Montgomery police charge woman with murder in deaths of two husbands

Voodoo fears undermined earlier cases against her

January 05, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Josephine Gray, feared for her use of voodoo and charged by federal authorities with collecting insurance proceeds after "causing" the deaths of two husbands and a boyfriend, was charged by Montgomery County police yesterday with murder in the deaths of both husbands.

Gray, 55, who is being held by federal authorities, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in an arrest warrant filed by police late yesterday in Montgomery County District Court in Rockville.

Gray was charged with killing her first husband, Norman Stribbling, in 1974 and her second husband, William Robert Gray, in 1990.

She was charged with both killings shortly after they occurred, but the charges were dismissed in both cases after witnesses -- fearful of the voodoo in Gray's past -- recanted and disappeared before her trial, Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said.

Gansler said yesterday that witnesses have offered new information about the killings because they are less fearful of retaliation by Gray now that she is in federal custody.

"We're seeing a lot more cooperation in terms of witnesses' willingness to go forward," Gansler said.

Gray's attorney, Michael CitaraManis, has declined to comment on the case.

Gray also is implicated in federal court papers in the killing of Clarence Goode, a former boyfriend whose body was found June 21, 1996, stuffed in the trunk of his car in West Baltimore.

Gray is described in court papers as a mother of six and a grandmother of 11 who retired after 27 years as a custodian in the Montgomery County schools. Before her arrest, she provided day-care services in the Upper Marlboro home where she has lived for 11 years.

Gansler said witnesses have lived in fear of Gray and that some are willing to come forward only because she has been ordered held without bail on the federal charges.

When police searched Gray's home in 1990, they found "dolls with pins in them" and other voodoo paraphernalia, Gansler said. Witnesses also have told police they feared Gray because of her voodoo, according to Gansler and court papers.

Gray is charged by federal authorities with mail and wire fraud for collecting life insurance policies for all three victims after she was "involved in" their deaths, according to federal court papers.

An eight-count federal indictment handed up in November says Gray "intentionally caused the Death" of all three victims for a total of $165,000 in life insurance money.

Gansler said the witnesses who have come forward include Andre Savoy, who was Gray's boyfriend when she was arrested on federal charges in November.

According to court papers, Savoy told police in 1990 that Gray had admitted to him that she planned to kill her estranged husband, William Gray.

Savoy also told police that a few weeks before William Gray was shot to death, Josephine Gray pulled a .45-caliber handgun from beneath her bed and said she would shoot anyone who came near her house at night, including William Gray.

After her husband was killed with a .45-caliber handgun, Gray denied to police that she ever owned such a weapon, according to court papers.

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