Related article: Woman arrested in cold case has other dead spouses
By Mitch Weiss
The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A man walked into the Stanly County sheriff's office with a wild tale: A woman had just offered him money to kill her husband. The officer on duty took down the information and passed it on to his superiors.
"They never did anything with it," that officer, Donnie Mullis, told The Associated Press on Friday. "They just brushed it off."
A few weeks later, Harold Gentry was dead.
Authorities charged Betty Neumar last month with one count of solicitation of murder in the July 1986 death of Harold Gentry, the fourth of five husbands she has buried in her 76 years. The case has drawn national attention because investigators want authorities elsewhere to look into the deaths of the other four, including one who was shot in the head and another who died of an infection that could indicate he was poisoned.
Mullis said an informant talked to him a few weeks before Gentry was killed, saying the then-Betty Gentry offered him money to do the job. Mullis also said the informant told him Neumar wanted the names of other potential hit men in case he turned her down.
"I thought the information was very credible and that's why I passed it along," said Mullis, who left law enforcement in 1994 and operates a helicopter company in Charleston, S.C.
He said the supervisors he told are dead. Both were later the lead investigators in the Gentry murder investigation.
"When I told them, they made a (derogatory) comment about the informant," Mullis said. He declined to elaborate, but said the informant was a former Albemarle police officer who left the department under "questionable circumstances."
He also said former Stanly County sheriff Ralph McSwain, who was in office when Gentry was killed, also knew about the tip.
McSwain has said he is recovering from a stroke and doesn't remember much about the case.
Harold Gentry's brother had begged investigators for two decades to take another look at the case, but his requests were ignored. It was finally reopened last year after Al Gentry asked newly elected Sheriff Rick Burris to look into it.
Detective Scott Williams has said his office is looking into why no one took the informant's information seriously.
Neumar, who lives in Augusta, Ga., is being held on $500,000 bond in the Stanly County jail. A telephone message left for her attorney, Charles Parnell, was not returned Friday. Her daughter with Harold Gentry, who also lives in Augusta, has declined to comment.
Detectives believe Harold Gentry was Neumar's fourth husband. She and her third husband, Richard "Dick" Sills, were living in the Florida Keys when he was shot to death in 1965. At the time, police said his death was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But police say Neumar was the only person in the room when he died.
After his death, Neumar met Gentry in Florida. The couple married in the late 1960s in Georgia after he retired from the Army and moved to the town of Norwood, about an hour east of Charlotte.
Gentry was found shot to death inside the couple's home on July 14, 1986. Three years later, she married her fifth husband, John Neumar. He died in October, and authorities in Georgia are investigating whether his death - officially listed as listed as sepsis, bacterial infection of the body's blood and tissues - might have another cause, such as arsenic poisoning.
Authorities are still working to uncover as much as they can about Neumar's first two husbands, both of whom were from Ohio. One died in 1952, the other in 1955.
Mullis said he knew the Gentrys and regrets not following up on the case. He said it was a trying period in his life: His father was dying of cancer. But he's surprised she wasn't charged with solicitation of murder in 1986.
"We had enough evidence then," Mullis said. "My part in this case is minimal. But I wish it would have been more. I wish it would have turned out differently."
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