Sinister truth about ‘unlucky’ husband
WHEN single mum Diane Beasley married John Smith, she truly believed she had found her soulmate.
But rather than a devoted husband, the man she had vowed to spend her life with was a cold blooded killer, whose first wife's body was lying dismembered and rotting in a hidden box in their home.
To the outside world, John Smith had been unlucky in love.
He'd lost two wives, with his first marriage ending in divorce, and his second wife dying of cancer.
But the truth was far more sinister - John was believed to have murdered both women, and covered his tracks, and had managed to conceal the gruesome truth from his third wife, Diane Beasley.
The horrifying tale is featured in a new documentary to be aired on the US Crime and Investigation program.
It details how amazed Diane failed to believe the FBI when they revealed the truth about her husband, and how close she came to becoming a victim herself.
A WEB OF LIES
In the beginning, Diane's new boyfriend couldn't have been more ordinary.
Tall, skinny and jug eared, he was slightly socially awkward but pretty unremarkable.
Recalling their first meeting, Diane said: "I was not looking for another relationship at all.
"I had been divorced for three years and I was comfortable with occasionally dating," she told the cameras.
"He was really sweet, really nice, very polite. He seemed like the perfect gentleman."
John told Dianne he had been married twice before.
Firstly to his childhood sweetheart Janice, who divorced him, and again to a woman called Fran, who he told Diane had tragically died of cancer.
"He told me he was at her bedside when she passed away so I felt for him," Diane said.
But the brutal truth was that John had murdered his wife Janice, and stored her dismembered body in a box.
His second wife Fran was still missing.
JEALOUS AND VOLATILE
Childhood sweethearts from Ohio, John and Janice appeared to have the perfect marriage when they wed at 19-years-old.
But behind closed doors, John was becoming increasingly jealous and volatile, to the point that Janice had enough.
She filed for divorce, four years after their wedding, when a fight turned physical.
On November 17, 1974, three days after the divorce was finalised, Janice went missing.
Two days after murdering his ex-wife, John filed Janice as a missing person.
Safe from suspicion, after police managed to find no leads and the investigation halted in its tracks, John disposed of his young wife's body and carried on with his life.
Her remains wouldn't be found for another eight years - they was hidden in a makeshift wooden box in John's parents' home.
A year after Janice's supposed disappearance, John met Betty "Fran" Gladden, ten years his senior, after moving to Florida.
The pair met while working at the same software company.
They quickly got to know each other and John proposed marriage to Fran, which she gladly accepted.
John and Fran moved to New Jersey, but just like with Janice, John's temper fast became an issue, and he would lose his cool over insignificant things.
A year into the couple's marriage, Fran slipped on some tiles and was left with a broken arm, bed-bound and at John's mercy.
Four weeks later, she disappeared.
One missing wife could be an unfortunate tragedy, but two was considered suspicious.
The police decided to look into the case after John reported Fran's disappearance, however, with no evidence to go on, the investigation was shelved.
A SHOCKING CLAIM
But when a police officer who had worked the case when Fran vanished was promoted to an FBI agent years later, he decided to investigate again.
He discovered many similarities between the two incidents.
A year after Diane and John married in 1988, he began investigating him in earnest.
His big break came when John was caught for an unrelated traffic violation in 1996.
This let cops trace John to California, where he had relocated, and they discovered he'd married Diane.
After a year of surveillance on John to gather evidence, they made contact with Diane in 1999 and told her they suspected her husband was a killer and were worried for her safety - especially as John had been seeing another woman.
At first Diane refused to believe the FBI.
"I was in total, total shock. I could not believe that they were telling me all of this about John Smith," she said.
"I did not see anything but love for me through John's eyes."
But when her husband suddenly went on the run, Diane realised the FBI were right. She divorced him in secret.
'HE LOOKED LIKE THE DEVIL'
Diane's worst nightmare came true when John appeared at her home one day after he had taken off, furious after receiving the divorce papers she had filed.
"He came up the stairs, like two at a time, and he had this look on his face like … I mean it wasn't a mad person, it wasn't an angry person. It was a devil person," she recalled.
Miraculously, realising that Diane's daughter was in the house as well, John's demeanour completely changed.
"When he saw Summer, he changed and he looked at me and he said, 'Why are you doing this to me baby? Let's talk. I want to talk to you'," she said.
"And I told him the police were on their way - and then he just left."
However, the FBI had been monitoring the house and were already waiting outside.
John's brother Michael had opened up to them about John's strange behaviour after Janice's 'disappearance', including putting her clothing in a special box.
This tip off lead FBI agents to discover Janice's body in its final resting place.
THE MURDER TRIAL
In July, 2001, John Smith was convicted in Ohio for the murder of Janice Hartman and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
He remains the prime suspect in Fran's presumed murder.
Diane visited her husband in prison in the hope of obtaining a confession, but to this day, he continues to deny he killed either of the women he was married to.
According to Diane, she still hopes to find justice for Fran's family, and make sure no other women fall victim to John Smith's brutality.
"I want to keep this story about John alive because Fran is still missing," she told the television program.
"And there might be a possibility, because of good behaviour, he might be paroled out of prison and nobody wants that.
"Because he will murder again."
This story originally appeared in The Sun and has been republished here with permission.