Judy Buenoano

There have been studies done and while I cannot quote them specifically, that discuss the odds of people knowing someone who died of a violent crime. It is obviously not out of the realm of possibilities but it is not up there with people dying of heart ailments or things such as that. However, with each mysterious or odd death that surrounds a person the more questions that begin to be asked. In the case of Judy Buenoano she had a husband, two boyfriends, and a son all die between 1971 and 1980. She also had another boyfriend who was severely injured in a car bombing. He would survive and it would be his suspicions and investigators findings that would unravel the mysteries.

On June 25, 1983 Florida resident John Gentry got into his car to head to the liquor store to get some things to celebrate with his finance', Judy Buenoano, who had just told him she was pregnant. He got into his car and when he turned the ignition there was an explosion. Investigators would find a bomb had been planted in the trunk of Gentry's car. Gentry's injuries were severe but he would survive. However, investigators would not really be able to talk to him for a few days so they started the investigation much as if he had died, without information from him. By the time they did get a chance to talk to him they were armed with several things that would surprise Gentry. Probably the biggest revelation for Gentry was the fact that investigators had discovered there was no way that Buenoano was pregnant. She had had her tubes tied in 1974. They had also learned that beginning in November of 1982 Buenoano had been telling people that Gentry had a terminal illness. He had in fact been in the hospital that December suffering from a mysterious illness but after a week in the hospital he had seemed to recover. After learning these things about Buenoano it appears that Gentry was now realizing that his illness had begun about the time that she started giving him what she said were vitamins. He had gone the week without them in the hospital and seemed to be better. Now he wondered what was really in those so called “vitamins.” Gentry showed them to investigators and they took them to have them analyzed. Results would show that they contained arsenic and formaldehyde.

By this time the investigators seemed to already know that a trail of death had followed behind Judy Buenoano, once known as Judy Goodyear. By the time this story would end Judy Buenoano would receive a death sentence for the death of her husband, a life sentence for the death of her son and a twelve year sentence for the attempted murder of Gentry. Although she would not be charged in the death of a boyfriend in 1978 the evidence was all there and investigators were holding back on prosecuting her to ensure the Florida case would stick. Still yet another boyfriend who had died in 1980 was exhumed and she was suspected in his death but I could find nothing on the results of his autopsy. There was also rumors that she had been responsible for the death of a man in Alabama in 1974 when visiting the family of her boyfriend of the time. Both the boyfriend and his mother would say they overheard Buenoano confessing.

Judy Welty was born in Texas in 1943. Depending on what reports you read, her mother died when she was somewhere between the ages of two and four. At that time it was said that she and her younger brother were sent to live with her grandparents while two older siblings were put for adoption. At the age of ten she went back to live with her father, his new wife and her two stepbrothers. Judy would claim that she suffered from abuse at the home and at the age of fourteen she was said to have attacked her father, stepmother and stepbrothers violently. She was placed in detention for some time and then upon her release was supposedly asked about returning home and she opted to go to a reform school.

By 1961 she had graduating and working as a nursing assistant when she gave birth that March to a boy she named Michael. A few months later she would meet James Goodyear who was a sergeant in the Air Force. They would marry in 1962. In 1967 they would have a son together, James and it was around this time that James Sr. would adopt Judy's son, Michael. The following year the couple had a daughter named Kimberly.

In September of 1971 James Sr. had only been home a few months from a tour in Vietnam when he went to the hospital in Orlando. He would be suffering from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. He just seemed to be getting worse and no one knew why or what was wrong with him. Apparently before they could figure out the initial cause he had began to retain fluid and other health issues began to occur. He die on September 15, 1971 officially of heart issues.

The following year Judy would start dating, and then living with Bobby Joe Morris. It was when she was with him that the two went to visit his family in Alabama in 1974. Authorities apparently have confirmed that the body of a man (I am unsure he was ever identified and I never saw him listed by name) was found in a motel in Alabama around the same time and same area that Judy and Bobby Joe were visiting. Bobby Joe's mother has claimed to have overheard Judy talking about killing someone if they had come there and upon his death bed it was said that Bobby Joe told family that Judy had done something horrible. In 1977 the couple, and Judy's children moved to Colorado. It was here in January 1978 that Bobby Joe would die having basically the same symptoms that James Goodyear had suffered some six years before. He would be buried with family in Alabama and Judy and her children would return to Florida.

By this time Judy had collected insurance benefits on both James Goodyear Sr. and Bobby Joe Morris. It was also alleged that while people were dying around her, homes were also catching fire every where she went. By now it was alleged that she had collected insurance on at least two, if not more home fires.

Sometime in 1978 Judy decided to change her last name, and that of her children from Goodyear to Buenoano, which in Spanish means.... Good Year. Many would claim that this appeared to be her way of feeling closer to her mother who had died when she was young. It was alleged that she told many people that her mother was a full blooded Indian of a tribe that apparently has never existed. Others allege she changed her name to distance herself from the two deaths that had occurred so that they would not follow her.

By 1979 Judy's son Michael had joined the Army. There were some reports later that there had been issues between Judy and Michael for some years and that he had possibly lived in a few foster homes or juvenile centers off and on but I could not confirm this. At any rate after basic training Michael was to be stationed at Fort Benning in Columbia Georgia. Before he reported there he decided to visit his mother in Florida. He had not been in Georgia long when he began getting sick. He, like his father and his mother's boyfriend before him, began having a mysterious illness that could not be identified. He went into the hospital and most information will tell you that he was paralyzed in some fashion but the way that it has been described sounds as if he was more inclined to be what is called an “incomplete paraplegic.” This is when significant strength is lost in all four limbs of ones body but does not necessarily mean that they cannot feel them. This is the diagnosis in which my own husband received after a diving accident so I know a little about it. After significant therapy in a few hospitals Michael was discharged from the Army and returned to Florida, first to a therapeutic hospital and then apparently to his mothers. He would be released with braces for his legs and his hands. It was said that the braces weighed between sixty and eighty pounds in total. Some reports indicate that on the day after being released from the rehab center on May 12, 1980 that Judy took all three children out on a fishing trip. While Kimberly sat on the banks Judy, James and Michael were in a canoe. At some point Judy claims the canoe overturned and while she was able to find James and they were rescued at shore the weight from Michael's braces had weighed him down and his body would be found a few hours later. There seemed to be some questions but there seemed little that could be proven.

In February of 1980 a Fort Walton Beach resident, Gerald Dosset died. He was reportedly dating Judy Buenoano at the time of his death. His body would be exhumed in 1984 but she was never charged with his death and I could find nothing on the results of his subsequent autopsy. Still he is often listed with her as a potential victim.

Then came the incident with John Gentry in 1983. I found a report that stated that Judy's son James was also charged in John's attempted murder and accused of actually planting the bomb in Gentry's car but I was unable to find out any more information on this through searches. But, once investigators found the arsenic and formaldehyde in the pills that John claimed that Judy was giving him authorities began exhuming bodies. Authorities would eventually exhume the bodies of James Goodyear, Michael Buenoano (I.e Goodyear), Bobby Joe Morris and Gerald Dossett. As I stated above I was unable to find the results of any autopsy done on Dossett's remains but the other three men were found to have high doses of arsenic in their tissue.

Florida authorities decided to charge Judy in the deaths of James and Michael. Colorado authorities technically did not find conclusive evidence concerning Bobby Joe Morris until after Judy had been given a death sentence in Florida and are said to have not filed charges solely on the basis that if by chance the Florida case was overturned they still had evidence. While everything that I read stated that Judy adamantly stated her innocence, right up until the end, there are other reports that she may have admitted responsibility in the death of Bobby Joe Morris.

Judy first went to trial for the murder of her son. Authorities believe that the arsenic found in his system had caused Michael's disability and when apparently it did not kill him Judy had taken him out in the canoe and purposely overturned it, causing him to drown and for her to collect on life insurance policies. James would testify at the trial but it appears that he had often changed his story. On the stand he would say that a snake had fallen into the canoe and that it then hit a log which caused the canoe to overturn. He would claim that he lost consciousness and that he remembered nothing else until he was in the ambulance. The prosecutor would bring up his statements to the police as well as to the grand jury where it seemed that sometimes he remembered more and sometimes he mentioned the snake and sometimes he did not. Sometimes it appears that James and Judy would claim that Michael was wearing a ski belt and sometimes they would not. Once Judy mentioned that Michael had on a life preserver. There was no evidence of either with his body and it was claimed that had he been wearing the ski belt it would not have come off very easy, especially considering his braces. There was also testimony from people who would claim that Judy had never had a good relationship with Michael and that she was embarrassed and ashamed of him. One person testified that she lived with the family and that when people were coming to the home Judy would have her take Michael out so no one saw him. Kimberly would testify that her mother and brother did have a good relationship but her boyfriend would testify that Kimberly had told him that Judy had purposely overturned the canoe so that Michael would die and she could collect insurance.

Kimberly would be a bit of an enigma. It was widely reported it seems that Judy's children believed in her innocence until the very end. After her death they would say she had been a good mother and grandmother (although she had been in prison the entire time she was a grandmother) and that the cases brought against her came from an “overzealous” prosecutor. They would condemn the court for not setting aside her death sentence. And yet, I found something that stated that Kimberly indicated not that her mother was innocent, or that the death sentence should be set aside but that lethal injection should have been used instead of the electric chair. There had been some issues with the electric chair in Florida and it does appear there were some “botched” executions, including the one just before Judy, but Kimberly's reason seemed odd. She stated she feared that her mother would be disfigured by the electric chair.

At any rate on June 6, 1984 Judy was found guilty in the death of her son Michael and given a life sentence.

In November of 1984 she was tried for the attempted murder of John Gentry. I found little on this trial but she was convicted for this also and sentenced to twelve years.

In November of 1985 she was tried for the death of her husband James Goodyear in 1971. This was the case in which sent her to Florida's death row. Obviously the prosecution had the autopsy that had been performed on the exhumed body in 1984 which showed high levels of arsenic. There were also apparently witnesses that testified that separately and on different occasions Judy had commented to them that one should not divorce their husband but just feed him arsenic instead. This seemed to be enough to have her convicted in the death of James also.

Judy would be executed in the state of Florida on March 30, 1998. It was said that this was her son Michael's 37th birthday. She would become the first woman in 150 executed in Florida. The last had been a freed slave woman who had been executed for the death of her former master. She would also only be the 3rd woman executed in the United States since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Just the month prior Karla Faye Tucker had been executed in Texas and there were many comparisons made between the two. In Tuckers case she had received a lot of support, even from the Pope, in attempts to stop her execution based on her religious conversion. While Buenoano also claimed to be devoutly religious she would have claimed this prior to her incarceration and even by her daughters own words despite being in prison she seemed like the same person as she had always been. The other big difference between Tucker and Buenoano was that Tucker had openly confessed her crimes, showed remorse and had no issue with admitting her “sins.” For her part, Buenoano seemingly spent her time proclaiming her innocence and blaming others, just as it seems her children later did. Near the end she would say that she was at peace with her sentence and had accepted it and ready to die but many say that did not seem to be the case when the time actually came. It has been widely reported that she was understandably fearful as she walked to the death chamber and had to be steadied by the guards who led her. In the end, when given the chance to express some last words Judy declined.


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