The Black Widow Killer

Call it a mother’s intuition. When a medical examiner reported the cause of death for Glenn Turner, 31, his mom,

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.
Two months later, Glenn moved in with Lynn, and the couple set a wedding date for August 1993. Long before then, at his fiancée’s urging, Glenn named Lynn the beneficiary on his insurance policies. When they found out, the Rat Pack were shocked. To this day, they don’t know if Glenn realized that Lynn was facing a world of debt. Her house and car payments nearly amounted to her take-home pay (her annual salary was less than $20,000), and she faced hefty charges for over-the-limit spending on her credit cards and in her checking account.

Glenn’s mother felt funny as the wedding day approached. “Lynn was such a strange girl,” Kathy said.

As if an omen, the couple was unable to light the unity candle during the wedding ceremony. And Glenn’s brother, James, offered a less than cheerful traditional best man’s toast at the reception: “I feel like I’m more at a funeral than a wedding,” he said. “I don’t see this working out, but I hope for the best.” The Rat Pack took bets as to how long the marriage would last.

In fact, the couple’s relationship began to fray even before the honeymoon was over. Lynn was furious that Glenn had booked them on a family cruise, instead of the luxury version. Soon after their return, Glenn complained to his buddies that Lynn was suffering from “female problems” and could no longer participate in their once very active sex life. Six months into the marriage, the two took to sleeping in separate bedrooms.

Still, Glenn catered to his wife. Says his riding partner, David Dunkerton, “He’d call her while we were working and say, ‘Hey, can I bring you something to eat?’ Most of the time she was downright rude to him. He’d hang up and say, ‘Why do I even bother?'”

Lynn continued to spend wildly, buying a Datsun 240Z on a credit card, and booking out-of-town pleasure trips. To keep up with the bills, Glenn, whose salary was in the $26,000 range, began to work an extra job at a gas station. “And still, Lynn put him on a budget the last year of his life,” recalls his sister, Linda. “Twenty bucks a week.”

Finally, he’d had enough. Once dedicated to saving his marriage, Glenn began taking steps toward divorce. Ten days before his death, which occurred on the day he was to move out, Glenn told a friend that Lynn had threatened to shoot him with his service revolver. “If anything happens to me,” he said to Dunkerton, “look at Lynn.”

Kathy Turner was as suspicious as Glenn’s friends were after her son’s death. Scanning the autopsy report, she made a list of questions. At the top: a green substance in Glenn’s stomach at the time of death, which Kathy thought might have been the Jell-O Glenn had been eating while sick. Still, she wanted to have further testing done, but was told that could only be accomplished if she paid for a private autopsy, which would cost several thousand dollars. “I didn’t have that kind of money,” says Kathy, who cleans homes for a living.

When she contacted Glenn’s friends, the guys bitterly complained about how emotionless Lynn seemed at Glenn’s funeral. Several had overheard her saying, “I’ve got to get the hell out of here,” at the funeral home, and spotted her there walking hand-in-hand with another Cobb County officer.

Kathy and the Rat Pack agreed that if foul play was involved in Glenn’s death, Lynn definitely had something to do with it. They decided to talk to as many of the higher-ups as they could, hoping that his death would be further investigated.

What they didn’t know at that point was that four days after Glenn was buried, Lynn rented an apartment, listing one Randy Thompson as “occupant.” Lynn had actually become involved with Randy less than a year after marrying Glenn. As she’d done with Glenn, she aggressively courted Randy, buying him gifts and taking him on a week-long cruise. Randy, a divorced father of one, had no idea his girlfriend was married.

Randy Thompson was a rugged Forsyth County sheriff’s deputy who would eventually become a firefighter. Like Glenn Turner, he was a jocular, kind-spirited man. His sister, Kimberly Savage, an epileptic, remembered how, as a child, she’d once had a seizure on the school bus. Her protective brother had “tried to hide me, because he knew that it bothered me to be seen that way.” When Randy loved, she says, “he loved with his whole heart.”

By most accounts, Lynn was genuinely crazy about Randy, and he was equally smitten. In the summer of 1995, using some $150,000 from Glenn’s insurance benefits, Lynn bought a house for her and Randy. In January 1996 she gave birth to their daughter, Amber. A son, Blake, was born later. Lynn was a good mother, says Randy’s family. Still, she refused to marry Randy.

“He gave her an engagement ring, but she never wore it,” recalls Kimberly. “The reason she gave us was that her fingers were swollen and she couldn’t fit it on her hand. I’m sure it hurt him a lot.”

Some suggested that Lynn resisted because if she married she might no longer be eligible for Glenn’s pension. Meanwhile, by early 1997, Lynn had convinced Randy to name her the beneficiary on his life insurance policy. The following year, at Lynn’s suggestion, he increased the policy amount from $100,000 to $200,000.

By then, their relationship had begun to sour. In 1997, Lynn claimed Randy hit her in the mouth with his fist and charged him with battery — for which he was fined $400 and sentenced to 10 months of probation. Randy, who had gone through a period of heavy drinking following the end of his first marriage, buckled emotionally. “She knew how to push his buttons, and did on a regular basis,” says Kimberly. On two occasions, he took an overdose of pills, hoping if not to die, to get Lynn’s attention. In 1999, he moved out of the house, leaving his girlfriend, as he said, “for his sanity.”

Still, he held out hope for a reconciliation for the sake of the children, then ages 5 and 2. On January 19, 2001, Lynn and Randy got together to talk about working things out. Three days later, Randy died alone on the couch in his apartment. He was 32.

Randy, like Glenn, suffered severe flu-like symptoms, and was able to keep down little but fluids and Jell-O in the days before his death. He sought help at an emergency room, only to become increasingly ill. After returning from the hospital, he was vomiting and gasping for breath. At the worst of it, he called fellow firefighter Paul Adams, who arrived to find his friend amid overturned furniture, disoriented and panicky, asking, “Do you think I’m going to die?”

The next morning, another firefighter, Barry Head, discovered Randy dead, with a blanket pulled around him, exactly the way Glenn Turner had been found. An autopsy cited an irregular heartbeat as the cause.

The day of his burial, Lynn was on the phone to Randy’s insurance company. She was shocked to learn that his $200,000 policy had been canceled months before for nonpayment of premiums. But Lynn was not the only one dialing the phone.Mike Archer, Glenn Turner’s former sergeant, was temporarily working at a car dealership at the time of Randy’s death. He was mightily surprised to discover that Lynn had phoned the lot one afternoon asking to borrow an automobile to attend her boyfriend’s funeral. Mike got in touch with Kathy Turner. “Now I know what I’m talking about,” he said excitedly. “She did both of ’em, I guarantee you!”

Kathy knew it in her gut too. But, “I kept saying to Mike, ‘What in the world can I do?’ I didn’t know what to do.”

Glenn’s friends did. They started calling police departments. “Get on the phone,” Archer told Donald Cawthon. “I’m calling Forsyth [County]. You call Cobb [County], and let’s raise some hell. She’s killed two now! They’ve got to listen to us!”

Meanwhile, Kathy got in touch with Randy Thompson’s mother, Nita. The two women, along with the Rat Pack, helped inspire Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Jane Hansen to write a series of articles about the similarities surrounding the men’s deaths. Lynn Turner wasn’t just the romantic link, Hansen wrote; she was their messenger of death. She was, as one expert described her in the story, “the black widow.”

The press coverage helped lead to a re-evaluation of Randy’s autopsy results. A forensic pathologist from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found in his kidney tissues a significant amount of calcium oxalate crystals, a telltale signature of ethylene glycol poisoning. In laymen’s terms, Randy had been pickled in antifreeze, the very substance in the 1995 police photograph taken in Glenn’s basement.

Detectives now mounted a homicide investigation. In July 2001, officials exhumed Glenn’s body and tested for ethylene glycol. The findings confirmed what many had suspected: He had also been poisoned with antifreeze. Lynn had likely administered the sweet, odorless substance over a period of days in Jell-O, tea and soup.

Lynn turner was charged with the murder of Glenn Turner in November 2002, and stood trial for his death alone in 2004, although the court allowed the prosecution to introduce “similar transaction evidence,” bringing in Thompson’s death. That meant that jurors heard about the similarity of Randy’s demise, though Lynn had yet to be charged with the crime.

The former 911 dispatcher — who sat stone faced through most of the trial but bragged to reporters that she’d go free — was found guilty and sentenced to life. Said Cobb County DA Patrick Head, “If she hadn’t done it twice, she would have gotten away with it.”

In October 2004, Lynn Turner was indicted for Thompson’s death, but a trial date has not been set. If found guilty, she could get the death penalty.

Retired Georgia criminal profiler Ralph Stone says Lynn’s a psychopath. “She gets along with people by faking normal emotion. Did she do this because of financial reward? It’s much deeper than that, as if she wanted
to say, ‘They tell me I’m not smart enough to be a cop. Well, I’m smarter than the police. They’ll never figure this out.'”

Each year, the Rat Pack gathers at Glenn’s grave. David Dunkerton, who says he’ll never have a partner like Glenn again, had a new tattoo on his arm last time — that of St. Michael, the patron saint of police. Glenn’s old badge number is in the design.
“That’s to show how much he means to me,” says Dunkerton. “This was a sweetheart of a guy who fell in love with a she-devil. And she’ll ultimately pay when she meets her maker.”

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest