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Who Were Betty Lou Beets Husbands?

September 12, 2020
4 min read

Betty Lou Beets is what one might call a black widow murderer – or someone who’s killed her husband. But, there is more to the woman’s life than that. Born in North Carolina, Betty had a rough upbringing. She lost her hearing at the age of three, due to measles. When she was five, Betty claimed she’d been sexually abused by her father and people close to her. At the age of 12, Betty was left in charge of her other siblings when her mother was institutionalized. But, does a rough childhood justify murder? Betty grew up to have multiple husbands and finally went too far with one of them. Here are Betty’s partners and the one she killed, ultimately paying the consequences.

Robert Franklin Branson

Considering the amount of responsibility Betty had to shoulder, it is not surprising that she turned towards companionship early in her life. At the age of 15, Betty married Robert Franklin Branson, her first husband, and the pair had a daughter the following year. Their marriage wasn’t without trouble, and Betty tried to commit suicide in 1953. It later came to light that Branson was abusive. Nonetheless, they had five more kids together and remained married until 1969. Robert ended up leaving Betty, apparently destroying her emotionally and financially.

Billy York Lane

Robert’s abandonment was harsh on Betty, who kept drinking to chase away the loneliness. He did little to support her, and the money from the welfare agencies wasn’t enough. In July 1970, Betty married Billy, and this relationship was abusive too. They got divorced but continued fighting. Lane even broke her nose and threatened to kill her, at which point Betty shot him. She was tried for attempted murder, but the charges were dropped when Lane admitted he’d threatened her. The trial rekindled their relationship as the two remarried right after, in 1972. It lasted a month.

Ronnie Threlkold

Betty married Ronnie when she was 36, and already knew a thing or two about men. But, this marriage didn’t work out any better, and Betty even tried to run over Ronnie with a car. Their marriage ultimately ended in 1979. It was a rough year for Betty, who was arrested at the topless place where she worked and did thirty days in the county jail for public lewdness. By the end of the year, she’d moved on to her next husband.

Doyle Wayne Barker

Betty married Doyle at the end of 1979, and this is where the trouble began. Betty reported to friends and neighbors that the couple had had a fight, and Doyle took off, leaving his truck behind. Most people bought this as the official account of incidents, explaining Doyle’s disappearance in 1981. Of course, when his body was later discovered in a shed, in Betty’s property, the body was riddled with bullets. It was determined that Barker had met his end in October 1981. Shirley, Betty’s daughter, later stated that she’d helped her bury Doyle’s body, and the bullets also matched a gun found in Betty’s possession in an unrelated incident.

Jimmy Don Beets

The woman’s troubled string of marriages came to an end with the retired fireman, Jimmy Don Beets. She married him in August 1982, less than a year after Doyle’s disappearance. On August 6, 1982, Betty Lou Beets first reported that Beets had disappeared from their home near Cedar Creek Lake in Henderson County, Texas. Jimmy’s boat was found near the Redwood Beach Marina, six days later. Authorities discovered his fishing license and nitroglycerine tablets in his life jacket.

But, it was two years till the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department got a credible report from a confidential informant that indicated Jimmy’s death might involve foul play. Robert Branson, Betty’s son from her first marriage, informed authorities that his mother had confided in him that she intended to kill Jimmy. She also instructed him to leave the residence when Betty committed the act. Branson continued that he’d returned to find Jimmy dead – with two gunshot wounds. He helped Betty conceal the body in an ornamental wishing well in the front yard of the residence. Ironically, she’d asked Jimmy to build the well days before Betty killed him – convincing the man that it would beautify their property.

Notably, Betty Lou Beets had taken out a $100,000 life insurance policy on Beets without his knowledge, and a financial motivation might have been present behind the murder. Branson noted that after the act, he accompanied Betty to Jimmy’s boat. The former moved the propeller, and the latter put some heart medication there. A search warrant eventually uncovered Jimmy’s body, which is when Betty’s actions caught up to her.

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