A Seductive Spendthrift Preys on Men in Uniform
(‘Cold-Hearted,’ Forensic Files)
To watch Forensic Files is to think twice about the actions of your romantic partner. “Why is my wife not tasting the soup she made for me?” and similar memes populate many a true-crime Facebook page.
They’re joking, of course, but there’s always some basis in reality behind the sentiment.
And Lynn Turner is it.
Desiring life insurance payouts, the weak-chinned temptress got away with poisoning husband Glenn Turner to death and felt so accomplished that she later did the same thing to boyfriend Randy Thompson, the father of her children.
But the victims’ mothers, forensic science, and the law interrupted her life of murder and insurance fraud.
Because the media loves black widow cases like this one, there is no shortage of coverage on TV, in print, and online. Some of the accounts, however, contradict one another, so I did my best to sort through all the information and come up with a trusty informed recap of “Cold-Hearted,” the Forensic Files episode about the murders.
So let’s get going on the story:
Julia Lynn Womack came into the world on July 16, 1968, in the city of Marietta.
Her birth mother gave her up for adoption as a baby, and she ended up with new parents who divorced when she was a small child. Lynn and her adoptive mother, a legal secretary named Helen, moved to Cumming, Georgia. Helen acquired a financially comfortable husband named D.L. Gregory, according to the book Black Widow: A Beautiful Woman, Two Lovers, Two Murders by Marion Collins.
As a teenager, Lynn could be difficult and had trouble getting along with her stepfather at times. Her mother suspected drug abuse, and checked Lynn into the Charter Peachford psychiatric hospital. The facility quickly released her after finding her normal and without substance problems.
Lynn graduated from Forsyth County High School in 1986 without having made any particular social ripples, according to Atlanta Magazine.
Everything changed after she got an associate’s degree and started doing clerical work at a law school. Lynn became fascinated by law enforcement and the uniformed men who worked in the field. According to Collins’ book, Lynn would chat up officers while they idled in their police vehicles.
She liked to be the center of attention and had an outgoing personality, fluffy hair and, by all accounts, a shapely figure that men admired.
Her visage? Those who knew her described her as anything from a beauty to a butterface.
Whatever the case, Lynn “turned more than one head at a time and it never ended well,” according to “Double Dose” an episode of Someone They Knew hosted by Tamron Hall.
In 1991, Lynn began working as a 911 operator for the Cobb County Police Department for a salary of $20,000 a year.
Lynn wanted to become a police officer herself and passed the physical trials. But she failed the psychological test, according to Oxygen.
Nonetheless, Julia gravitated toward action and drama and “spouted macho-sounding police codes in everyday conversation,” according to Atlanta Magazine. She even got herself a gig posing as an undercover cop — wired up and everything — for Tennessee law enforcement.
She began dating a tall 200-pound police officer from Acworth, Georgia. People described Glenn Turner as a teddy bear. “Glenn was more Andy Griffith than Colombo,” his colleague and buddy Michael Archer told NBC News. Glenn played the saxophone as a boy and, like Lynn, enjoyed Nascar, motorcycles, and auto maintenance.
Lynn tried to make courtship into a fairy tale by buying the man in her life gifts (at least at the beginning of the relationship she did). She gave Glenn clothes, new tires, and snakeskin cowboy boots
Before meeting Lynn, Glenn had set a goal of marrying by age 30. Despite that at least one of his buddies tried to talk him out of it, Glenn joined Lynn in matrimony on August 21, 1993. They lived in a house on Old Farm Walk in Marietta, Georgia.
Once the two got hitched, Lynn turned the tables and became more intent on treating herself to presents. She bought a Datsun 240Z, according to Reader’s Digest. Another source reported that she acquired two Camaros for approximately $25,000 each while married to Glenn.
“She had champagne taste on a beer budget,” said Cobb County prosecutor Pat Head during an appearance on Snapped.
Glenn, who made around $26,000 a year as a police officer, had to work at least one extra job to keep up with the bills that Lynn ran up.
At some point in the marriage, she began entirely depriving Glenn of sex, and blamed it on a gynecological problem, according to Michael Archer’s interview on Forensic Files.
Lynn still enjoyed having other kinds of fun. She and some friends went to the Daytona 500 and left Glenn behind. According to one source, Lynn had taken a job at a gas station but Glenn ended up having to fill in on her shifts so she could cavort with her friends.
Although those who knew Glenn would later say that he was the one who spent most of the marriage cooking and caring for Lynn, she portrayed herself as a loving attentive wife, according to Atlanta Magazine.
When Glenn started displaying flu-like symptoms, she fussed over him and prepared his food herself.
But he became violently ill with hallucinations and then died on March 3, 1995.
Doctors attributed the death to a heart problem — which came as news to his mother. Glenn Turner, age 31, had never suffered from any cardiac ailments.
At the funeral, Glenn’s mother, Kathy Turner, gave Lynn a hug but said her daughter-in-law was otherwise cold to her, according to Someone They Knew.
And even more insulting, Lynn brought a date to the funeral.
But Lynn had no criminal record and the possibility of her murdering Glenn Turner never came up — clearing the way for her to receive $150,00 in a life insurance payout and Glenn’s police pension of $750 a month. She also managed to get half of $6,300 in deferred compensation that Glenn left in full to his sister. Lynn insisted the money was meant for her.
She had been living a double life, seeing firefighter Randall “Randy” Thompson during her marriage to Glenn. Lynn attended Thompson family functions, according to court papers. Randy and his family believed that Lynn was divorced.
With the Thompsons, Lynn followed the template that she used with Glenn at the beginning. She bought cowboy boots and World Series tickets for Randy, plus Victoria Secret items for his sisters and a stereo for his parents. Where did a 911 operator get all this disposable income? Lynn said she had a windfall from her grandmother. What she really had was an insurance payout from Glenn’s death and a lot of credit cards.
Randy’s sister Angie would later say that she was dumbfounded upon seeing Lynn fan out a stack of charge cards as thick as a deck of playing cards.
Lynn and Randy, who never married — otherwise, she would have lost Glenn’s pension money — had a daughter, Amber, in 1996 followed by a son, Blake.
Soon enough, Lynn’s supply of financial capital dwindled and she and Randy argued about money. It would later come out that she had around $35,000 in credit card debt and was behind on mortgage payments. By that time, Lynn was making just under $33,000 a year at her courthouse job, according to Dateline NBC.
Randy moved out and allegedly made suicide attempts, but the couple reconciled.
In 2000, Randy developed a staph infection while recovering from sinus surgery. His mental health seemed to decline. Randy’s buddy once found him lying on the floor and talking to his cockatoo, Simon, who wasn’t in the room. (Randy and his pet bird were very close and even slept together under the covers, according to Atlanta Magazine.)
At home, Lynn made him grilled cheese sandwiches and sweetened iced tea and he seemed to do better.
But soon after, his colleagues at the fire department grew worried when they couldn’t contact him. It’s not clear whether Randy was living with Lynn or at an apartment he’d rented, but on Jan. 22, 2001, one of his co-workers kicked his door open and found him lying dead. The autopsy of the 32-year-old revealed an enlarged heart, although he had no history of cardiac problems.
As a tribute at Randy’s funeral, his colleagues formed an arch with the ladders of two firetrucks.
A few weeks later, Randy’s heartbroken mother, Nita Thompson received a letter from a fellow bereft parent — none other than Kathy Turner. The two women compared notes and discovered the similarity between the trajectories of their sons’ lives and deaths with Lynn.
They notified the authorities.
Randy’s autopsy revealed ethylene glycol crystals — a component of antifreeze — in his kidneys. After exhuming Glenn Turner’s body, medical examiners found the same substance in his kidneys. Investigators believed that Lynn slipped the sweet-tasting poison — a component of antifreeze — into the men’s food and drinks, most likely Jell-O or iced tea.
The motive in Randy’s death? Insurance money, again. Randy had $100,000 to $400,000 in coverage, but he had let that policy expire without telling Lynn. The widow wasted no time in pursuing a separate $35,000 policy that was still valid, allegedly making phone calls to the insurance agency while en route to the burial.
On November 1, 2002, Lynn Turner was arrested and charged with the malice murder of Glenn Turner. Despite the weight of the accusations, Lynn managed to stay composed.
“The first time I talked to her, before the trial, she was taking care of her kids. She was a very likable person,” said Jane Hansen, an Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter whose investigative journalism was credited with helping spur the case. “During the trials, she was very calm, cool, and collected. When I’d go to the ladies room, we’d often speak. In one case, she gave me a piece of lemon gum (I did not chew it). “
The trial for Glenn Turner’s murder kicked off on April 30, 2004. Court TV filmed the proceedings.
In a conservative blue short-sleeved blazer with a matching top, Lynn looked more like corporate middle manager than a scheming killer.
“This case is about lust, greed, and murder,” the prosecutor said in an opening statement. But defense lawyer Rafe Banks insisted that Lynn was a victim of media hype and overzealousness of the families of the deceased men, the Associated Press reported.
Lynn’s friend Stacy Hendrix Roaderick testified that Lynn told her she had given Glenn Turner green Jell-O the morning of his death.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent David King noted evidence that Lynn was actually $174,00 in debt, including $2,500 in overdraft fees.
After deliberating for four hours, the jury found her guilty.
“The indebtedness, the life style…when you put all the pieces together, they basically took the place of the smoking gun,” a juror told Snapped.
At her second trial, for Randy Thompson’s homicide, Lynn again wore a blue outfit — but it was a prison uniform.
Her defense team suggested that unhealthy finances drove Randy to drink the ethylene glycol intentionally.
On the prosecution’s side, a veterinary technician testified that Lynn asked her, before Randy’s murder, what substance was used to euthanize animals.
In March 2007, the jury convicted Lynn, making her eligible for capital punishment.
In the penalty phase, Lynn’s mother, Helen, asked the court for mercy for the sake of Amber and Blake, ages 11 and 8.
“They talk to [Lynn] every day, and she’s keeping them alive and going,” Gregory said as reported by the AP. “Please don’t take her away from us.”
It worked. The jury decided on life without parole instead of a death sentence.
“She’s a very cruel woman,” Kathy Turner said, “and she’s getting her punishment.”
Lynn’s son and daughter went to live with Helen Gregory.
Life at Metro State Prison for women in Atlanta disagreed with Lynn. On August 30, 2010, she was found dead in her cell, which she shared with roommates. She had hoarded prescription drugs and committed suicide via overdose.
Lynn Turner’s mother told CBS News that she and the kids had just visited Lynn and she gave no hint of her suicide plan, although Lynn said she worried that other inmates would hurt her.
It was “the final chapter in what has been a very long and very sad, albeit fascinating, story,” said Penny Penn, the Forsyth County district attorney who prosecuted her in the second trial.
“I think she just didn’t have anything to live for,” Glenn’s mother, Kathy Turner, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It comes around, doesn’t it?”
Kathy said she was disappointed her former daughter-in-law didn’t serve her sentence but was glad she’d no longer have to see her on TV.
“If she committed suicide,” Nita Thompson told the AJC, “all she’s doing is telling the world that she’s guilty.”
Thanks in part to her former mothers-in-law, Lynn never had a chance to seduce anyone else’s son and turn his life into a cautionary meme.
That’s all for this post. Until next time, cheers. — RR
Watch the Forensic Files episode on YouTube