ONCE UPON AN ANECDOTE Menu of Death



Frank and Neal were in love with the same woman.  After all, she was the kind of dame that any G.I. Joe could fall for.  Smart, blonde and beautiful, Donna was a great cook and knew how to feed her man.  Donna was a woman who knew what she wanted and knew how to get it. This is the story of how Donna got what she truly deserved in her all too short life.

The war was over and times were good again.   People were working and money was flowing.  In 1947, Frank, whose family operated a popular restaurant in town, met and fell in love with and married Donna, whose family owned a profitable produce company.  Donna went to work in the restaurant and charmed her customers, who came back over and over again.

Suddenly in the summer of 1951, as yet another war was raging in Korea, Frank became violently ill.  Frank sold the business.  Donna was fit to be tied that she wasn't informed of the move. Within her mind, she  vowed somehow to get what was rightfully hers.



 Frank, a veteran of World War II, was sent to the Veterans Administration hospital in Dublin, Georgia for treatment.  He began to show symptoms of the rhuematic fever which  he contracted  uring the war.  The doctors in Dublin were able to stabilize his debilitating condition and sent him back home for more treatment.  To Donna's delight, Frank was declared disabled.  Frank's  disability meant a monthly check.  Over the last few months, Frank had been drinking more and bringing home less.   Their marriage was headed on the fast highway to Nowheresville.   Seven months after Frank became ill, he died on January 25, 1952, apparently of encephalitis.  Back home, his mother and his two  young daughters, Marcia and Carla, cried.

During her widowhood, Donna moved in with her parents and went back to working in a restaurant, first as a waitress.  Nearly three years later, she bought Frank's place back.  Her dowry being recovered, Donna's restaurant became one of the city's most popular places to eat, especially for the men of business and the law.

Donna was living the high life -  made in the shade.   With lots of bread flowing in, Donna, dressed to the nines and  flirted with her male customers, who enjoyed her queenly presence as much,  if not more, than the food and drinks they paid for.

Then one day in the spring of 1955, a new man walked into Donna's life - not one of the local men she was rumored to be seeing outside of the diner, but a handsome pilot for Capitol Airlines who randomly wandered into the joint for some good eats.

Neal, also a veteran of the war, succumbed to Donna's charms and good looks.  The couple had a blast on an extended trip to the Southwest.  Just a short while later, they returned married, shocking their relatives, co-workers and friends.

By August, Neal entered a hospital for a minor operation on his wrist.  Neal suffered from a high fever and skins rashes all over his body.   After a brief improvement, Neal began to get sick a few days before Thanksgiving.   Donna took him to the V.A. Hospital in Dublin for a more complete diagnosis and better care.  The doctors tried to no avail to diagnose and treat his mysterious illness.

Donna, who religiously stayed by her dying husband's side,  became a widow for the second time on December 2, 1955.  When the V.A. doctor told Donna of Neal's death, she sat there with a cold, intense stare.  Considering the mysterious nature of Neal's death, the doctor asked Donna for permission to perform an autopsy on her husband.  Suddenly, Donna's tears and emotions began to flow from her crying eyes.  The frustrated physician left and no further investigation was made into what caused Neal's death.  A few days later, Donna sat emotionless during the funeral .

Donna returned home to live on Cloud Nine.  With the proceeds of Neal's life insurance, Donna bought a new set of wheels, gorgeous threads  and a proper pad .  She went back to what she did best, serving food with a smile and flirting with her male customers.

Donna invited Frank's mother, Julia,  to move in with her to help  take care of her children.   Frank's mother worked along side Donna in the restaurant.  Donna's new found affections for Julia were too phony.  It was all part of her selfish scheme.

In the summer of 1957, Julia became ill.  Donna played the role of the loving daughter-in-law.   Donna would bring a special plate of delicious goodies home to her mother-in- law, who learned to love and admire Donna.   Julia died.  Again, no specific cause of her death was established by the coroner.  They buried her next to her husband, Frank, Sr. and her son, Frank, Jr. in the Antioch Methodist Church cemetery outside of Cochran, Georgia.

Within a week, Donna petitioned the Court of Ordinary to probate the will of her dear mother-in-law, the substantial size of her estate was known only to a few, if anyone but Donna, who had repeatedly tried but failed to get Julia to write a will.   Once again, Donna and her two daughters were the beneficiaries of a family member's estate and insurance proceeds.





The people in Macon began to smell a rat when Marcia, the nine-year- old daughter of Frank and  Donna died a death similar to her father, step-father and grandmother.   Autopsy revealed that all of them had died not of natural causes, but from heavy dosages of arsenic.

When the police and sheriff's office  searched Donna's house, the detectives eyeballed arsenic loaded ant poison and a collection of voodoo items including candles, incantations and potions. The investigators knew they had their woman, dead to right.

Donna was arrested by the cops.  The D.A. charged her with four counts of murder.  You may know Donna by her full name, Anjette Donovan Lyles.

A trial was held in October 1958, some 57 autumns ago.  The widely  ballyhooed  trial created a sensation throughout Macon.   Accounts of the trial were published throughout the state and the nation.  Anjette's lawyer couldn't help her beat the rap.   The jury found her guilty of killing her  husbands Benjamin Frankling Lyles, Jr. and Joe Neal Gabbert as well as her mother-in-law, Julia Y. Lyles and most inexplicably of all, her young and innocent daughter Marcia.

In the tradition of the day, Judge Oscar Long  sentenced Anjette Lyles to death, a ruling which would have made her the first white woman ever executed in Georgia.    Gov. Ernest Vandiver, in order to appease those politicians who wanted to avoid the world-wide spectacle of the electrocution of a woman once known and beloved by so many Maconites, ordered the formation of a commission to study Anjette's mental capacity to understand the consequences of her action.  Vandiver commuted her sentence to life at the State Hospital in Millegeville.

For the last fourteen years of her life to her dying day  on December 4, 1977, Anjette Lyles endured the thoughts of those whom she had once loved but killed for a greater love, the love of money  She  is buried in her family plot in the Coleman Cemetery in Wadley, Georgia, next to her victims, daughter Marcia and husband Ben following Marcia's funeral.

And now you know, that two of Georgia's most infamous female serial killer's victims, Ben and Joe, were treated as patients at the VA Hospital here in Dublin.  Joe never made it back home.  Ben lived longer, only to  linger in excruciating anguish . As they breathed their last breath, they were still in love with her.  Both men died not only because of their wife's greed for more dough to impress the other fellows, but because they ate and drank  too much from the "Menu of Death."





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