Neumar's ashes show no poison

Richmond County authorities said Wednesday they are closing their investigation into the death of the husband of Betty Neumar after receiving forensic results from his ashes.

 

Investigators seized the ashes of John Neumar on May 30, after the arrest of his wife on suspicion that she solicited help in the shooting death of Harold Gentry, her fourth husband.

Initially, they were looking for traces of poison, especially arsenic, in Mr. Neumar's remains. But the results from the Pennsylvania lab where the ashes underwent tests showed only traces of the heavy element barium -- a compound often used as a radiocontrast agent in X-ray tests of the digestive system.

Mr. Neumar died at the Augusta VA in October of a condition called sepsis, which often afflicts the elderly and is caused by bacterial, fungal, viral or parasitic infections of the bloodstream or tissues.

Because he died in a hospital under a doctor's care, the coroner's office did not examine the body.

Richmond County Homicide Investigator James Kelly said barium is common in medical tests, such as a CT scan, and that Mr. Neumar had many before his death. Investigators received his ashes last week and have spent the past few days discussing the results with his doctors.

"We're going to end up closing the case," Investigator Kelly said. "He had many medical problems, so it looks like it was just that time."

Ms. Neumar, 76, was indicted July 23 in Albemarle, N.C., where she once lived with Mr. Gentry. She is charged with three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder.

Authorities in North Carolina said she tried to hire three people to kill Mr. Gentry in the weeks before he was found shot to death in his home more than two decades ago. After her arrest in Augusta, authorities in Ohio, Florida and in Richmond County started to re-examine the deaths of four of the five men she married and her first child. Three of her husbands and her first son died of gunshot wounds.

Investigator Kelly said the finding doesn't come as a surprise. Authorities have said it would have been difficult to build a case against Mrs. Neumar even if they found traces of other chemicals.

"We really weren't working a homicide anyway," Investigator Kelly said.

"It was virtually impossible to turn it into a homicide without a confession or something along those lines."

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

THE CHRONICLE BROKE THE STORY OF THE CASE AGAINST BETTY NEUMAR BEING DROPPED AT 2:33 P.M. WEDNESDAY.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.