Thursday, November 29, 2001

Montgomery County’s so-called “Black Widow” pleaded not guilty yesterday to eight charges of fraud to collect life insurance from the estates of two deceased husbands and a deceased boyfriend.
An attorney for Josephine Virginia Gray said Mrs. Gray pleaded “not guilty on all counts,” during a 30-second hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
Mrs. Gray, 55, became known as the “Black Widow” when she was charged in April 1991 with the murders of two husbands, Norman Stribbling in 1974 and William Robert Gray in 1990. Charges were dropped because of the disappearance of two key witnesses and apparently for insufficient evidence.
Her boyfriend of six years, 28-year-old Clarence Goode, was killed in 1996, but his death has never been solved. Mrs. Gray was not charged in Mr. Goode’s death.
During the investigation into her husbands’ deaths, various family members and friends said Mrs. Gray practiced voodoo and witchcraft.
Although Mrs. Gray was never convicted, the federal indictments emphasize that the insurance policies barred payments to her “if she was involved in the intentional murder” of the men.
The indictments claim Mrs. Gray fraudulently used the U.S. mail and telephones to obtain life-insurance payments from the three men’s policies.
The indictments list at least $167,036.53 paid from the men’s life insurances to Mrs. Gray. The most was $95,000 from Mr. Goode’s policy with Interstate Assurance Co.
That policy was taken out two months before he was shot to death with a 9 mm pistol in Baltimore, according to the indictments.
Indictments claim Mrs. Gray worked with co-schemers, but their names are not given.
On Tuesday, Mrs. Gray’s attorneys will argue for her release from jail. They tried to get her released Nov. 15, but court documents state the “government has strong evidence of pattern of injury to witnesses that defendant participated in two murders of witnesses in the past.” Records also mention “evidence of recent threat to a witness in the present case” and “access to firearms.”
A three- to four-week trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 15 before U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow.

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