Black Widows, we aren’t talking about the spiders, but these species are just as deadly. Women who choose to kill their spouses or boyfriends and may kill others are referred to as Black Widows. Judy Buenoano is no exception, but luckily, she was caught when her death toll was relatively low.
Born in April 1943, Judias Welty was the third of four children. She had two older siblings and then her younger brother Robert. At four years old, her mother died, and she and Robert were sent to live with her grandparents. Her father remarried and Judy and Robert went to live with her father and stepmother in New Mexico. Judy would later claim that she was abused, starved and forced to work as a slave. She attacked her father’s new family at 14 years old and went to prison for two months. Upon her release she went to reform school and graduated in 1960. The next year her son, Michael was born.
Having an illegitimate son was difficult, but she met an Air Force Officer, James Goodyear, and they got married in 1962. James and Judy would have two children of their own, and James adopted Michael.
James would go on to have a tour in Vietnam, and in 1971 he was back home. Shortly after returning home, he began to get sick. Mysterious symptoms began and he was later admitted to the hospital. Unfortunately, James would pass away from his illness. Judy was able to collect on the insurance money and tried to move on with her life. Later in the same year, the house that she and her three children lived in caught on, nobody was injured but she did collect more insurance money.
In 1973, Judy started a new relationship with Bobby Joe Morris. Bobby Joe moved from Florida to Colorado for work and Judy and her children followed not long after. But it wasn’t long for Bobby Joe to start to feel sick as well. He was having mysterious symptoms and was admitted to the hospital. After being released he collapsed at home and was again admitted to the hospital. He died two days later in January 1978. Luckily for Judy, she had taken out insurance policies on him and was able to collect the money. Later in the year, Judy Goodyear changed her name to Judy Buenoano.
Returning to Florida, Judy’s eldest son, Michael joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Georgia. After visiting his mother and returning back to base, Michael began to get sick, and showed signs of poisoning. The doctors found high levels of arsenic in his system. Sadly, Michael’s goal to have a career in the Army was taken away a few weeks later. His muscles in his arms and legs had atrophied to the point he could not use his hands, nor walk without braces. He was discharged and returned to his mother’s home in Florida.
Michael had become withdrawn and to cheer him up, Judy took her sons, Michael and James out on a canoe in the East River. During their trip, the canoe overturned, and Judy and James were able to swim to shore, but Michael was wearing his heavy metal braces on his legs and would drown in the accident. Michael’s military life insurance policy paid out $20,000 and Judy would go on to open a beauty salon.
She also had a new man in her life. A businessman from Florida, John Gentry, it became serious and in October 1982, they were engaged. At this point Judy got John to agree to take out life insurance policies on both of them. And she encouraged him to start taking some vitamins to help him stay healthy.
The vitamins were not working and in December 1982, he became ill and was hospitalized. When in the hospital he wasn’t taking the vitamins and began to feel better. In 1983, John was injured when his car exploded. The police were investigating the explosion and started to find discrepancies in Judy’s background.
Eventually it was discovered that Judy had been giving John vitamins that contained arsenic. This was enough to warrant an exhumation of her son, Michael, her first husband, James Goodyear, and Bobby Joe Morris. The exhumations showed that each had been a victim of arsenic poisoning, and until the car bombing Judy had not been investigated for suspicion in their deaths.
By 1984, Judy was convicted in the murders of her son Michael and the attempted murder of John Gentry. She was sentenced to a 12-year sentence for John Gentry and life for Michael Goodyear. The following year she was convicted for the murder of James Goodyear and received a death sentence.
There were also convictions for multiple counts of grand theft and arson as a means to gain insurance money. She was also suspected in the deaths of several others in 1974 in Alabama and in 1980 with the death of her boyfriend Geral Dossett.
Judy would never admit to any of the crimes she was convicted of and in 1998, at the age of 54, she was the first woman executed in Florida since 1848, and the third executed in the United States since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.