Overview of the Crimes of Betty Lou Beets

This Famous Black Widow Killed for Money Then Cried Abuse

Betty Lou Beets
Mug Shot

Betty Lou Beets was convicted of murdering her husband, Jimmy Don Beets. She was suspected of having killed her ex-husband, Doyle Wayne Barker. Beets was executed by lethal injection in Texas on February 24, 2000, at the age of 62.

Betty Lou Beets Childhood Years

Betty Lou Beets was born in Roxboro, North Carolina on March 12, 1937. According to Beets, her childhood was filled with traumatic events. Her parents were poor tobacco farmers and suffered from alcoholism.

At age three she lost her hearing after getting the measles. The disability also affected her speech. She never received hearing aids or special training on how to deal with her disability.

At age five Beets alleged that she was raped by her father and was sexually abused by others throughout her early childhood years. At the age of 12, she had to leave school to take care of her younger brother and sister after her mother was institutionalized.

Husband #1 Robert Franklin Branson

In 1952, at the age of 15, she married her first husband, Robert Franklin Branson, and they had a daughter the following year.

The marriage was not without trouble and they separated. Beets attempted suicide in 1953. Later, after facing execution for the murder of Jimmy Don Beets, she described her marriage to Robert as abusive. However, the two remained married until 1969 and had five more children together. Robert ultimately left Betty Lou which she said devastated her both financially and emotionally.

Husband #2 & #3 Billy York Lane

According to Beets, she did not like being single and began to drink to chase away the loneliness. Her ex-husband did little to support the children and the money she received from welfare agencies was inadequate. By late July 1970, Beets married again to Billy York Lane, but he, too, proved to be abusive and the two divorced.

After the divorce, she and Lane continued fighting: he broke her nose and threatened to kill her. Beets shot Lane. She was tried for attempted murder, but the charges were dropped after Lane admitted that he had threatened her life.

The drama of the trial must have rekindled their relationship because they remarried right after the trial in 1972. The marriage lasted one month.

Husband #4 Ronnie Threlkold

In 1973 at age 36, Beets began dating Ronnie Threlkold and they were married in 1978. This marriage did not seem to work out any better than her past marriage. Beets allegedly attempted to run Thekold over with a car. The marriage ended in 1979, the same year Beets, now 42, did thirty days in the county jail for public lewdness: she was arrested at a topless bar where she worked.

Husband #5 Doyle Wayne Barker

At the end of 1979 Beets met and married another man, Doyle Wayne Barker. When she divorced from Barker is uncertain, but nobody knew his bullet-ridden body was buried in the backyard of Betty Lou's home. It was later determined that Doyle was murdered in October 1981.

Husband #6 Jimmy Don Beets

Not quite a year had passed since Doyle Barker’s disappearance when Beets married again, this time in August 1982 to a retired Dallas fireman, Jimmy Don Beets. Jimmy Don survived the marriage for just under a year before she shot and killed him and buried his body in a specially built "wishing well" in the front yard. To hide the murder Beets solicited help from her son, Robert "Bobbie" Franklin Branson II, and her daughter, Shirley Stegner.


Beets was arrested on June 8, 1985, almost two years after Jimmy Don Beets went missing. A confidential source gave information to the Henderson County Sheriff's Department that indicated Jimmy Beets was possibly murdered. A search warrant was issued for Betty Lou’s home. The bodies of Jimmy Beets and Doyle Barker were found on the property. A pistol discovered in the Beets' home matched the type of pistol used to shoot two bullets into Jimmy Beets and three into Barker.

Kids Admit Involvement
When investigators interviewed Betty Lou’s children, Branson and Stegner, they admitted to some involvement in helping to conceal the murders that their mother had committed. Stegner also testified in court that Beets told her of her plan to shoot and kill Barker and that she helped dispose of Barker's body.

Robbie Branson testified that on August 6, 1983, he left his parents’ home on the night that Beets told him that she was going to kill Jimmy Don. He returned a few hours later to help his mother get rid of the body in the “wishing well”. He planted evidence to make it look like Jimmy had drowned while out fishing.

Stegner testified that her mother called her to her home on August 6 and when she arrived she was told everything had been taken care of in regards to killing and disposing of the Jimmy Don's body.

Beets' reaction to her children's testimony was to point the finger at them as the true killers of Jimmy Don Beets.

Why Did She Do It?

The testimony given in court points to money as the reason Betty Lou Beets murdered both men. According to her daughter, Beets told her she needed to get rid of Barker because he owned the trailer in Gun Barrel City, Texas that they lived in and, if they were to divorce, he would get it. As for her killing Jimmy Don, she did it for insurance money and pension benefits that he might have had.


Beets was never tried for the murder of Barker, but she was found guilty of capital murder of Jimmy Don Beets and sentenced to death.


After over 10 years of appeals Betty Lou Beets was executed by lethal injection on February 24, 2000, at 6:18 p.m. in the Huntsville, Texas prison. At the time of her death, she had five children, nine grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

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Montaldo, Charles. "Overview of the Crimes of Betty Lou Beets." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/the-crimes-of-betty-lou-beets-971313. Montaldo, Charles. (2021, February 16). Overview of the Crimes of Betty Lou Beets. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-crimes-of-betty-lou-beets-971313 Montaldo, Charles. "Overview of the Crimes of Betty Lou Beets." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-crimes-of-betty-lou-beets-971313 (accessed May 9, 2021).