Top 5 Notorious Maconites

Selecting 5 of Macon’s most notorious criminals is a daunting task.   Keeping that in mind, we've assembled a list of some of Macon’s most dangerous and violent villains below.

1.  james sullivan

In 1973, James Sullivan moved to Macon from Boston to manage his Uncle Frank Bienert’s liquor-distribution company, Crown Beverage Inc.  In 1977, James married Lita McClinton, a debutante from one of Atlanta’s socially prominent families. She was black and he was white.  After his marriage to Lita, he inherited Crown Beverage after his uncle’s death  in 1983 and sold the beverage company for a reported $5 million.  After selling Crown Beverage, he and Lita moved from the countrified soil of Macon to the rarefied air of Palm Beach into a historic mansion on the ocean.  By some accounts, Lita didn’t like life in Palm Beach and moved back to a townhouse the couple owned in Atlanta and later filed for divorce.  In the midst of the Sullivan’s divorce in 1987, Lita was shot and killed in the front door of her Buckhead townhome by someone who posed as a flower delivery man.  A month after Lita's murder, James Sullivan married Suki Rogers, his Palm Beach girlfriend and fled to Costa Rica.  The murder-for-hire trial got underway almost 20 years after Lita’s murder in 2006.  James Sullivan was later convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.


2.  alice Siegert dannenberg

Alice was born in 1889 in New York City.  A friend named George Allen introduced her to a wealthy businessman named Walter Dannenberg.  Walter was a married man from Macon, Georgia who made frequent business trips to New York City.  Walter Dannenberg owned the Dannenberg department store located in downtown Macon.  He eventually employed Alice as a buyer for his company and she also became his mistress.  In 1928, Alice married Jim Kendrick, a chauffeur from Manchester, Georgia while still maintaining her relationship with Mr. Dannenberg.  In 1929 Alice and Jim adopted a child and named him James Christian Kendrick, Jr., but called him Nookie for short.  Around 1931 Alice and Jim moved their family to Manchester, Ga.  During the years that Alice lived in Ga. she became quite the drinker and this caused many problems for her family.  She and Nookie’s relationship suffered and she placed Nookie in school at Georgia Military Academy.  On December 5, 1943 Alice had been drinking and there was an altercation in the kitchen between her and Nookie.  She later shot Nookie saying she thought he was a burglar breaking in to the house.  Alice was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in May 1944 and she served less than 18 months in jail.  Upon her release she petitioned the court for the right to remarry and in 1946 she married Walter Dannenberg.  Alice died of a heart attack in 1952 and is buried at Rosehill Cemetery. 


3.  chester burge

In a colorful scandal that engrossed the region, Chester Burge, a wealthy slumlord and bootlegger who lived on Jackson Springs Rd. in Macon’s Shirley Hills district, was tried and acquitted of murdering his wife, Mary, in 1960, but was instead found guilty of sodomy with his African-American chauffeur.  Mary was found strangled to death in their home and her finger, which held a 10-carat diamond, was almost severed from her hand.  At the time of her death, her husband was recuperating from hernia surgery at the Macon Hospital, but certain clues suggested her death was an inside job.  Her parrot had been killed earlier that day and the family dog had been locked in the basement.  The 10-carat diamond, pried from the setting, was left in the carpet.  The more investigators learned about Chester Burge’s private life, the more they suspected that he was somehow responsible, either by sneaking out of the hospital’s side exit, possibly assisted by his chauffeur, Louis Roosevelt Johnson,  or through a contract killing of some sort.  In 1963, Burge died in an explosion at his home in Florida that has never been explained. He ran from the blast in the nude and on fire, his skin hanging from his bones like a baggy suit.

Read more in "A Peculiar Tribe Of People" by Richard Jay Hutto

4.  thomas woolfolk

Thomas G. Woolfolk was born on June 18, 1860 and shortly after his birth, Tom's mother died.  Richard Woolfolk, Tom’s father, remarried Mattie Howard in 1867.  Woolfolk hated his new stepmother and strongly disliked the six children born as a result of his father's remarriage. His ill will toward his father's new family was heightened by the belief that they stood in the way of his inheriting his father's properties.  Between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on August 6, 1887, nine members of the Woolfolk family were brutally murdered with an ax: Tom's father, Tom's stepmother; their six children, Richard Jr., Pearl, Annie, Rosebud, Charlie, baby Mattie, and Mrs. Temperance West, an aunt of Mrs. Woolfolk. The only inhabitant of the farmhouse not slain was Tom Woolfolk, who before daybreak sought help from neighbors, claiming that his father's family had been murdered and that he had escaped death by jumping out a window. Woolfolk was indicted on nine counts of murder but tried only for the murder of his father, and the trial began in the Superior Court of Bibb County on December 5, 1887. After only twelve minutes of deliberation, the jury convicted him on December 15th, and the same day he was sentenced to death.  Woolfolk was hanged in front of a crowd of 10,000 people on  October 29, 1890, in Perry, Georgia.

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5.  anjette lyles  

Anjette Lyles was born in Macon, Georgia.  In 1947 she married Ben F. Lyles Jr., who owned Lyles Restaurant in downtown Macon, the business begun by his late father. The couple had two daughters, Marcia, born in 1948, and Carla, born in 1951. Anjette and Ben operated the restaurant together, however, in June of 1951, Ben Lyles Jr. sold the restaurant due to his failing health.  Attending doctors at Macon Hospital were uncertain as to the exact cause of his illness; when he died in January 1952, they finally decided upon encephalitis as the cause of death.  After Ben’s death, she moved in with her parents and in 1955 she bought back the restaurant her husband had sold and renamed it Anjette's.  Anjette's quickly became the most popular restaurant in Macon.  In the late spring of 1955 Lyles married Joe Neal Gabbert, a pilot for Capitol Airways. Four months later, he entered Parkview Hospital for minor surgery on his wrist, but the next day, he developed a spiking fever and a painful skin rash that spread over his entire body. The doctors weren't able to locate the cause of his illness and Gabbert never recovered. He later died in December 1955.  Her daughter Marcia grew ill in the late winter of 1958 and townsfolk became suspicious of the deaths of those people closest to Anjette Lyles. When Marcia died in April 1958, an autopsy was performed on the child's body and arsenic was found in her system. When the bodies of Ben F. Lyles Jr., Joe Neal Gabbert, and Julia Lyles were exhumed, it was determined that all three had died from arsenic poisoning.  Lyles was arrested and charged with four counts of murder.  The Board of Pardons and Parole commuted her death sentence, and Lyles was sent to the State Hospital for the Insane in Milledgeville.

For the most authoritative, in-depth account of the case of Anjette Lyles, be sure to read "Whisper To The Black Candle" by Middle Georgia author Jacklyn Weldon White.

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