CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The grandson of a 76-year-old woman who is being investigated in the deaths of four of her five husbands wants Ohio police to take another look at the apparent suicide of his stepfather: her first-born son.
"I've had questions about my father's death for years. I was always suspicious," Jeff Carstensen said Thursday from his home in Michigan. "But knowing what I know now about my grandmother, I think the police need to re-examine this case."
Police in Perry, Ohio, are searching for records related to Gary Flynn, who was found shot to death in his apartment in November 1985. It was ruled a suicide. A decision on whether to formally reopen the case is pending.
Flynn's mother, Betty Neumar, was charged last month in North Carolina with solicitation of murder in the July 1986 shooting death of her fourth husband, Harold Gentry. She's being held in jail on $500,000 bond. Her attorney has declined repeated requests for comment about his client.
Since her arrest, authorities in Georgia, Ohio and Florida reopened investigations into the deaths of three more of her five husbands. John Neumar, her most recent husband, died from an infection in October in Augusta, Ga., where authorities are trying to determine if he was poisoned.
Carstensen and his mother, Cecelia Flynn of Monroe, Mich., said Neumar received at least $10,000 in insurance when Gary Flynn died.
"Who takes out a life insurance policy on a 30-something-year-old son with three kids? Tell me who does that?"' Carstensen said.
Carstensen said police told his family that Flynn shot himself once in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun: A theory they always believed suspicious because police said he landed on top of the gun.
Ronald Scott, a ballistics expert who served for 25 years with the Massachusetts State Police, said it's unlikely that Flynn's body would have ended up in that position.
"A shotgun gives one hell of a kick. When any gun fires, there's energy in both directions," Scott said. "When you're talking about someone putting a sawed-off shotgun to their chest, I don't see any reasonable way you're going to be able to control the energy that's coming out of the gun."
On the day her husband died, Cecelia Flynn said, she called the nuclear plant where he worked and was told that he had been involved in an accident. Authorities told her he was dead, but wouldn't give details because Neumar had already called and told them Flynn wasn't married.
Cecelia said she had to take her marriage license to the police station to prove she was Flynn's next-of-kin. "To this day, I don't know why she did that," she said. "And I don't know how she found out first."
Gary Flynn was born in 1952, the son of Neumar and her first husband, Clarence Malone. It's not clear when she left Malone or met her second husband, James A. Flynn, who adopted Gary.
Neumar has told investigators that James Flynn died on a pier somewhere in New York in the mid-1950s, but authorities have not been able to determine where and how he died. Malone remarried twice but was shot once in the back of the head outside his auto shop near Cleveland in November 1970. His death was ruled a homicide and was never solved.
Her third husband, Richard Sills, was found dead in his apartment in the Florida Keys in 1965. Neumar told police they were alone in a room arguing when he pulled out a gun and shot himself in the side. Cecelia Flynn said Gary Flynn and his sister were in the apartment when Sills died.
"They heard them arguing in another room. Then a shot ran out. Gary told me he ran into the room and saw the body. There was blood all over. ... That image just stayed with him," she said.
Gary Flynn married Cecelia in 1974. She said her husband didn't like to talk about his past, except to say his mother moved them around a lot when he was a child and that Sills used to beat him.
"She was just not a nice person," Cecelia Flynn said. "Every time Gary would talk to his mother on the telephone, he would get very upset and cry. And I would always say to him 'Why do you talk to her? Why do you talk to her?' He loved her so much and probably knew more than he wanted to know."