ALBEMARLE, N.C. --- A former police officer and a neighbor said Wednesday that a Georgia grandmother who now has five dead spouses tried to hire them to kill her fourth husband more than two decades ago.
Former police officer Allen Lawrence told The Associated Press that he had warned North Carolina authorities repeatedly for two months before Harold Gentry was shot to death in 1986 that Betty Gentry -- now Betty Neumar -- wanted her husband dead.
Mrs. Neumar was desperate for money and wanted to collect on her husband's $20,000 life insurance policy, according to an indictment issued Tuesday.
"I've been living with this for 22 years, wondering if there was anything else I could have done," Mr. Lawrence said. "It's always bothered me. I know I did everything I could. But it still keeps me up at night."
Mrs. Neumar, 76, is charged with three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. She was first arrested and charged in May with one solicitation count, but authorities now say she tried to hire three different people to kill Gentry in the six weeks before his bullet-riddled body was found in his rural North Carolina home.
Since her arrest, authorities in Georgia, Ohio and Florida have started to re-examine the deaths of her first child and four of the five men she married.
Authorities in Richmond County are still waiting for an analysis of the ashes of John Neumar, Mrs. Neumar's fifth husband. Mr. Neumar was cremated soon after his death at the Augusta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in October.
Authorities seized Mr. Neumar's ashes while serving a search warrant at the home on May 30. Investigators have said it could take two to four months for forensic tests to return from the private Pennsylvania lab where the ashes were sent. Authorities are hoping to test for traces of poison, especially arsenic, in light of the recent investigations into Mrs. Neumar's background.
Mrs. Neumar's attorney, Charles Parnell, did not return messages left Wednesday seeking comment. His client remains in Stanly County jail on a $500,000 bond.
The indictment accuses Mrs. Neumar of trying to hire Mr. Lawrence and two women, Debbie Parker and Kathy Eudy, to kill Gentry. Ms. Parker is Mr. Lawrence's sister-in-law and both women were Mrs. Neumar's neighbors.
"It got to the point where all she would talk about was how much she hated Harold," Ms. Eudy told the AP. "She said he was cheating on her and she wanted to get him back. ... Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I stopped going over there."
Mr. Lawrence said Wednesday that he had recently left the Albemarle police department in 1986 to focus on his swimming pool supply business when he met Mrs. Neumar. She was talking with a clearly upset Ms. Parker inside his store, he said.
"So I walked over and (Ms. Parker) said to me: 'Can you talk some sense into her?' " he said.
Even though he didn't know her, he said Mrs. Neumar asked him to kill her husband.
"It was bizarre. I didn't know what to think. I told her she shouldn't even say something like that. I said it's not right and she eventually left the store," Mr. Lawrence said.
She returned to the store twice, each time to make the same request. "She was persistent," he said.
Mr. Lawrence said she offered him money and was clear about how she wanted Gentry killed. He declined to elaborate on those details, citing the pending nature of the case.
Staff reports were used in this article.