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Woman planted flowers over murdered husband, son testifies

ATHENS, Texas -- A woman accused of murdering two of her husbands had her son dump the body of one of the men in a mock wishing well on her front lawn, then planted flowers over the corpse, the son said.

Testimony began Monday in the capital murder trial of Betty Lou Beets, 48, who is charged in the shooting death of her husband, Jimmy Don Beets, 46, a Dallas Fire Department captain originally presumed drowned in 1983.

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On June 8, authorities acting on a tip dug up the bodies of Beets and Doyle Wayne Barker, another former husband who vanished in 1981, from the yard of Mrs. Beets' trailer house on Cedar Creek Lake east of Dallas.

Mrs. Beets' son, Robert 'Robby' Branson II of Jewett, testified Monday afternoon his mother told him on the night of Aug. 5, 1983, that 'she was going to kill him (Beets).'

'I was kind of shocked,' said Branson, who was 19 when Beets disappeared. He said he suspected his mother would carry out her threat because she told him she didn't want him at their trailer home that evening.

Branson, who is serving six years' probation on a burglary conviction, told the court he went motorcycle riding for about two hours and when he returned, 'I helped her take the body out of the house' to a mock wishing well that 'me and Jimmy Don' had built.

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Branson said he never actually saw the body, but the sleeping bag stuffed into the well 'felt like it' contained a body the size of Beets'.

He said next day Mrs. Beets scattered Beets' bottle of nitroglycerin tablets on the bottom of the dead man's fishing boat and he set the boat adrift in the lake.

He said his mother subsequently packed the wishing well with peat moss and planted flowers in it.

After the empty boat was found Aug. 6, officials searched the lake three weeks without success for Beets' body.

Branson said about three months afterward he confided the incident to his common-law wife because 'it was just bugging me' but that he waited two years to talk to authorities 'because I was protecting my mother.'

Defense attorney E. Ray Andrews of Athens accused Branson of killing Beets after a quarrel and of trying now to pin the slaying on his mother.

'I never killed a man,' Branson responded. 'She's lying now, saying I killed him when she killed him.'

Mrs. Beets andher daughter, Shirley Stegner, 26, of Balch Springs have been charged in the deaths of Beets and Barker. If Mrs. Beets is found guilty of capital murder, she could face the death penalty or life in prison because in the Beets slaying she is accused of killing her husband to collect his retirement and insurance benefits.

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