By Walton Golightly
By all accounts Betty Dunevant was quite a character; a real party animal who enjoyed drinking, dancing and men. In 1952 she married Robert Bransen – she was 15. It was a rocky marriage from the start, but lasted for 17 years and produced six children before ending in divorce.
Betty was drinking heavily and living on welfare when she met Billy Lane. They were married in July 1970. It was another rocky union. During one of their frequent brawls, Lane broke Betty’s nose. In retaliation, she shot him. Betty was arrested for attempted murder, but after Lane admitted he’d threatened to kill Betty, the charges were dismissed. Soon thereafter, the couple divorced.
They remarried in 1972, but the marriage lasted only one month before ending in divorce again. A year later, Betty began dating Ronnie Threlkold. Taking things a little slower this time, she didn’t marry him until 1978. History still repeated itself. The relationship was filled with knock-down drag-out fights; during one Betty tried to run over Threlkold with her car.
By 1979, the fourth marriage was over. Betty, who was 42 at the time, took a job in a topless bar to make ends meet, but ended up being arrested for public lewdness and spent 30 days in jail.
Not much is known about Betty’s fifth marriage to Doyle Barker other than her claims that he was abusive and had a string of affairs. We can’t even be sure if they got divorced, as Betty claimed Barker ‘disappeared’, supposedly with another woman, in October 1981. By 1982, however, Betty, had married for the sixth time. Her new husband was retired firefighter Jimmy Beets. Betty had a lot of bad things to say about her ex-husbands, but Jimmy’s friends said he was a good guy who treated Betty like a princess, despite her verbal and physical abuse.
On August 6, 1983, Betty contacted the police at Cedar Creek Lake, Texas, to report her husband missing. She claimed he went fishing and never returned. His boat was found drifting at Redwood Beach Marina on August 12. But a search of the area and the lake by divers failed to turn up any signs of Beets.
Needless to say, this made the police suspicious, but they had no evidence to refute Betty’s story. Then, two years later, an anonymous tip sent detectives to Betty’s home with a search warrant. In due course, the bodies of Doyle Barker and Jimmy Beets were found buried in the garden.
During interviews police learnt Betty had told her son Robert Branson that she intended to kill Beets to collect his life insurance and retirement benefits. Betty’s daughter, Shirley, revealed the reason behind Barker’s death – Betty did not wish to lose the trailer home they owned in a divorce action.
On February 24, 2000, Betty Beets declined a last meal or the opportunity to make a final statement before being executed by lethal injection.
By Walton Golightly