published Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Georgia probes earlier death after body found in well

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    In this undated photo released by the Barrow County (Ga.) Sheriff's Office, James Morris Lynn Jr. is shown. Authorities who charged Lynn with killing his third wife are now looking into the death of his first wife in 1990. Lynn is charged with killing his third wife Tonya Faye Lynn, and her body was discovered in a remote northeast Georgia well on Friday, July 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Barrow County Sheriff's Office)

ATLANTA — Investigators who charged a Georgia man with killing his third wife and dumping her body in a well are taking another look at the circumstances of his first wife's apparent suicide, authorities said Tuesday.

James Lynn Jr. was charged with killing his third wife Tonya Faye Lynn and later led police to her body at the bottom of a well in northeast Georgia, said Police Det. Rachel Love in Winder, on the rural outskirts of Atlanta.

Now the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is re-examining the death of Julie Johnson Lynn, who was pregnant when she died in 1990 from a single gunshot wound to her head in the bedroom of her Georgia home.

"We are doing a preliminary review into the facts of the case to see if there are facts to reopen it," said GBI Agent Jim Fullington.

Attorney Stanton Porter, who represented James Lynn Jr. in the past, said he has spoken with him since his arrest and he's "doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances." Porter said his law firm has been talking with Lynn about representing him in the criminal case,and he couldn't discuss the matter further at this time.

Tonya Lynn's supervisor at the Athens Regional Medical Center called police after the 38-year-old mother of four didn't show up for work Wednesday morning, the first time she failed to show without calling or texting. Her niece Christa Royster told authorities she also got a mysterious text message from her aunt's phone saying "take care of my kids," Love said.

Authorities tracked down Tonya Lynn's car at a nearby public library and soon took her husband in for questioning.

"We had to look at everybody as suspicious, especially when you're starting with nothing. He was very cooperative. He was extremely cooperative — is there such a thing as too cooperative?" Love said. "People have their sixth sense and we noticed that something wasn't right."

She said he confessed to the killing after police showed surveillance video of him parking his wife's car at the library and then hopping in a female friend's car. Police wouldn't disclose the friend's name.

"I told him 'I know you're lying, I know this is you, and this is your friend's vehicle. It's time to talk,'" she said. "And he did. He confessed to the murder."

She said James Lynn led investigators to her body in the well in the nearby town of Auburn. Medical examiners at the GBI Crime Lab determined that she died of blunt force trauma to the head, Fullington said.

The death led investigators to re-examine his first wife's death, authorities say. James Lynn married Julie Johnson just a few months before she was found dead at their home in Metter, Ga. in January 1990, according to state records. He married his second wife, Tamra Shaw, about a year later and they were divorced within three years. Shaw declined to comment.

He married Tonya Royster in October 1995 and the two settled in Barrow County. Police said they received several domestic violence complaints about him over the years. He was charged with battery and obstruction of law enforcement on May 14 after an argument with his wife, and Love said she moved out of the house and planned to divorce him. But they had reconciled a few weeks ago, she said.

"It's a very on-again, off-again relationship," said Love.

Tonya Lynn's family and friends were struggling to cope with her death during her funeral Tuesday.

Friends and relatives established a fund to help her four children, who are ages 7-14, according to police. Contributions may be made at any Community and Southern Bank to the "Tonya Royster Lynn Children's Fund."

Her supervisor Stacey Morris said Tonya, who worked as a cardiovascular pulmonary technician, had an infectious smile and bubbly personality that kept the department entertained. Morris said the department is wearing black ribbons on their name badges, but she doesn't have the heart yet to take down the pictures of Tonya's four children from her desk.

"Tonya was special to us. She brought joy to our department, she was full of life. She had a great giggle and we miss hearing her," said Morris. "Our hearts are just broken. We're coping and we're still taking care of our patients, and we're trying to take care of each other."

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