True crime is the most popular category in the podcast world. We have programs like Dateline and 20/20 that take us through crimes and their resolutions. Entire networks feature exclusive crime-oriented programming. With most of the crimes covered happening in the last thirty years or so, it would be easy to think that many criminal types, like Black Widows, are relatively new, but these twisted killers have been around for quite some time. Anjette Donovan-Lyles is one of those.
Anjette was born in Macon, GA, in 1925. She was the daughter of William and Jetta Donovan. As a child, she was described as having a charming personality that usually ended up getting her whatever she wanted.
When Anjette was twenty-two, she met and married Ben Lyles, Jr. He owned Lyles restaurant on Mulberry Street in downtown Macon, a business that had been in his family for years. Anjette became involved in the restaurant’s day to day, was described as charismatic, and it seemed the customers loved her. She was called an attractive woman with striking features who took advantage of her looks and “buxom figure” by dressing in tight-fitting clothes. The business thrived. The couple had two daughters, Marcia and Carla.
After around three years of matrimony, Ben began to suffer from physical ailments, including nausea, fatigue, and stomach pain. Doctors tried various treatments, but Ben’s condition continued to deteriorate. The couple’s life together wasn’t very positive, with friends and neighbors reporting frequent disagreements.
With his health becoming an ongoing concern, Ben sold the business but did not consult with Anjette before the decision. It was evident that Anjette never forgave Ben. By the following year, his condition required hospitalization, and he died from his mysterious ailment. On the death certificate, encephalitis was stated as the cause.
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Anjette and her daughters moved in with her mother and began saving money from her waitress job. By April 1955, she could purchase the former Lyles restaurant, which she renamed Anjette’s, serving Southern-style food. Her personality quickly turned the new spot into a major success. Anjette soon began enjoying the trappings of her success. She dressed quite fashionably, bought a new sports car, and was rumored to enjoy liaisons with various local men. A newspaper article at the time referred to her clientele as “the brass hats of Macon,” an assortment of prominent businessmen, attorneys, and politicians.