Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
(The infamous “Black Widow”)
Written and compiled by George Knowles
Who would believe that in these enlightened times the age-old fear and superstition of Witchcraft could be used to manipulate and control so many people. Here we have a case spanning more than 24 years were a would-be practitioner of Voodoo used that fear and superstition, not through religious zeal (as has mainly been the case throughout history) but simply through avarice and financial gain. This is the true story of Josephine Gray.
Josephine Gray a 55 year old mother of six children, portrayed herself as a Bible-reading Christian, a regular user of the local church, but to the relatives and friends of her two dead husbands and a lover, she is known as the “Black Widow”, named so after the female spider that kills its mates.
On the 29th July 2002, Josephine Gray was charged pending trail, not for the murders of her husbands and lover, but on Federal Mail and Wire fraud charges connected with the $165,000 she received from their Life Insurance Policies.
In the early morning hours of March 3rd 1974, Josephine’s first husband Norman Stribbling was murdered in his car near to block 1500 on River Road in Montgomery County, Maryland. He was found with a single .32 caliber gunshot wound to his head. Evidence at the scene showed that Stribbling may have known his assailant and had probably been talking to the person prior to his death. Circumstantial evidence indicated that his wife Josephine might have been involved. At the time of the killing, Josephine was having an affair with a man called William Robert Gray, who was also implicated in the murder.
Josephine and William Gray were subsequently charged with Conspiracy to Commit Murder, but the trial never went to court. Some say that Josephine used Witchcraft and Voodoo to intimidate witnesses not to testify. As a result, many got cold feet and moved away from Maryland refusing to give evidence. The authorities with no physical link to the murder were forced to drop all charges and release the suspects.
Not long after the charges had been dropped, Josephine as the sole beneficiary of Stribbling's Life Insurance Policy, made an Accidental Death claim against the John Hancock Life Insurance Company, she received $16,000 in payment. In November 1975 just over a year after the death of her husband, Josephine married her lover William Gray. Together they purchased a new home using $14,500 of her claim as a down payment for the house.
In the mid-1980’s, a young man called Clarence Goode Jr. took up lodgings in the Gray’s household. According to police reports, Goode was described as Josephine Gray's cousin with whom she began an affair. Over the next few years the Gray’s marriage deteriorated and by the end of the decade William Gray began to fear for his own life. He became convinced that his wife and Goode were planning to kill him and after a furious argument in August of 1990, he decided it might be safer to move out and live on his own. This action however led to more conflict and threats from Josephine and Goode, sometimes physical, causing Gray to file various assault charges against them.
One such incident happened on the 5th of October 1990 after court proceedings on one of the assaults. Gray later told detectives that Josephine drove up behind him and flashed her lights, motioning for him to pull over. Gray tried to ignore her, but she then drove her car up along-side his. As he glanced over, Goode who had been crouched in the passenger seat raised and leveled a handgun at him. Gray immediately slammed on his brakes, reversed his direction of travel and rapidly fled the area. A warrant was later issued for the arrest of the Josephine and Goode.
On the 4th of November 1990, William Gray moved into 12626 Grey Eagle Court in Germantown, Maryland. Witnesses would later testify that this new change of address had been prompted out of fear for his life. Less than a week later on the 9th of November, William Robert Gray was discovered dead lying face down on the floor of his new apartment. He had been shot twice with a .45 caliber weapon, once in the chest and once in the neck.
During the investigation Josephine was interviewed by Montgomery County Police Detectives after witnesses came forward casting doubts on her whereabouts during the time of his murder. When questioned she denied owning a .45 caliber handgun and any involvement in her husband's death. On the 28th of November police obtained a search warrant for her home at 17717 Stoneridge Drive, Gaithersburg, Maryland. During the search, Detectives found a single round of .45 caliber ammunition in one of her purses. They also found voodoo dolls pierced with needles resembling her friends and relatives.
Earlier that year the Police had reopened the Stribbling case at the request of his family relatives. Reports show that two of his brothers had given statements to the effect that: “each had been approached by Josephine and William Gray, who offered them money to kill Stribbling. Before his death, a detective tried to interview William Gray and court papers revealed that: “At first Gray had balked, but about a month before he was killed, he confided that he feared Josephine Gray would hire Goode or someone else to kill him”.
As the Police continued with their enquiries several other witnesses came forward. Investigators learned from other family members that Josephine Gray “allegedly” practiced Witchcraft and Voodoo, and this was the reason why many who had given statements in 1974, had been unwilling to testify at her trial. One of William Gray's sisters told police that when her brother and Josephine were under investigation for the Stribbling murder, Josephine told them that everything would turn out fine as long as she continued practicing voodoo.
Other relative believed that she cast spells to convert her lovers into killers, making them willing to do her bidding. "She was dealing in Witchcraft and Voodoo,” a former wife told the Washington Post: "She must have been feeding him something to make him do what she said, he wasn't himself". After hearing about William Gray’s death in the newspapers, another witness contacted the police and described how Josephine had tried to hire her services as a Voodoo Priestess to "kill" him. The police then put a wiretap on the witnesses’ telephone in order to recorded further conversations with the suspect. In one of the calls they recorded Josephine cursing police investigators and agreeing that Clarence Goode was her weak link.
In the spring of 1991, Josephine Gray and Clarence Goode were arrested and charged with the murder of William Gray. The detective who obtained and served the warrant for there arrest noted in his reports that: “Josephine showed no emotion and asked no questions about how her husband of the last 15 years had met his death”. Despite their growing concerns, the police still lacked physical evidence to link them with the murder, and when witnesses again changed their stories, this case like the last never went to trial and all charges had to be dropped.
Once the charges had been dropped, Josephine denied that she practiced voodoo or anything of the kind: "I just thank God”, she told the Associated Press at the time, “Jesus Christ had enemies too, so when I follow him I know I’m going to have enemies, but when I appeared here in this courtroom, there were angels all around me." Later as the sole beneficiary of William Gray’s Life Insurance Policy, she collected from the Minnesota Life Insurance Company another $51,625.
Through the early 1990’s, Josephine and Goode continued to live together making themselves out to be cousins. Josephine however was not satisfied and soon took another lover, a man called Andre Savoy. On the 21st June 1996, Goode's body was discovered by the Baltimore City Police Department, it had been stuffed in the trunk of his car parked outside 2302 Avalon Street in Baltimore, Maryland. He had been killed by a single .9mm gunshot wound to the side of his head. Once again all the circumstantial evidence lead back to Josephine Gary.
Prior to his murder, on the 5th March 1996 Goode had applied for a $100,000 Life Insurance policy from the Interstate Assurance Company (IAC), and named Josephine Gary as the sole beneficiary. Goode however never paid the premiums on the policy. The paperwork regarding his failure to pay the premiums and the fact that the policy was about to cancel, were sent to him at Josephine’s address. These mailings as well as her calls to the insurance company about them would form the basis for Mail and Wire fraud and lead to her eventual downfall.
Having twice failed to bring murder charges against her, the authorities next turned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate irregularities in the insurance claims made by Gray after each of the deaths. On the 29th July 2002 Josephine Gray was re-arrested and charged with 8 counts of Federal Mail and Wire fraud. Incarcerated while waiting trial, U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow denied her bail request stating that Gray had taken part in three killings and tried to intimidate family members, this made her a potential threat if released before trial.
At 8:24 p.m. (EST) on the 2nd December 2002, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts connected to the Mail and Wire fraud charges. Evidence introduced at the trial showed that Josephine had been involved in three homicides: the deaths of Norman Stribbling, William Robert Gray and Clarence Goode Jr. The first two homicide victims had been the defendant’s husbands, the last her lover. The evidence also showed that Josephine Gray illegally profited from all three murders.
As the verdict was announced, Josephine Gray sat slumped between her lawyers and showed no emotion. Her attorney Daniel Stiller read out a statement before sentencing: "She maintains her innocence and gives her faith in God as a higher power who knows she has committed no offense or done anything wrong, he said."
During sentencing, U.S. District Judge Chasanow determined that because the defendant willfully, deliberately and with premeditation murdered William Robert Gray and Clarence Goode, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for “First-Degree Murder” as apposed to those for Insurance Fraud were more appropriate to this case. Accordingly she sentenced Josephine Gray to the maximum sentence per count allowable under the law, a total of 40 years imprisonment. There is no parole under federal law. She also ordered that Josephine Gray re-pay $170,000 in restitution to the Insurance Companies involved.
In January 2003, murder charges were re-filed after witnesses again agreed to testify, but only after they learned that Josephine Gray would remain in jail.
First published on the 13th August 2003, 11:40:24 © George Knowles
Best Wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Stones - History, Myths and Lore
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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