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Whisper to the Black Candle
by Jaclyn Weldon White
Mercer University Press, 1999
ISBN: 0-86554-638-X

 

Anjette Lyles was a beloved Macon restaurateur, wife, mother and was almost the first white woman electrocuted in Georgia.  The Case of Anjette Lyles attracted national attention and caused waiting lines for court watchers in the Bibb County Courthouse in 1958. 

Jaclyn Weldon White does an excellent job recounting the case and using insight from documented court documents, newspaper accounts, and interviews with living witnesses.  She tells the story of an outgoing and beautiful young woman who uses arsenic and voodoo to rid herself of two husbands, a mother-in-law and her first born daughter for greed.  She almost got away with it. 

Anjette Donovan loved being romanced and the carefree period of dating.  At age twenty-two, she married Ben Lyles, Jr.  The Lyles family owned a successful and popular restaurant in Macon.  Ben Jr. was to manage the business, but soon decided work didnít suit him.  Anjette started working at the restaurant and soon increased business.  Within a short period of time, Anjette had two small daughters and a husband who was drinking up the profits.  Ben Lyles, Jr. was hospitalized with unexplained bleeding, swelling, and periods of delirium.  After two day, he was dead. 

The restaurant flourished, and Anjette held court there daily, bringing locals in with her friendly chatter and good company.  She attracted the attention of a pilot that was a frequent customer Ė Buddy Gabbert.  After an intense romance, Anjette became Mrs. Joe Neal Gabbert.  The problems of their marriage were not obvious in the account, but perhaps it was due to Buddy being away from home because of his job, and the natural progression from romance to marriage.  Buddy had a rash that developed into a full-body open sore.  His death was not pretty.  Soon, Anjette was shopping for a new convertible.  

She could have probably gotten away with the murders of her husbands, but the following deaths of her mother-in-law Julia Lyles and her daughter Marcia were cold and carelessly observed by others.  

Soon after the death of her daughter, Anjette was charged with all four murders.  The investigation discovered ant killer containing arsenic and a variety of voodoo objects including roots, powders and candles.  The prosecution had an excellent array of witnesses including experts, witnesses in the hospital, and restaurant employees.  The only defense witness was Anjette Lyle. 

The jury of twelve men sentenced Anjette to death without mercy, which meant the electric chair.  Always able to talk her way out of anything, Anjette did not lose hope.  Her lawyers appealed the case and were successful in an insanity plea.  Anjette thought she would go home, but soon found that she had a life sentence at the Milledgeville State Hospital.  

Jaclyn Weldon White tells a spellbinding tale of southern gothic proportions with finesse and historical impact.

 
Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews
 

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