PHOTO CAPTION: Mrs. Anjette Donovan Lyles left the courtroom after her conviction in the poisoning of her daughter.
Jan. 25, 1952 – Benjamin Franklin Lyles Jr. (her husband)
Dec. 2, 1955 – Joe Neal Gabbert (her second husband)
Sep. 29, 1957 – Julia Lyles (her mother-in-law)
Apr. 4, 1958 – Marcia Lyles, 9 (her daughter)
May 6, 1958 – Anjette arrested and charged with four murders
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Macon, Ga. – Plump, blonde Anjette Donovan Lyles, convicted and sentenced to die for poisoning her daughter, awaited word from her attorneys today on chances for a new trial.
A Bibb County Superior Court jury convicted the 33-year-old widow of murder Monday night. Her attorneys immediately filed notice of appeal, and this automatically stayed the date of execution which had been set for Dec. 5.
Mrs. Lyles is also accused by the state of poisoning two husbands and a mother-in-law with arsenic. She was tried only in the death of her 9-year-old daughter, Marcia Elaine Lyles.
~ Accepts Verdict Calmly ~
The former restaurant owner accepted the death verdict calmly. The only visible reaction was when her alabaster skin reddened and she bit her lip.
Judge Oscar Long set a precedent when he told Mrs. Lyles she might remain seated while sentence was pronounced.
The courtroom was jammed it had been every day of the trial.
Long set a hearing on the motion for a new trial for Dec. 12.
If the buxom widow loses her appeal, she will be the first white woman to die in Georgia’s electric chair. Only one woman, a negro, has been electrocuted in this state.
~ Blanket Denial ~
In an unsworn statement allowed under Georgia law, Anjette made a blanket denial of all the state’s charges and in the specific case under which she was being tried, that of Marcia, maintained there was no motive.
She said she received only $1,750 from insurance while her expenses, including hospital bills, special nurses and burial, amounted to $5,000.
“I did not give my child any poison – I did not kill my child,” Anjette declared.
~ Burned Candles ~
The state charged she murdered for hate and greed.
The young woman acknowledged an abnormal interest in “root doctors, spiritual advisers and fortune tellers.”
She said she burned seven-day candles – green for luck and money, white for peace, and red for love and once burned a black candle in attempting to break up a romance between her boy friend, airline pilot Bob Franks, and another girl.
[“Order Death for Woman Poisoner,” syndicated (AP), Racine Journal-Times (Wi.), Oct. 14, 1958, p. 16]
Note: The death sentence was commuted.
EXCERPT (Article 2 of 2): At Anjette’s trial, the prosecution was permitted to prove not only that Anjette had killed her daughter by poisoning in 1958, but that she had done the same thing to her first husband in 1952, her second husband in 1955, and her mother-in-law in 1957. The deaths of all four victims were shown to be logically connected in at least ten ways: (1) each of the victims occupied a close relationship to Anjette; (2) each of the victims died of a unique cause--arsenic poisoning; (3) each victim died as a result of multiple doses built up to a lethal level; (4) Anjette was the only person in close personal attendance to all four victims; (5) Anjette showed little or no grief over each death; (6) Anjette collected a substantial amount of money as a result of each death; (7) each of the victims was lavishly buried by Anjette; (8) all the victims were carried to the same hospital, at which they were attended by Anjette; (9) Anjette expressed intense dislike for each of the victims either before or after his or her death; and (10) Anjette predicted the death of each of victims, except her first husband.
Although circumstantial, the evidence that Anjette had killed all four victims was, viewed in its totality, compelling. There was overwhelming evidence that the victims died of arsenic poisoning given in doses over a period of time, and ant poison containing arsenic was found in Anjette’s bedroom.
The damning evidence adduced by the prosecution included the following chilling vignettes:
On occasion employees of Anjette’s restaurant heard Anjette respond to her daughter’s annoying behavior by screaming at her, calling her an SOB, and threatening or swearing to kill her.
-- Anjette would take food and drink to the victims while they were in the hospital. But before delivering a drink Anjette would disappear into the restroom for a few minutes, taking both the drink and her purse with her.
-- When Anjette’s daughter was in a hospital bed crying out from hallucination-induced terror--seeing snakes and thinking bugs were crawling out of her fingers--Anjette, standing nearby, did not attempt to comfort the dying child but instead laughed at her.
-- Two weeks before her suffering daughter died, at a time when the doctors were telling her the girl would recover, Anjette ordered a coffin for the girl.
Also two weeks before her daughter died, Anjette, remarking “Well, she won’t be using these anymore,” packed up the girl’s personal things in the hospital room, discarded the flowers, and put the suitcases in the hall, but kept some of the flower vases, saying she was going to take them to the cemetery.
At the trial it also came out that Anjette was a superstitious creature obsessed with magic and the occult. She visited fortunetellers. She had roots, powders, potions, and other voodoo paraphernalia in her home. She would burn candles and talk to them, telling them what she wanted. White candles were for peace, red candles were for love, green candles brought luck or money, and orange candles kept people from gossiping about you. Black candles were burned when you wanted someone to die.
[Book review: Georgia's most notorious murderess, By Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., Professor of Law, University of Georgia School of Law. Flagpole Magazine, December 22, 1999; Book: Whisper to the Black Candle: Voodoo, Murder, and the Case of Anjette Lyles, Jaclyn Weldon White, Mercer University Press, 1999]