Free on bond, Neumar awaits trial

One year ago today, Richmond County Sheriff's Investigator Josh Faison led a slight, white-haired grandmother down the steps of her west Augusta home and into a police car.

 

He didn't know it at the time, but the woman who politely cooperated that day soon would be under scrutiny in the deaths of five former husbands -- gaining a Black Widow nickname and attracting international media attention.

"She was calm, not excited or anything," said Investigator Faison, who led Betty Neumar, then 76, away from her Cambridge Court home without handcuffs. "We told her some people from North Carolina wanted to talk to her, and she said, 'Sure.' "

Ms. Neumar -- now free on bond -- is charged with three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, accused of trying to hire three different people to kill her fourth husband, Harold Gentry, in the 1980s.

The case has been moving through the system for 12 months, but it's likely to be some time before a trial date is set, according to Stanly County, N.C., authorities.

Ms. Neumar's attorney, Charles Parnell, said in a telephone interview that he is going through nearly 9,000 pages of discovery documents related to his client's case. He said the next step is for the state to finish with its case and set the trial date.

He would not say where Ms. Neumar is, but did say she's doing "OK," adjusting to the media attention.

"Considering all things, she's just doing what she's got to do, as far as adapting to whatever she needs to do," he said. "I'm sure it's tough."

Ginger Efrid, of the Stanly County District Attorney's Office, said the case is still pending.

"I don't know at this point when a trial date will be set on it," Ms. Efrid said this week.

The bullet-riddled body of Mr. Gentry, Ms. Neumar's fourth husband, was found in 1986 in their rural North Carolina home about 45 miles east of Charlotte. Last July's indictment against Ms. Neumar alleged she sought out a former police officer and her neighbor to kill her husband in the months before his death.

She needed cash and was trying to collect on her husband's $20,000 life insurance, the indictment said. The case was reopened last year after two decades of pleading from Al Gentry, her dead husband's brother.

After her arrest, authorities in Ohio, Florida and Augusta re-examined the deaths of her first child and the other four of her five husbands.

Richmond County investigators seized the ashes of her fifth husband, John Neumar, from their home in Augusta on May 30. They had the ashes examined for traces of arsenic, which authorities believed could have been a factor in Mr. Neumar's death. The tests were negative.

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

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TIMELINE

Harold Gentry, Betty Neumar's fourth husband, was found shot to death in their Norwood, N.C., home in July 1986. Nearly 22 years later, Ms. Neumar was charged with three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder in Mr. Gentry's death and came under scrutiny in the deaths of her first child and four other husbands. A look at the events of the past year:

MAY 2008: Richmond County Sheriff's deputies take Ms. Neumar into custody. Later, they return to her Cambridge Court home in west Augusta to serve a search warrant and seize several items, including an urn containing the ashes of her fifth husband, John Neumar.

JUNE 2008: Ms. Neumar is extradited to Stanly County, N.C. More information surfaces about her previous husbands and their deaths, three of which were violent.

JULY 2008: Authorities indict Ms. Neumar on three counts of solicitation to commit first-degree murder.

OCTOBER 2008: Ms. Neumar is released from the Stanly County Jail after posting a $300,000 bond.

FEBRUARY 2009: A BBC documentary crew arrives in Augusta and travels to North Carolina and Florida as part of a documentary on Ms. Neumar. She conducts her first interview with the press for their program.

MAY 2009: Her attorneys are reviewing nearly 9,000 pages of discovery related to her case. A trial date has not been set.

HUSBANDS

All five of Ms. Neumar's husbands have died; three deaths involved guns.

1. Clarence Malone: They married in 1950. He was shot to death in 1970, many years after the two divorced.

2. James Flynn: Supposedly died on a New York City pier in 1955. The details of his death are unclear.

3. Richard Sills: Committed suicide with a shotgun in Florida in 1965. Reports have said that Ms. Neumar claims to have been in the room with him at the time.

4. Harold Gentry: Died from multiple gunshot wounds in his Norwood, N.C., home in 1986. Ms. Neumar was reportedly in Augusta at the time of the shooting.

5. John Neumar: Died of sepsis, an illness caused by a bacterial infection of the body's blood and tissues, at the Downtown Division of the Augusta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in October 2007. He was 79.

Sources: augustaarchives.com; Associated Press