a tough upbringing surrounded by abuse and a mother who was institutionalised when she was twelve and for being partly deaf due to a side effect of measles

Beets would get married the first time when she was just fifteen years old. The marriage was plagued with physical and sexual abuse.

Betty Lou would get married a total of six times including twice to the same time and none of them were good. Betty Lou Beets would shoot her second husband twice in the back of the head and would be acquitted at trial and for some reason she would marry him again though they would divorce a month later.

Betty would attempted to run over her third husband but thankfully he was able to survive

Betty Lou would marry Jimmy Don Beets and again everything went bad. Beets would report her husband missing in 1983. Betty Lou son would later tell police that his mother told him to leave the home and when he returned a couple of hours later Jimmy Don Beets was gone. The son would also tell police that his mother told him to put Jimmy heart medication and along with his mother they would push the boat into the link to make it appear that Jimmy Don Beets had died from accidental drowning. Jimmy Don Beets body was never found in the lake

In 1985 Betty Lou would be arrested and upon searching her home the police would find the charred remains of Jimmy Don Beets in a filled in wishing well. Police would also find the remains of one of Betty Lou Beets in the garage who had been fatally shot.

Beets would just be charged with the murder of Jimmy Don Beets however that was enough to be sentenced to death

Betty Lou Beets would be executed February 24, 2000 by lethal injection

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Lil Smith, owner of the Redwood Beach Marina, which is located between the communities of Kemp and Seven Points or between the communities of Seven Points and *716 Gun Barrel City on Cedar Creek Lake or Reservoir, testified that around 10:00 o’clock p.m. on August 6, 1983, several of her customers at the marina noticed an empty boat drifting on the lake near the marina. Two of her customers went and got the empty boat and brought it to shore. Found inside the boat was a fishing license with the name “Jimmy Don Beets” thereon.[5] The Coast Guard and Parks and Wildlife were notified and several of their personnel came to the marina. Smith then looked in the telephone book to see if anyone by the name of Jimmy Don Beets was listed, found that name, telephoned the listed number several times, and finally spoke to appellant and informed her about the empty boat and the finding of Beets’ fishing license.[6] Betty Lou Beets went to the marina and identified the boat and the fishing license as belonging to Beets, who was then her lawful husband.[7] Because of high winds, it was decided by the authorities that a search for Beets’ body would not commence until the next morning, August 7th.

Johnny Marr, a deputy sheriff for Henderson County, testified that at approximately 8:30 o’clock a.m. on August 7th, he and Hugh G. De Woody, the Fire Chief of the Payne Spring Fire Department, went to Betty Lou Beets residence to see if Beets had possibly returned home since he had been reported missing. Appellant told Marr that her husband “had went fishing the night before [on the lake and `had been having trouble with his boat’], and hadn’t returned Saturday morning.” Marr told appellant that as speed boat races were taking place on the lake that day, and because of the numerous boats that would be in the lake that day, it was likely that Beets’ body would be found by someone. When appellant testified, she denied that Marr and De Woody came to her residence that morning.

Mike Warren of the Parks and Wildlife Department testified that extensive search efforts were made by members of several different fire departments, which included members of the City of Dallas Fire Department, for whom Beets had been employed for approximately 26 years, members of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department, Coast Guard personnel, and many other persons. Although the search lasted for three weeks, Beets’ body was never recovered.

Denny Burris, a chaplain with the City of Dallas Fire Department, testified that he visited with appellant several times after Beets was reported missing. Burris testified that Betty Lou Beets made inquiry of him whether she was covered by any insurance policies that Beets might have had with the City of Dallas, as well as inquiring whether she would be entitled to receive any pension benefits that Beets might have accumulated. Appellant did not profess to Burris that she had any specific knowledge of either insurance coverage on Beets’ life or any pension benefits Beets might have accumulated. Burris told her that he did not know but would check into the matter and report back to her. Burris did check and learned that Beets’s life was insured with the total amount of insurance being approximately $110,000. He also learned that appellant would be entitled to receive approximately $1,200 each month from Beets’ pension benefits. Burris advised appellant of his findings, and also told her *717 that according to the City Attorney of Dallas that because Beets’ body had not been recovered there would be a seven year waiting period before any payment of insurance proceeds could occur.[8]

Rick Rose, an investigator for the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department, testified that he became directly involved in this case almost two years after Beets’ had disappeared. His direct involvement in the case occurred after “[he] received information from a [credible] confidential informant who gave [him] facts that there may be possible … questions [concerning the cause of the death] of Jimmy Don Beets.” This occurred sometime in the spring of 1985. At that time, neither Beets’ body nor the physical remains of his body had been found. As a result of Rose’s investigation, he secured an arrest warrant for Betty Lou Beets that charged her with the murder of Beets. Rose had her arrested on June 8, 1985 by members of the Mansfield Police Department, who turned her over to Rose, who booked her into the Henderson County Jail. The validity of the arrest warrant, which is not in the record of appeal, was not challenged in the trial court nor is it challenged on appeal in this Court. Rose testified that after appellant was incarcerated he went and secured “an evidentiary search warrant” to search Betty Lou Beets’s residence and its premises. The validity of the search warrant, which is also not in the record, was not challenged in the trial court nor is it challenged on appeal in this Court. Pursuant to the execution of the search warrant, physical remains of the bodies of Beets and Doyle Wayne Barker, another former husband of appellant’s, were found at different locations on the premises where Betty Lou Beets and Beets were living at the time Beets disappeared.[9] Beets’ remains were found buried in the “wishing well,”[10] which was located in the front yard of the residence. Barker’s remains were found buried under a storage shed located in the backyard of the residence. Two bullets were recovered from Beets’ remains. The remains of the two bodies were transported to the Dallas Forensic Science Laboratory where they were subsequently identified as being the remains of the bodies of Beets and Barker. A Collector’s item pistol that had been previously recovered from the appellant’s residence as a result of an incident that did not involve the appellant and was not directly related to the cause at Bar was also turned over to the Dallas laboratory.

Robert “Robbie” Franklin Branson, II, one of appellant’s sons, who we will hereinafter refer to as Robbie, testified. The trial judge later instructed the jury that Robbie was, as a matter of law, an accomplice witness to the Beets’ killing. Robbie, who was then on felony probation for committing a burglary that had occurred in Navarro County, which is unrelated to this case, testified that he was living with Betty Lou Beets and Beets on August 6, 1983, when *718 appellant falsely reported Beets missing; that appellant told him that she was going to kill Beets that evening; that Robbie then left the residence at the suggestion of appellant, because “she said she wanted me to leave and she didn’t want me to be around when she shot and killed him,” and remained absent for approximately two hours, after which he returned to the residence when he learned that his mother had actually shot and killed Beets during his absence. Robbie thereafter assisted appellant in placing Beets’ body in the “wishing well”, which he and Beets had previously constructed. The next day, after Betty Lou Beets put some of Beets’ heart pills in the boat that Beets owned and after Robbie took the propeller off the boat, Robbie took the boat to the main part of the lake, abandoned it, and was soon met by appellant near that location. The two then returned home. During cross-examination, the appellant’s attorney several times accused Robbie of being the actual killer of Beets, which Robbie denied. Robbie admitted that his participation with appellant in burying Beet’s body in the “wishing well” had preyed on his conscience. However, except for telling his ex-common-law wife who did not testify, Robbie remained silent on the subject for almost two years. Robbie testified that he remained silent because he wanted “to protect his mother.” However, after his mother was arrested, Robbie commenced cooperating with the authorities, “to protect his back[side].” Robbie testified that he knew of Barker, but had only seen him one time, and that he did not live with his mother and Barker when she and Barker were married and lived together.

Shirley Stegner, one of Betty Lou Beets’s daughters and a sister of Robbie, also testified for the prosecution. Shirley testified that her mother telephoned her on the night of August 6th and requested that Shirley come to her residence, which Shirley did. During the telephone conversation, Shirley asked her mother “if she had done what we had talked about before,” which conversation related to appellant previously telling Shirley that she was going to kill Beets, put Beets’ body in the boat, have Robbie take the boat out into the lake, where he would drop Beets’ body into the lake, and then set the boat adrift, so that it would look like Beets had accidentally drowned. Appellant responded: “Yes.” Shirley went to her mother’s residence but after she got there appellant informed her that “everything was taken care of and that I could go back home,” which she did. Shirley testified that several weeks later she returned to her mother’s residence when she was informed by Betty Lou Beets that “her and my brother Robbie had buried Jimmy Don Beets in the wishing well.” Shirley never testified that appellant had admitted to her that she had killed Beets in order to recover on any insurance policies or to receive any pension benefits that Beets might have had.

At this time during the trial, the trial judge conducted a hearing on the Betty Lou Beets’s motion to exclude any extraneous offense testimony going to the death of Barker, after which the trial judge overruled the motion, thus permitting the State to then present testimony going to the disappearance and death of Barker. See, however, post.

In the presence of the jury, Shirley testified that in October, 1981, almost two years before Beets disappeared, when her mother and Barker were married and living together, while she and her mother were “sitting around a campfire”, her mother told her that “she was going to kill Doyle Wayne Barker” because “she couldn’t put up with anymore of him beating her and that she didn’t want him around anymore.” Her mother also told her that “the trailer [house] was in his name and she was just a co-signer on it and that if they were to get a divorce, that he would end up with the trailer [house].” Approximately 3 or 4 days later, at Shirley’s residence, Shirley and her mother had another conversation, during which her mother told her that “it was all over with and she had done what she intended to do … She told [Shirley] that she waited until [Barker] went to sleep and then she got the gun and covered it with a pillow and pulled the trigger and when she pulled the trigger, the pillow [interfered] with the firing pin, so she hesitated *719 for a minute, afraid that Wayne was going to wake up, and she cocked the gun again and fired and shot him in the head.” Thereafter, Shirley assisted her mother in disposing of Barker’s body: “We drug him from the trailer outside to the back and put him in the hole that had already been dug [in order to build a barbeque pit].” Shirley further testified that “the next day [she and her mother] went and bought some cinder blocks and [built] a patio” over the hole in which Barker’s body had been placed. Subsequently, a large storage shed replaced the patio. During cross-examination, Shirley testified that although she had also been charged with the murder of Barker and her $1,000,000 bail bond had been reduced to $5,000 she had not been promised anything by the prosecution in exchange for her testimony against her mother. We pause to point out that in the conversations that Shirley had with her mother regarding Barker’s death, other than the reference to the trailer house, appellant did not admit to Shirley that she was going to kill Barker for financial gain. There is also no evidence whatsoever in the record that might reflect or indicate that appellant financially benefited from Barker’s death. There is also no evidence in the record that might reflect or indicate that the trailer house to which appellant referred and the trailer house in which Betty Lou Beets and Beets resided when Beets was reported missing are one and the same trailer house.

Rick Rose was recalled to testify. Rose testified to the recovery of the skeletal or physical remains of Beets and Barker’s bodies. See ante. The remains were transported to the Dallas Forensic Science Laboratory where they were subsequently identified as being the skeletal or physical remains of Beets and Barker’s bodies.

Dr. Charles S. Petty, the Chief Medical Examiner and Director of the Dallas County Forensic Science Laboratory, testified to the “post-mortem autopsy” that he performed on the skeletal remains that had been sent to the laboratory. Petty testified that he identified the bones as those of Beets and Barker’s bodies. Petty testified that the cause of death of Beets was “the gunshot wound defect in the skull and locating of not one but two bullets, one in the region of the skull and the other in the region of the bones of the trunk. In my opinion, death was due to one, if not two, gunshot wounds … One in the head and one in the trunk somewhere.” Two bullets were recovered from the skeletal remains of Beets’ body; one from the skull area of the body and one from the trunk area of the body.[11] Petty also testified that the bullets found in Beets’ skeletal remains could have been fired from the same weapon, but he was unable to positively testify that they were fired from the Collector’s item pistol. Three bullets were recovered from the skeletal remains of Barker’s body. Petty testified that the cause of Barker’s death was “gunshot wounds.”

Allen Jones, a firearms examiner employed by the Dallas County Forensic Science Laboratory, testified that he examined the recovered bullets, after which he formed the opinion that they were fired from a .38 calibre type weapon, which was the calibre of the Collector’s item pistol. Jones, however, was unable to positively testify that in his opinion the bullets that were fired came from the Collector’s item pistol that had been previously recovered from the appellant’s residence. See ante.

Jackie Collins, a niece of Beets who was also an employee of J.C. Penney Life Insurance Company, testified to Beets’ personally cancelling an insurance policy in the amount of $10,000 on May 19, 1983. The application, which had apparently been sent with a monthly J.C. Penney bill to either Beets or appellant or to both of them, had been filled out without Beets’ knowledge. What attracted Collins’ attention to the application was the fact that the address on the application was not Beets’ but was that of another of appellant’s daughters. Appellant *720 was the named beneficiary on the application. When appellant testified, she did not deny that she had filled out the application, signed Beets’ name to the application, and returned it with the monthly payment.

Peggy Sherrills Webb, an employee of the City of Dallas who was a “Benefits Supervisor with Personnel”, testified that Beets had a life insurance policy with the City in the amount of $86,000, with the appellant the named beneficiary of the policy.

George Chaney, a documents examiner who had been employed for 23 years by the Secret Service and was presently employed by James Leroy Lewis and Associates, documents examiners located in Dallas, testified that the signature on the J.C. Penney’s application, “J.D. Beets”, was signed by Betty Lou Beets , but that the signature “J.D. Beets,” that authorized the policy to be cancelled, was Beets’ actual signature. Chaney also testified that the signature on the certificate of transfer or bill of sale for the boat, “J.D. Beets”, which occurred when the boat was sold to the Mitchells, was signed by Betty Lou Beets . This, however, occurred on July 24, 1984, almost one year after Beets had disappeared. When Betty Lou Beets testified, she did not dispute the fact that she had sold the boat to the Mitchells nor did she dispute that she signed Beets’ name to the bill of sale.

Jerry Hast, an employee of the City of Dallas, who was the “Administrator of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund”, testified concerning an application for benefits that had been filed by an attorney on behalf of Betty Lou Beets , which occurred after the letters testamentary had issued. Hast testified that “The Pension Board” voted to approve a settlement with appellant for pension benefits. This settlement was going to be finalized on June 10, 1985. Hast also testified that the settlement was cancelled after members of the Board learned that Betty Lou Beets had been arrested for murdering Beets. The appellant would have received $15,852.59 plus a monthly benefit of $790.42 for the rest of her life or until she remarried had the settlement been finalized. Whether the $15,852.59 referred to any insurance policies is not reflected in the record on appeal. As previously pointed out, our Probate Code prohibits distribution of a missing person’s estate until three years from the date the letters testamentary issued have expired.

E. Stewart Elrich, Jr., Manager of the Group Life Claims Department of Republic National Life Group Insurance Company, testified that his company had issued a life insurance policy on Beets’ life in the amount of $23,428. The policy also contained an accidental death provision in the amount of $20,000. At some time, presumably after March 5, 1985 when the letters testamentary issued, an attorney wrote the company on behalf of Betty Lou Beets stating that “an application had been made for administration of an estate.” No action was ever taken on the attorney’s letter.

At this time during the trial the State rested. Hon. Billy Bandy, the prosecuting attorney, soon thereafter stated into the record that he rested when he did because “I always wait until it’s the mood strikes me and then I rest … [T]he way things went, I decided to just shut it down [when I did].” Counsel for appellant then stated: “You think it’s going that good, huh?” Bandy did not verbally respond to counsel’s question. From remarks in the record, we can infer that when the State rested when it did that this may have caught appellant’s counsel by surprise.[11A] The careful trial judge, however, informed appellant’s counsel that he would give him whatever time he might need before proceeding, but counsel declined the offer: “No, I don’t need anymore time. I’ll be here at nine in the morning”, and counsel did appear as promised.

Betty Lou Beets first had Faye Lane, another of her daughters, testify. Lane testified that neither Robbie nor Shirley ever mentioned to her that their mother admitted to them that she had killed Beets or Barker or participated in burying them after they had been killed. Lane also testified that *721 “everything that [Robbie has] ever told her, [she] believed.”

Raymond Bone, who lived with Betty Lou Beets after Beets’ disappeared, testified. Bone testified that he entered into an agreement with law enforcement officials, in particular Rose, that he would keep them posted at all times as to the whereabouts of appellant, and he did. It is obvious to us from the testimony that was adduced, as it must have been to the jury, that before appellant was arrested Bone had notified the authorities where she would then be located. Why Rose and Henderson County authorities, rather than Mansfield authorities, did not arrest Betty Lou Beets when she was arrested is not clear from the record. Bone testified that he did not believe that appellant was guilty of killing Beets, which conclusion was based upon the following: “I lived with her and … she always treated me decent.” There is no evidence in the record that appellant ever attempted to kill Bone or made arrangements for his disappearance. Bone’s financial condition, which appears to have been lacking, was not directly brought out at trial.

Bobby Wayne Branson, another son of Betty Lou Beets , who we will refer to as “Bobby”, testified that before Beets disappeared, Robbie, his brother, and Beets had a “couple” of arguments and fights over various and sundry things, several of which occurred after Beets, appellant, Bobby, and a friend of Bobby’s had taken a vacation trip to Virginia where they visited with Betty Lou Beets ‘s mother and father and her relatives. The vacation trip occurred just “a couple of weeks” before Beets disappeared, and from everyone who testified that was familiar with the trip it appears to have been a happy trip. There was also testimony that before Beets and appellant lawfully married in 1982 the two of them took a trip to Virginia to attend appellant’s brother’s funeral. Bobby also testified that when his mother and Barker were married and living together he lived with them “part of the time.” Bobby further testified that when he noticed that Barker was no longer to be seen around the house, he asked his mother where he had gone. She replied: “[H]e was just gone … he left.”

Betty Lou Beets herself testified. In reference to the killing of Beets, her former husband to whom she had been lawfully married less than one year, appellant’s testimony was contrary to what Robbie had testified in that she testified that it was Robbie, and not her, who had shot and killed Beets, and that she merely assisted Robbie in disposing of his body. Appellant testified: “I could never hurt Jimmy Don … I loved Jimmy Don. Nobody’s ever been as good to me as he was.” The record either reflects or indicates that Robbie had commenced living with appellant and Beets after he was released from jail for a burglary offense that he committed in Navarro County, and that prior to that time he had lived with his natural father. Betty Lou Beets’s attorney, who accused Robbie during his cross-examination of being the murderer of Beets, see ante, represented Robbie when he was accused, convicted, and placed on probation for committing the burglary in Navarro County. The bail bond fee and the attorney’s fee apparently were paid by Beets. Betty Lou Beets admitted during her testimony that she falsely reported Beets missing. Betty Lou Beets also testified that after she, Beets, Bobby, and Bobby’s friend returned from their vacation trip to Virginia, she and Beets suspected that Robbie had broken the propeller on the boat, which had also been hot wired; that Robbie had caused the tires on her truck, which was muddy and dirty, and not clean as it was when they left on their trip, to become flat; that Robbie took money out of a whiskey bottle that belonged to Beets; and caused the inside of the trailer house to become untidy. Betty Lou Beets testified that this highly upset Beets. Robbie denied doing these things and blamed Shirley. Betty Lou Beets testified that during the evening when Beets was supposed to have gone boating, before going to bed, he, Beets, and Robbie got into an argument over the above as well as over Robbie quitting his job. Betty Lou Beets testified that the argument occurred when she was in the living room and Beets and Robbie were in the bedroom. The argument generated *722 into fisticuffs.[12] Betty Lou Beets testified that soon thereafter she heard a shot fired from a pistol. She then went into the bedroom where she saw Beets, whose head was bleeding and had blood coming from his mouth, lying on the floor. Betty Lou Beets then told Robbie to go and find his brother Bobby, which Robbie did. Appellant then attempted to care for Beets, who appears to have then been dead, by putting a bedsheet over his body and telling him that if he were still alive he would understand that she and Robbie were going to bury him in their front yard in order to protect Robbie. Appellant testified that she telephoned Shirley and asked her to come to the trailer house, which Shirley did. When Shirley arrived, Beets’ body was still in the bedroom. Shirley did not see the body. Shirley was told by Betty Lou Beets that Beets had gone to Dallas that evening with a friend. After appellant told Shirley “everything was all right”, Shirley left and returned to her residence in Dallas. Betty Lou Beets and Robbie then waited until Bobby was asleep, after which they took Beets’ body and “put it into the planter. It wasn’t a wishing well.” Betty Lou Beets told Robbie that if the authorities ever found Beets’ body to say that he knew nothing about it “[a]nd that [she] would take the blame.” Betty Lou Beets’s testimony regarding the other events that occurred that evening and the days that followed regarding finding Beets’ body is pretty much cumulative to the other testimony that was adduced, except she denied that Marr and De Woody had come to her residence the Saturday morning after Beets was reported missing. Betty Lou Beets testified that knowing Beets’ body was buried in the front yard of their residence “bothered her and it always will. I had to move out of the trailer for a while. I couldn’t stay there. When it got dark, I couldn’t leave the living room and I couldn’t go outside.” Betty Lou Beets also testified that approximately one year later Robbie told her that “we needed to move the body”, but appellant told him that “I couldn’t go through with it again.” As to where the remains of Beets’s body might now be, Betty Lou Beets testified that she did not know but testified that “I hope it was where his mama and daddy want him to be and where I bought the lots at.” Betty Lou Beets further testified that it was one of her attorneys, and not she, who suggested that she try and recover on the insurance policy or policies. She testified that “I didn’t expect to get any of it … I’ve never felt like I was entitled to anything.” She admitted that she had sold Beets’ boat, tried to sell a house that appears to have been Beets’ separate property, and also testified that the house, which had mysteriously burned, was for sale before Beets disappeared. She admitted that she had tried to recover on a fire insurance policy, at her attorney’s suggestion. She further admitted that she tried to take out the J.C. Penney insurance policy but that Beets cancelled it, after which he told her not to do such again until they had had an opportunity to discuss it. The facts are undisputed that other than several salary checks and the proceeds from the boat sale, Betty Lou Beets did not receive any other sums of money as a result of Beets’ death. Betty Lou Beets admitted that she had been previously convicted of a misdemeanor offense, which, on cross-examination, was shown to have been for public lewdness, which apparently occurred when she was in Charlie’s Angels Bar, a Dallas bar, where she was then employed but was not working when whatever occurred happened. Betty Lou Beets testified that she “auditioned” that night, without specifying what type audition it was for: “Well, it’s a topless place but I wasn’t topless.” Betty Lou Beets also admitted on cross-examination that she had been convicted of another misdemeanor offense that resulted when she shot another former husband, Bill Lane, in the side and stomach. We have not been made privy to the details of the Lane shooting. There is no evidence that Betty Lou Beets ever tried to kill Lane or cause Lane to disappear so that she could financially benefit from Lane’s death. On cross examination, she denied knowing that *723 Barker was buried in the backyard of her residence.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. When Was Betty Lou Beets Executed

    Betty Lou Beets was executed by lethal injection on February 24, 200

  2. Why Was Betty Lou Beets Executed

    Betty Lou Beets was executed for the murder of her fifth husband

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