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Crime News

Did This Texas Homecoming Queen Shoot Her Husband In The Head For Insurance Money?

The Texas beauty queen Darlene Gentry seemed to adore her husband. She was sentenced to 60 years.

By Benjamin H. Smith

Murders A-Z is a collection of true crime stories that take an in-depth look at both little-known and famous murders throughout history. 

With her long blonde hair, bedroom eyes and vivacious personality, Darlene Gentry was the picture of a Texas beauty queen. She could have had any man she wanted and settled on a small town boy with rugged good looks. But when their marriage hit a rough patch, she threw caution to the wind and shot him dead, blaming his murder on home intruders. Fortunately quick thinking detectives caught her trying to cover her tracks and her plans for a new life ended in a jail cell.

Born in 1974, Darlene grew up in Cameron, Texas, which lies halfway between Austin and Waco with a population of just under 6,000. She caught people’s attention from an early age. “She was on the flag corps. She was homecoming queen. Her personality just drew people to her,” her mother Judy Doskocil told Oxygen’s “Snapped.”

After high school she attended Texas State Technical College, where she studied to become a dental assistant. There she met Keith Gentry, who was studying drafting and welding. “My first impression was his eyes. He just had the most beautiful eyes,” Darlene told “Snapped.” She was immediately smitten.

Keith’s Dad, Waymon Gentry, told “Snapped,” “She just acted like Keith hung the moon, you know? Whatever he wanted to do, they done.”

After graduating in 1997, Darlene wanted to settle down, but Keith wasn’t ready, so she moved to Dallas, where she worked for a dentist. After her car was stolen, she decided to move home, where she and Keith started dating again. Determined not to let her slip away a second time, Keith proposed in 1999, and they were married soon after. “It was a typical Texas wedding,” Darlene says. “We did the barbecue and the dance afterwards. It was a good time.”

They moved next door to Keith’s parents and Darlene got a nursing degree, while Keith took a job as an engineer for an electric utility company. In short order they started a family, having three boys almost back to back. Keith’s job kept him on the road half the week and Darlene had her hands full with her job and three young children, but at least she had the Gentry’s next door to pick up the slack.

Keith eventually took a desk job that kept him close to home, but didn’t really like it, and after 6 years, the marriage started showing signs of strain. “You could see a lot of problems starting,” says Waymon Gentry. “They didn’t seem to be happy and Keith wasn’t happy.” Still, he told his family he was determined to stick it out. Darlene, though, had other plans. 

On the morning of November 9th, 2005, just past 6 o’clock, Darlene made a frantic call to 911. Tapes of the call record her saying, “I got up this morning, I was in my sons’ room because they didn’t sleep. My back door was open. My husband’s guns are all gone, and um…there’s blood on the bed, and he is gurgling…He has pink foam coming out of his mouth and he’s making a god-awful sound.”

When police arrived, they found Darlene Gentry still on the phone with the 911 operator. Keith Gentry had been shot once in the head, but he was still alive, and was rushed to the nearest hospital. The house showed no signs of forced entry and the Gentry’s glass gun cabinet didn’t appear to have been broken into. Body cam footage captured cops on the scene voicing their suspicions. “Something stinks about this, Gary,” said one cop to another.

“I think she did it,” replied the other cop.

Just outside the front door, they made a shocking discovery.

“One of the first things that I observed was a stack of weapons outside the house. That kind of seemed odd to me,” Detective Tracy O’Conner told “Snapped.”

Detective O’Conner asked Darlene Gentry to come down to the station and give a statement. She went along willingly.

“Originally, I thought, you know, I wanted to help tell them anything that I could,” Darlene told “Snapped.”

She said her children had been sick the night before and she had stayed up with them watching TV before drifting off to sleep in their room. When she awoke,  she saw the empty gun cabinet and yelled at Keith to wake up. She claimed that when he didn’t answer, she went into their bedroom, where she found him covered in blood and making a gurgling sound. That’s when she called police.

Despite being a registered nurse, Darlene did nothing to help her husband, and waited for first responders.

“You know, even someone that’s not trained in medical care, when their spouse is injured, they’re going to try to do something to help that person. She made no effort,” says Tracy O’Conner.

In her defense, Darlene told “Snapped,” “I don’t know if I was in a fog or I was in shock, I don’t know what it was. My main thing I remember thinking was just about the kids,” she told “Snapped.”

An hour into her interview, police got word that Keith Gentry was brain dead. They drove Darlene to the hospital, where she signed the consent forms to take her husband off of life support, and he died soon after. Waymon Gentry told “Snapped,” “I never saw her actually really break down. She had tears in her eyes and mourned, but not like someone like that should have done.”

Darlene returned to the police station later that afternoon to finish her interview. Detectives had by then decided she was the prime murder suspect. With no signs of a break in and the orderly stack of guns outside, a burglary just didn’t make sense. Darlene soon realized where the detective’s line of questioning was going.

“He point blank tells me, ‘I know what game you’re trying to play,’” she told “Snapped.” “He was basically accusing me right there I said, ‘I think I need an attorney.’”

As police cataloged Keith’s guns they discovered one was missing; a nine-shot .22 revolver his father had given him. After performing an autopsy on him, police determined the bullet that killed him had come from a .22, though the slug they recovered was too badly damaged to match to any gun.

Detectives soon determined what they thought was a plausible motive. “(Keith) had two life insurance policies, and I believe it totaled around $750,000,” Tracy O’Conner told “Snapped.” On November 27th, the police requested a warrant for Darlene’s arrest on suspicion of murder.

Following her arrest, Keith’s parents rallied around Darlene. They helped her raise her $50,000 bail and she was out of jail by that evening. “We had a hundred percent belief in her that she didn’t do anything,” Waymon Gentry told “Snapped.”

Darlene Gentry's trial for the murder of her husband began on February 6th, 2007. Her defense team seemed confident about her chances for a full acquittal. With her good looks and Keith’s family behind her she presented well and the prosecution’s case seemed circumstantial at best. The prosecution’s case rested on the inconsistencies in Darlene’s story and the crime scene, as well as an incriminating video she hadn’t counted on.

In the days after Keith’s murder, Darlene Gentry reached out to an acquaintance named Robert Pavelka about buying a new house. She said she wanted to make a new start. The property he showed her had a pond next to it, which she said would be perfect for the children to fish in, something she claimed Keith always wanted.

After her arrest, and while out on bond, Darlene said she wanted to move ahead with purchasing the house but now wanted the pond filled in. Pavelka thought that was suspicious and told police. Detectives immediately suspected she had used the pond to dispose of the murder weapon and called in a dive team. “Probably ten to fifteen minutes after getting into the water one of the divers found the weapon,” Texas Ranger Steve Foster told “Snapped.” The weapon they found was Keith Gentry’s missing .22.

Police asked Pavelka to tell Gentry he would have to drain the pond before he could fill it in. They then set up a video camera in the brush in the hope that she would return to retrieve the gun. According to the Waco Tribuneofficers placed a large stick to mark the spot where they found the gun in the pond. Video captured Darlene returning to the pond, checking around to make sure no one would see her, and then wading into the water and going directly to where the gun was found.

The video footage of Darlene Gentry going to retrieve the weapon that killed her husband Keith was all the jury needed to see to make up their minds. It took them just five hours of deliberations to come back with a guilty verdict for murder. The following day she was sentenced to 60 years in prison. According to KXXV, she was unemotional as the verdict was read, and took off her earrings before being taken into custody.

Following her conviction, Keith Gentry’s parents won custody of his and Darlene’s three sons. As part of a 2010 court order, Darlene is prohibited from having any contact with her children.

Now 43, Darlene Gentry continues to maintain her innocence. In November 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied her request for a new trial and ruled that her murder conviction would stand. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, she will first be eligible for parole in 2037.

[Photo: "Snapped" Screengrab]