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Florida Executes 'Black Widow'

Judy Buenoano, known as the "Black Widow," was executed in Florida's electric chair Monday morning after last-minute appeals to the Supreme Court were denied. She is the first woman to be put to death in Florida since 1848, and is only the third woman to be executed nationwide since 1976.

"The prisoner was pronounced dead at 7:13 a.m. EST," said Rhonda Horler, a prison spokeswoman who witnessed the execution. "She made no final statement."

Guards helped the frail-looking Buenoano, 54, walk into the death chamber at 7:02 a.m. Barely filling the seat of the large oaken chair, she was strapped in and asked if she had a final statement.

"No, sir," she answered weakly, squeezing her eyes shut and keeping them shut, not looking at the witnesses on the other side of a glass partition.

The power was turned on at 7:08 a.m. Smoke curled up from her right leg throughout the 38-second electrocution.

Buenoano, 54, was the first woman to be put to death in an electric chair and only the third woman to be executed in the United States since a Supreme Court ruling reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Buenoano was the first woman executed in Florida since a slave named Celia was hanged in 1848 for killing her master.

Like Velma Barfield and Karla Faye Tucker, the two other women executed in the United States since 1976, Buenoano professed to be a born-again Christian.

Tucker was executed by lethal injection in Texas earlier this year. Barfield was executed the same way in North Carolina in 1984.

Buenoano, who spent 13 years on death row, died maintaining her innocence.

She was executed for the 1971 poisoning of her husband, Air Force Sgt. James Goodyear.

Until she tried to kill him in 1983 by bombing his car, authorities did not suspect Buenoano in the poisoning deaths of Goodyear, boyfriend Bobby Joe Morris, and the drowning of her son, Michael.

When investigators learned Buenoano was Spanish for ``Goodyear,'' and that the two were married, they exhumed Goodyear's body and found lethal amounts of arsenic in his body. Authorities also found arsenic in her son Michael's body. He drowned in 1980, but investigators concluded arsenic crippled the child and Buenoano pushed her son out of a canoe. She received a life sentence for his murder.

Prosecutors say she was motivated by insurance money for each of the killings.

On Sunday the Florida Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch attempt by her lawyers to stay her execution, finding no basis for a series of appeals. Courts have rejected her claims of botched FBI lab tests and a tainted jury.

Last week, Florida executed two men following a year's hiatus in the use of the state's 75-year-old electric chair, nicknamed "Old Sparky", after flames leaped from the head of inmate Pedro Medina during his March 1997 execution.

The Florida Supreme Court only cleared the way for resumed use of the chair in October

Florida is one of six states that uses electrocution to carry out death sentences.

Following are the known victims of the "black widow:"

  • Air Force Sgt. James Goodyear, 37, her husband, died by arsenic poisoning, Sept. 16, 1971. She was sentenced to the electric chair for his slaying.

  • Michael Goodyear, 19, her son, drowned in 1980 on May 13, 1980. Buenoano was sentenced to life in prison. It was believed she gave him arsenic which made him a paraplegic and then rolled a canoe in which they rode, sending him to the bottom weighted by his arm and leg braces.
  • Bobby Joe Morris, a former boyfriend, died in 1977 in Trinidad, Colorado, after being poisoned. She was never charged in that case, which came to light after she had been sentenced to death in Florida.

  • John Gentry, a fiance, survived attempts by Buenoano to poison him and also survived explosion of his car in 1983 in Pensacola. Buenoano was sentenced to 12 years for attempted murder.

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