Return of the Black Widow

Death and rumors have followed Sandra Bridewell for decades. But no one could predict the strange turn her life has taken today.

Though her loyal friends saw the Sandra who was caring and thoughtful, who adored her children and made sure they had the best of everything, others saw Sandra as predatory. She began to get a reputation as someone who befriended other women only to go after their husbands--and was not above blackmail.

After a short relationship with a well-known Dallas financier, Sandra told the man she was pregnant; when marriage wasn't forthcoming, she asked for money for an abortion. That scenario would be replayed many times over the next 15 years. But according to one of her best friends at the time, in January 1977, a year after Stegall's death, Sandra had undergone a hysterectomy.

In June 1978, Sandra married Bobby Bridewell, who adopted her children. The marriage didn't bring her instant wealth; Bobby filed for bankruptcy not long after they wed. But he soon conceived the idea to convert the old Sheppard King mansion into a luxury hotel. After Bobby sold Rosewood Hotels on the concept, it turned the Italian-style villa into The Mansion on Turtle Creek, which became an instant success. Bobby signed on as a six-figure consultant.

A tangled web, clockwise from top left: Sandra married Alan Rehrig in December 1984; Alan in his office on December 6, 1985, the day before he was found dead; this photograph of Sandra and unidentified children was found among her belongings--Sandra claimed she'd ministered to kids in India, smuggled Bibles into China and hid in caves in Pakistan while handing out Christian tracts; a recent photo of Sandra, now 59.
A tangled web, clockwise from top left: Sandra married Alan Rehrig in December 1984; Alan in his office on December 6, 1985, the day before he was found dead; this photograph of Sandra and unidentified children was found among her belongings--Sandra claimed she'd ministered to kids in India, smuggled Bibles into China and hid in caves in Pakistan while handing out Christian tracts; a recent photo of Sandra, now 59.

The Bridewells bought a large house on Lorraine Street in Highland Park. Sandra was getting close to her dream of Dallas aristocracy. But their happiness wouldn't last; in 1980, Bobby was diagnosed with lymph cancer. Sandra's friends rallied around the family, helping her care for her ailing husband, taking her children for days and weeks at a time. Marion Underwood, an older friend, even took Bobby into her home while Sandra was having central air and heat installed.

But compassion for Sandra soon turned to disgust when her friends discovered that while her husband was dying, Sandra was having their entire home remodeled. Despite Sandra's insistence that her husband wanted the work done, it appeared that she didn't care enough to nurse her sick husband. Bobby made excuses for her, but he never returned to the house they'd shared.

After learning that Bobby had spent weeks at the Underwood home, Bridewell's father moved his son into a hotel he owned. At age 41, Bobby died at Baylor hospital on May 9, 1982. Sandra threw her arms around one friend and sobbed, "No one is ever going to love me again!"

The Best Friend

During Bobby's illness, Sandra became close friends with his oncologist, Dr. John Bagwell, and his wife, Betsy. Shortly after the funeral, Sandra appeared uninvited at the Bagwells' doorstep in Santa Fe, where they were vacationing, then seemed ever-present wherever they were. Betsy initially felt sympathy for Sandra. Though there had been nasty rumors, clearly no one could blame Sandra for Bobby's death.

But Betsy's compassion turned to exasperation. Sandra attached herself to the Bagwells like a leech. Betsy told her friends she felt smothered by Sandra's frequent calls and requests for help or child care--and Sandra seemed far too interested in Betsy's husband. Sandra had orchestrated an encounter with the doctor at the Anatole Hotel, asking him to rent her a room because she didn't want to return home to the memories of Bobby. He declined and told Betsy to pull back from the relationship.

On June 16, 1982, police arrived at the Bagwell home at 8:20 p.m. They told the doctor that his 40-year-old wife had been found slumped in the front seat of her Mercedes station wagon in a parking lot at Love Field. Dressed in shorts, a swimsuit and a blouse knotted over her midriff, Betsy had a stolen .22-caliber pistol clutched in her right hand and a bullet in her brain. A parking ticket indicated she'd entered the lot at 6:05 p.m. The last person to see her alive was Sandra.

Betsy's death was ruled a suicide; residue on her hand was consistent with someone who'd held the gun and pulled the trigger. But her husband and friends never believed Betsy killed herself. That morning, she'd told her children that dinner was thawing in the sink and not to "pig out." She wasn't depressed, and she hadn't left a suicide note. And where would a respectable Highland Park mom get a stolen Saturday night special? Wouldn't she just buy a gun at a sporting-goods store?

Dr. Bagwell hired private detective Al Teel, who took the gun to a forensics expert in California. Dr. John Thornton determined that Betsy, grabbing for the weapon, could have gotten the residue on her right hand when someone else pulled the trigger.

Teel pointed out that the day before Betsy's death, Sandra had called Dr. Bagwell for help with her stalled car. When the doctor arrived, a policeman was climbing into the vehicle, which started right away. The next day, Sandra used the same strategy to get Betsy to take her to Love Field not once but twice. If anyone asked about the car, Sandra could point to the previous day's incident as proof that her car was unreliable.

When Betsy didn't return home, Dr. Bagwell called Sandra at a restaurant where she was having dinner with friends to ask where Betsy was. Sandra said she didn't know. "John," she said, "you sound accusatory."

Betsy's body hadn't been found yet.

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5 comments
Northrup Julia
Northrup Julia

I was in jail with camille and she confessed to the murders to another inmate. while in brunswick county.

JESS MASHBURN
JESS MASHBURN

I was completely shocked to find this out about one of my moms next door neighbors. She is still lying about her past and still claiming to have just returned from missionary work( although I have learned that she was recently released from prison in Raleigh, NC). Camille is still trying to use church going people to fund her life. This is crazy, I can't believe I have had the run in chance of meeting this woman and then find this "book" on her disturbed life.

Buffin
Buffin

would like know if there is a end to this story, live in Dallas, I have heard of some of the people in the story.Would make a good movie.

jose
jose

Wow, when is the movie going to come out. She probably can get the rights to her life story and make money while in jail!It's going to make a great movie. I definitely, will watch it.

Kelly Oneill
Kelly Oneill

The Black Widow was arrested in Charlotte, NC on 3/2/07. She is charged with forgery and false pretense.

Arrest info @ http://arrestinquiryweb.co.mec...

She was using the name Sandra Powers and is still acting religious...

 
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