If you're a Texas native, you know to be on the lookout for the venomous black widow spider. Hidden in the dark recesses of sheds and basements, one bite can do serious harm, or even kill you. Adorned with a red hourglass, we know how to spot them, and where they are most likely to be. But what if that "black widow" is walking around in the guise of a human being?

The alternate definition for "black widow" is

A woman who kills her husband or lover, especially one who kills multiple husbands or lovers.
But there's more connotation to the term, isn't there? We use black widow to infer that the male of the species was somehow drained of their resources and left a husk by a female predator. Working with that definition, we have a perfect example: Betty Lou Beets, who was executed by the State of Texas for killing two of her five husbands. Or do we? Of course, there are two sides to the story, and Betty's is much different than the State of Texas's narrative.
Texas Department of Corrections, with edits
Texas Department of Corrections, with edits

Betty was not a stupid woman. She might have gotten away with her murders had her son, Robert Branson, not alerted authorities. In August of 1983, Betty reported her fifth husband Jimmy Don Beets as missing. He had supposedly gone on a boat trip but never returned. Henderson County, Texas authorities searched for Jimmy for three weeks. All they ever found was his boat floating abandoned in the waters. Had Jimmy drowned?

Nearly two years passed before officials got a break in Jimmy's disappearance- a credible witness gave them information. That credible witness was Robert, who told authorities that his mother had shot Jimmy dead and that the two shoved Jimmy's body into an ornamental wishing well in their front yard. The abandoned boat had been staged by Betty- and then sold a year later. Investigators got a warrant and found human remains, but Jimmy wasn't the only body on the property.

Also found was Betty's other missing husband, her fourth, Doyle Wayne Barker. His body was in the backyard under a storage shed. He had also been shot to death. Not found was Betty's second husband, who Betty had shot in the head- because he survived and Betty was allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor assault.


Ironically, both dead men had been shot on the outskirts of Gun Barrel City, Texas. It doesn't get more "on the nose" than that. But why had Betty killed them?

Prosecutors claimed that she killed [Jimmy Beets] for a $100,000 insurance policy. She claims she killed him because she was a victim of abuse (though she originally tried to blame two of her children for the murder).

Betty attempted to appeal her conviction- that carried the death penalty- because she had not been allowed to testify to the abuse she said she suffered at the hands of these men. However, her appeals were denied and eventually ran out. Betty was executed in February 2000, one of 40 Texas death row inmates to die during that particularly busy year. Governor George W. Bush was running for president, and some say he allowed for so many executions that year to appear "tough on crime".

Did Betty kill and attempt to kill her husband for money, like a true "Black Widow"? Or was she misunderstood, like so many creepy crawlies are? I think the answer is both. I think she very well could have been abused and decided to get her own "financial compensation".  But that rarely works, and it certainly didn't turn out well for Betty.

Can You Help Solve Any of These 24 East Texas Cold Cases?

Crime is a terrible thing. Luckily, we've got a dedicated group of police officers and investigators that work around to the clock to bring those responsible for breaking the law to justice. Unfortunately, not every case is closed. Authorities in East Texas are hoping that someone might have a key piece of information that could help them crack these 24 cold cases wide open. If you know anything, please reach out to the Tyler Police Department at 903-531-1000, or Tyler Smith County Crime-Stoppers at 903-597-2833.

SEARCHING: Texas Girls Reported Missing In 2023

Below is a list of female youths from Texas who have been reported missing. The contact information for their hometown law enforcement has been provided for each one.

This is a continuously updated list and once a youth has been located, they will be removed from the list.

All information taken from MissingKids.org

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