By Walton Golightly
Judy Welty was born in April 1943 in Quanah, Texas, where her parents were farm workers. When her mother died, Judy and her younger brother were sent to live with their grandparents. When their father remarried a couple of years later, he reclaimed the children and moved them to Roswell, New Mexico.
Judy hated life with her father and stepmother, and left home as soon as she could. In 1961, she gave birth to a son she named Michael. A year later, she met and married US Air Force officer James Goodyear. He adopted Michael. James Jr was born in 1966, Kimberley a year later.
Following a tour of duty in Vietnam, James returned to the couple’s home in Pensacola, Florida. Three months later he was hospitalised with symptoms that mystified doctors. He died on September 15, 1971, and Judy immediately cashed in on his three life insurance policies. Later that year, the family home burnt down, earning the widow another insurance pay-out.
History repeated itself in 1977. Shortly before she uprooted her family to follow her latest paramour, Bobby Morris, to Trinidad, Colorado, the house Judy and her kids were living in burnt down – netting Judy yet another insurance pay-out.
In January 1978 Bobby fell seriously ill. As he lay on his death bed he told his family he’d helped Judy kill a man in Florida. Unfortunately, police were never able to gather any proof of this claim. Nor, despite his family’s adamant statements, could they prove Judy was behind Bobby’s mysterious illness.
Judy officially changed her name to Judias Buenoano and dragged her kids back to Pensacola. Michael, her eldest, had always been a ‘problem child’. Given his hyperactivity and learning difficulties he most likely had ADHD. He joined the US Army after finishing high school. In 1979, however, he began having difficulties using his arms and legs. Arsenic poisoning was the diagnosis, and he was released into Judy’s care.
Although Michael could only walk with the aid of heavy metal leg braces, his mother believed it would be a good idea to take him on a canoeing trip. When the canoe capsized, only Judy and James Jr were able to swim to safety – Michael drowned.
Judy promptly cashed in on Michael’s military life insurance. She also tried to collect on two more policies, but when she heard handwriting experts reckoned Michael’s signature had been forged on the applications, she dropped her claims.
Judy opened a beauty salon in Gulf Breeze, Florida, and began dating businessman John Gentry. By 1982, she’d convinced him they should take out life insurance policies, naming each other as beneficiaries. She then begin giving John capsules she claimed were vitamin supplements, but they only made him feel nauseous and dizzy.
On June 25, 1983, Judy announced she was pregnant and asked John to go buy champagne to celebrate. When he started his car, it exploded. Despite the intense fire and flying shrapnel, he survived and was rushed to hospital. Four days later, he was able to talk to the police – who began to investigate his girlfriend’s background.
They soon discovered Judy had not been a nurse, as she claimed. She wasn’t pregnant, and had been telling friends John had a terminal illness. A search of her home resulted in the seizure of the ‘vitamins’, as well as wire and tape like those used to make the car bomb.
Judy was arrested and charged with attempted murder. By January 11, 1984, investigators had gathered enough evidence to charge her with Michael’s murder. In February 1984, the bodies of Bobby Morris and James Goodyear were exhumed; arsenic was in both.
Surprisingly, Judy was acquitted of trying to murder Gentry. On the charge of murdering Michael, she was sentenced to 25 years to life. For the murder of her first husband, she was sentenced to death. She went to the electric chair on March 30, 1998.
The Crimes Of Judias Buenoano
By Walton Golightly