Tuesday, November 27, 2001

A Montgomery County, Md. woman who became known as the “Black Widow” is in jail on charges of mail and wire fraud for collecting payments from the life-insurance policies of her late husbands and a boyfriend whose death remains unsolved.
Josephine Virginia Gray was ordered held in jail, U.S. District Court records in Greenbelt indicate, because the government has strong evidence that she has injured witnesses in the past.
Magistrate Judge Jillyn K. Schulze also said there was “evidence of recent threat to a witness in the present case and access to firearms,” according to court records from a lengthy hearing Nov. 15.
The federal grand jury indicted Mrs. Gray, 55, on Nov. 7 on eight counts of aiding and abetting mail fraud and wire, or telephone, fraud. Details from the indictment say she was collecting from life insurance on her late husbands Norman Stribbling and William Robert Gray and boyfriend Clarence Goode.
The maximum penalty on a mail or wire fraud charge is five years in jail and/or a $250,000 fine.
Mrs. Gray became known as the “Black Widow” in Montgomery County after she was charged with murdering, or arranging the murders of, Mr. Stribbling on March 4, 1974, and of Mr. Gray on Nov. 9, 1990.
Those charges were subsequently dropped when two key witnesses disappeared, and authorities were worried that Mrs. Gray might be acquitted because of scant evidence.
Mrs. Gray was never charged in the killing of Mr. Goode, then 23, her second cousin and boyfriend, on June 21, 1996, in Baltimore. That killing remains unsolved. Court records claim Mrs. Gray “maintained a romantic relationship with Clarence Goode” from August 1990 until his death.
Mr. Gray was briefly charged with his wife in 1974 in the murder of Mr. Stribbling. Mr. Gray’s sister, Dorothy Banks, later told police that Mr. Gray said of his wife, “She is a very evil woman. She did not do it. She had it done.”
Mr. Gray told police Detective Joseph Mudano then that he believed Mrs. Gray would have him killed. Mr. Gray said Mr. Goode once pointed a handgun at him. He said Mrs. Gray tried to hit him on the head with a baseball bat while he slept and tried to stab him with a kitchen knife when they lived together.
At one time, Mr. Stribbling, Mrs. Gray and Mr. Gray all worked as custodians in the Montgomery County public schools system.
Mrs. Gray’s family and friends claim she was involved in voodoo and witchcraft, according to Montgomery County police and court records. Police have a tape recording of her conversation with a voodoo doctor in Baltimore, records state.
Some of her six children, other relatives and friends told Montgomery County police in 1990 that she was involved in voodoo and witchcraft.
Police then quoted Mrs. Banks as saying, “Josephine kept working with her witchcraft and voodoo. She told William that nothing could happen to her and the law would find out nothing as long as she kept working with her voodoo.”
Police quoted a daughter, Sydalia Stribbling, as saying her mother was “into witchcraft and voodoo.”
“She said she found a voodoo doll of Mr. Gray with pins stuck into it inside a plastic bag full of his clothing soon after he moved out,” police stated.
Court records state that Virginia Josephine Mills was born Aug. 3, 1946. In February 1967, Mr. Stribbling took out a John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. policy. On March 4, 1974, he was found dead from a .32-caliber handgun bullet in his car along River Road in Poolesville. Within a few months, she collected $16,000 from his life insurance.
Eight months later, on Nov. 7, 1975, the widow married Mr. Gray. In September 1975, the newlyweds used life-insurance proceeds to make a down payment on a house in the 17700 block of Stoneridge Drive in Gaithersburg.
On Nov. 24, 1979, Mr. Gray took out life insurance with Minnesota Life and then with Life Insurance Co. of North America. Indictments state Mrs. Gray threatened to kill him in August 1990, assaulted him on Oct. 5, 1990, and “intentionally caused the death of William Norman Gray” on Nov. 9, 1990. On Jan. 21, 1991, Mrs. Gray received $51,625.01 in life insurance.
In 1981, Mr. Goode had moved from New York into the Gaithersburg home. He and Mr. Gray did not get along, police stated, and Mr. Gray moved out in August 1990. His parents found his body in his daughter’s apartment. He had been killed by a bullet from a .45-caliber handgun that was never found. Police later found a .45-caliber bullet in Mrs. Gray’s purse.
Indictments state that Interstate Assurance Co. issued a life-insurance policy on Mr. Goode on April 2, 1996. Mrs. Gray assaulted Mr. Goode a month later. On June 21, 1996, Mr. Goode’s body was found in Baltimore. He had been killed by a 9 mm handgun. Legal documents in Baltimore Circuit Court valued his life insurance proceeds at $95,000. The indictment states that Mrs. Gray and “co-schemers” devised plans to collect from June 1996 through 1999.
On Nov. 14, Mrs. Gray’s attorneys filed motions to quash the subpoenas for witnesses against her. Those witnesses include Mr. Gray’s daughter, Regina Gray, and Mrs. Gray’s boyfriend, Andre Savoy. The attorneys claim the subpoenas are an effort by prosecutors to gather more evidence.
Mrs. Gray’s attorneys are federal public defenders James Wyda and Michael T. CitaraManis. When arrested, Mrs. Gray reported she receives $1,500 monthly from her employment, $500 from retirement, owns four cars and pays $600 in rent and $900 in other bills monthly.

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