Death Row Granny

Bettie Beets killed two husbands. Now she's likely to become the first woman the state of Texas has ever executed

That might explain Barker's murder. According to her son-in-law, Leon, the day before he "disappeared," Barker had beaten Bettie unmercifully.

But Bettie was convicted of killing Beets, and there was no evidence that he ever physically abused her.

None of those who came into contact with Bettie felt she was brain-damaged or possessed far below average intelligence. In fact, she has received a GED while in prison.

In opening arguments at her trial, Bandy dismissed such defenses, calling Bettie's behavior part of a carefully calculated pecuniary scheme and branding her "cold as a well-chain."

"What kind of wife would shoot her husband as he lay sleeping in their bed?" the prosecutor demanded. "What kind of a mother would seek to pin a murder on her own child? The female of the species protects the young, above all--above her own life."

Investigator O'Brien, who is now in law school, dismisses suggestions that Bettie was some sort of feeble-minded victim. "She was not a shrinking violet," he says. "Those men were lying in bed asleep when she shot them. I think Bettie was just meaner than hell."

In the nine years since her trial, Bettie Beets' children have rarely come to see her on Death Row. The last time Bettie saw Shirley--whose testimony helped put her on Death Row--was Mother's Day 1993. Bettie says they didn't talk about her case.

Shirley has remarried and is living in Pleasant Grove; she refused to talk about her mother. Neither Robby nor Bettie's other daughters could be reached for comment. Bobby died after being struck by a car a year ago.

Today, Bettie still contends that Robby killed Jimmy Don Beets and Shirley made up the story about her murdering Barker. "Shirley blamed me for her being in jail," Bettie says. "It was all my problem. She hadn't been married long. She just wanted to go home."

How did Barker end up buried in her yard? Bettie blames her second husband, Bill Lane, who died of a heart attack in 1982. Lane killed Barker in an attempt to get her back, Bettie suggests. "A lot of things went on in my house that I didn't know about," she says.

Her children lied; everybody lied. But most of all, her attorney, Andrews, lied. "I just did what he told me to do and hung myself," she says bitterly.

Bettie still clings to hope. "I believe with all my heart that somebody's going to believe me," she says.

But if, for some reason, those appeals fail, Bettie Beets says, she's not afraid to die. "God has forgiven me for everything in my life," she says, breaking into tears. "He forgives and forgets.

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