This Murderous Restaurant Owner Was The First White Woman Ever To Be Sentenced To Death In Georgia

The first white woman in the US to be put on death row was a charming, well-liked restaurant owner by the name of Anjette Lyles. While initially beloved in her home of Macon, GA, people grew suspicious when members of her family mysteriously started dying off after inexplicable illnesses. When it came to light that Lyles had been poisoning her family with pesticides throughout the 1950s, there was widespread outrage and shock in the community. The public was especially enraged given Anjette Lyles's daughter was one of four suspected victims.

While Lyles was sentenced to death, she ended up dying in a mental institution. Nevertheless, the haunting nature of her case still lingers nationwide and in Macon. It's shocking to think that an everyday neighbor could be the mastermind behind four tragic and untimely deaths. Read on the learn the haunting details of the case, and if they leave you wanting more, check out this female serial killers list.

  • She Began Poisoning Her First Husband Three Years Into Their Marriage

    Ben Lyles, the owner of a family restaurant in Macon, GA, began getting sick in 1951, just about three years after he married Anjette Donovan. His symptoms included fatigue, nausea, and stomach pain.Doctors were baffled as they found no clear cause of his illness.

    On January 25th, 1952, Lyles died from the mysterious illness.

  • Poisoning Her First Husband Backfired, At First

    The motivation for Anjette Lyles’s first murder was likely marital troubles. She often fought with her husband, Ben Lyles, and this is likely why she started poisoning him. Her plan backfired, however, as the strain of his conditions forced Ben to sell the restaurant.

    For all of her frustrations with their marriage, Anjette thought the establishment would stay in her possession, and the sale reportedly shocked and infuriated her. Though it took years of work, Anjette would eventually buy back the restaurant with money she earned waitressing after Ben's death.

    Once she became the owner, she changed the name from Lyles' Restaurant to Anjette's.

  • The Town Grew Suspicious After The Death Of Her Second Husband

    Anjette began to lose favor in Macon after her second husband’s death. She remarried in 1955 to pilot Joe Neal Gabbert. Gabbert also died under mysterious circumstances. After undergoing a minor wrist surgery, he came down with a mysterious rash and fever, then died shortly after.

    In the years since Ben Lyles had died, Anjette's neighbors had warmed to the charming and charismatic lady who served them at the restaurant. However, following her second husband's passing, Anjette displayed odd behavior that raised eyebrows in Macon. 

    She spent Gabbert’s insurance money on a new car and house. Just months after becoming a widow a second time, she began dating another pilot. This made her seem cold and uncaring to Macon citizens.

  • She Pretended To Care For Her Mother-In-Law While Secretly Poisoning Her

    Julia Lyles, Anjette's mother-in-law from her first marriage, moved in with Anjette shortly after the death of her second husband. Anjette appeared to be playing the role of supportive daughter-in-law; however, she was actually poisoning Julia while pressuring her to make a will.

    In August 1957, Julia became ill. Anjette visited her in the hospital, bringing her snacks and drinks that were likely poisoned. Julia died in September, and Anjette was quick to present a possibly forged will in which Julia signed most of her savings over to Anjette's family.

  • Anjette Seemed Indifferent To Her Daughter Marcia's Death

    Anjette directed a lot of hostility towards her young daughter Marcia. She sometimes called Marcia a “Lyles-looking son of a b*tch.” She also reportedly threatened to kill the child on several occasions. When Marcia was hospitalized after getting sick in 1958, Anjette started to receive serious suspicion from her community.

    Anjette seemed certain her daughter would die, even going as far as to make funeral arrangements while Marcia was still alive. When Marcia began to have frightening hallucinations in the hospital, Anjette responded with laughter.

    When Marcia eventually died from kidney failure at age nine, Anjette​​​​​​​ seemed indifferent.

  • An Anonymous Letter Eventually Led To Justice

    An anonymous letter sent by an employee at Anjette's restaurant was what eventually led to justice. The employee mentioned that Anjette's maid told her there was poison all over the house she cleaned for the family.

    Anjette claimed this was to deal with an insect infestation at the restaurant. Knowing the restaurant was not infested with any pests and concerned with Anjette's bizarre behavior, the employee tipped off the coroner, who then test young Marcia's body for poisoning.