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.
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.
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