The Black Widow Killer

Two men. Two murders. Too many questions.

By Alanna Nash from Reader's Digest | November 2005

Call it a mother’s intuition.

When a medical examiner reported the cause of death for Glenn Turner, 31, his mom, Kathy, refused to accept the findings. An outgoing police officer for Cobb County, Georgia, Glenn had no known health problems. In fact, he was strong as an ox; eight years before his March 3, 1995, death, Glenn had survived a near-fatal motorcycle wreck, waking from a coma and returning to his job a few weeks later.

The coroner said Glenn, found dead by Lynn, his wife of 19 months, had an irregular heartbeat and an enlarged heart. “He never had any such thing that I knew about,” said Kathy. But in the days before his death, Glenn had severe flu-like symptoms, among them vomiting and diarrhea. He missed three days from work, and was admitted to Kennestone Hospital’s ER, where he was given intravenous fluids and medications, then released.

Lynn told Glenn’s friends that her husband had returned to their Marietta, Georgia, home and taken a bizarre turn for the worse, waking after midnight. He was hallucinating, she said, trying “to jump off the balcony because he thought he could fly.” He went down to the basement, where he tried to drink gasoline, Lynn said. She helped him back upstairs and the following morning, when he was feeling better, served him Jell-O.

A few hours later, Lynn returned from running errands and found Glenn’s lifeless body, wrapped in blankets, on the bed in the guest room where he’d been sleeping recently. When a detective arrived, Lynn told him what had happened and took him to the basement, where he photographed the gasoline can, and, next to it, a large blue container of antifreeze.

Julia Lynn Womack Turner was adopted as an infant by Helen Womack, a legal secretary, and her husband. The couple were so happy to have a child they spoiled her beyond reason, buying her expensive toys and clothes. But when Lynn was five, Helen divorced and raised her daughter on her own until remarrying some years later. There were tensions between Lynn and her stepfather, D.L. Gregory. And as a young teenager, Lynn’s problems grew: She was admitted to an Atlanta drug clinic for treatment.

Surprisingly, in her early 20s Lynn began pursuing a job in law enforcement. She went to work as a 911 operator and also took a civilian position with an undercover narcotics unit in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Outside of work, she hung around with cops, spending time clubbing, hot-tubbing and shooting pool. It was at the apartment of a suburban Atlanta patrolman, where a group of officers had gathered before a night out dancing, that Lynn met Glenn.

Shortly after their 1991 introduction, Lynn, then 22, began relentlessly pursuing Glenn, buying him such items as exotic snakeskin cowboy boots and tickets to sporting events. Glenn’s friends thought it strange that this shapely and attractive brunette with aspirations for the high life would be attracted to their middle-class buddy, whom they nicknamed “Buddha” because of his large build. “I’m sure Glenn didn’t think that he could get that type of woman,” says Silvia Browning, a Roswell, Georgia, police detective. “He felt she wasn’t in his league and that she was a great catch.”

Glenn’s circle of cop friends, who jokingly called themselves the Rat Pack, weren’t so sure. Lynn, from what they saw, was a big spender who always seemed on the make. “She flirted with everybody,” says Glenn’s friend Donald Cawthon. She often seemed to need to be the center of attention.

Lynn also had a brittle temper. Glenn’s sister, Linda Hardy, noticed that Lynn had an ability to “go from being sweet to being hateful within seconds.” To Linda, the only thing the couple seemed to have in common was that they were both NASCAR fans. Lynn had bought herself an expensive pace car similar to one she’d admired at the Daytona 500, and she and Glenn regularly attended the races together.

In 1992, Lynn applied to become a police officer. Fairly athletic, she breezed through the rigorous physical trials but failed the psychological exam. Afterward, she told Glenn that it was humiliating for her to remain as a dispatcher, and began scheming to find a higher-paying and more prestigious position. When nothing turned up, she began regularly calling in sick at work.

Meanwhile, Glenn told his buddies that he was in love and showed them an engagement ring he’d gotten Lynn for Christmas. “He pulled out that little ring box, and I said, ‘Oh, you have lost your damn mind,’” remembers Cawthon.