Suspect's past holds other dead husbands

Special
Augusta resident Betty Neumar is accused of hiring someone to kill her husband in 1986.

The woman charged in a murder-for-hire plot against her husband 22 years ago has been married five times, and all of her husbands are dead, the North Carolina sheriff who's investigating the case said Friday.

John K. Neumar, of Grovetown, said he doubts his father, who was wed to Betty Neumar when he died in October, knew his wife had so many previous dead spouses. Stanly County Sheriff Rick Burris said he has no information about Mr. Neumar's father or the other three men.

"It's an ongoing investigation," he said. "We've got a lot of work to do."

Ms. Neumar, 76, is in the Richmond County jail awaiting extradition, charged with solicitation to commit murder. She's accused of hiring a killer to shoot a past husband, Thomas Harold Gentry, in 1986.

Relatives found Mr. Gentry, 48, dead inside the couple's home in Norwood, about 45 miles east of Charlotte, while his wife was out of town. He had been shot repeatedly.

The sheriff was vague about how the cold case became hot again. He said the case was reviewed, and investigators "stumbled across some new information."

They haven't identified who Ms. Neumar is accused of hiring to do the killing, but they're working on it, the sheriff said. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is also involved, and Mr. Neumar said investigators want to interview him next week.

In Augusta, Ms. Neumar lived on Cambridge Court off Berckmans Road, married to John E. Neumar, who died at age 79 at the Downtown Division of the Augusta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.

Mr. Neumar's son and daughter-in-law, Janet, say they have questions about his death. They said Ms. Neumar had the body cremated before his children and grandchildren knew he had died, which they only learned of when they read his newspaper obituary. They didn't even know he was sick.

"We've got questions and we want answers," Janet Neumar said. "Every time we try to find out something, we hit a brick wall."

Before Mr. Neumar died, his wife seemed the picture of an Augusta retiree, dancing with her Navy veteran husband at American Legion functions and parking a U-Haul truck on Boy Scout Road to collect donations for Kentucky flood victims.

But her stepson and his wife said they never had a good relationship with her. Mr. Neumar met her at a beauty salon where she worked, and after they married she put a wedge between him and his children, John K. Neumar said.

She'd refuse to pass the phone to his father when he called, and when he and his wife visited, they got a cold reception, the son said.

"The last few years of his life, we hardly ever talked to him," Mr. Neumar said. "It was like she did something to him where he wasn't even the same person. It was like we didn't even exist."

In 1997, his father and stepmother were in the news when they collected goods for flood victims in Falmouth, Ky. According to The Augusta Chronicle's archives, she said she could relate to the Kentuckians because her home in Key West, Fla., was flooded by a hurricane in 1964.

The couple set out on a trip to Falmouth in a truck loaded with bottled water, canned goods, clothes and letters from A. Brian Merry Elementary School pupils.

"I not only feel their pain," Ms. Neumar said at the time, "I know their pain."

Night City Editor Preston Sparks contributed to this article.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.