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"Black widow' hopes for memory as good mother

Published Sep. 12, 2005

The first woman scheduled to die in Florida's electric chair for killing her husband wants to be remembered as a good mother despite her conviction for drowning her 19-year-old paraplegic son.

Judy Buenoano, 54, said in a prison interview broadcast Monday on CNN's legal show, Burden of Proof, that she wanted to be remembered "as a good mother" after she is electrocuted on March 30.

Dubbed Florida's "black widow" by prosecutors, Buenoano was sentenced to die in the state's electric chair for the 1971 arsenic poisoning death of her husband, James Goodyear, three months after he returned to Orlando from Vietnam.

The cause of death was not discovered until after she moved to the Florida Panhandle, where she was convicted of drowning her disabled son, Michael Goodyear, in a Santa Rosa County river in 1980. She was also convicted of trying to blow up her fiance, John Gentry, with a car bomb in downtown Pensacola in 1983.

A boyfriend of Buenoano also died under mysterious circumstances in 1978, when they were living together in Trinidad, Colo. Colorado authorities decided not to charge her after the Florida convictions.

In all four cases, Buenoano was the beneficiary of life insurance policies. She was convicted and sentenced to terms of life and 12 years for murdering her son and for attempting to kill her fiance.

In the television interview, Buenoano denied killing her husband, her boyfriend and son. However, she said she felt responsible for her son's death during a canoe outing.

"I feel responsible for that. I feel responsible for him being there," Buenoano said.

Buenoano said she believes the jury convicted her of murdering her husband because they were told about all the allegations against her, not just the crime for which she was being tried.

"I would find myself guilty if I heard what was going on," said Buenoano, who was interviewed at Broward Correctional Institution in Pembroke Pines, outside Fort Lauderdale. "You have to let a case stand on its own. You can't take something from here and something from here."

Her daughter, Kimberly Hawkins, told CNN that she believes her mother didn't kill her father or brother.

"I feel my mother is innocent. She didn't commit the crime that they are saying she is guilty of," Ms. Hawkins said. "I was there during the trial and I saw what a joke it was, and how people were badgered and coerced. . . . They perjured themselves on the witness stand."

Her lawyers contend newly discovered records cast doubt on the accuracy of evidence processed by the FBI crime laboratory. They say the government has stonewalled them in their efforts to get the records.