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GBI probes earlier death after body found in well

James Morris Lynn Jr.

James Morris Lynn Jr.

WINDER -- Investigators who charged a Winder man with killing his third wife and dumping her body in a well are taking a hard look at his first wife's apparent suicide two decades prior.

James Lynn Jr., 42, has been charged with beating his third wife, Tonya Faye Lynn, 38, to death last week. He admitted to the killing and led police to the body at the bottom of a well near the Gwinnett-Barrow line on Friday, said Winder police Chief Dennis Dorsey.

An autopsy ruled the cause of death as blunt-force trauma to the head.

"We have not recovered any weapon at this point," Dorsey said Tuesday. "We have some information, and that's something we're looking at."

Recent charges have spurred the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to re-examine the death of Julie Johnson Lynn, who was pregnant when she died in 1990 from a single gunshot wound to her head. She was found in the bedroom of the home she shared with the murder suspect, in the southeast Georgia town of Metter.

A preliminary review will determine if enough evidence exists to reopen the old case, GBI Agent Jim Fullington told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

James Lynn married his first wife just a few months prior to her death, according to state records. He married his second wife, Tamra Shaw, about a year later; they were divorced within three years.

Dorsey, the police chief, said James and Tonya Lynn wed in 1995 and settled in Winder. They have three boys and a girl, ages 7 to 14.

Tonya Lynn's niece, Christa Royster, told authorities she began searching for her aunt after receiving a mysterious text message last Wednesday from her, saying "take care of my kids."

Dorsey said he's certain that text message was actually sent by the victim's husband.

Royster led authorities to Tonya Lynn's car at a nearby public library. They soon took her husband in for questioning.

Police said James Lynn confessed to the killing after investigators showed surveillance video of him parking his wife's Chevy Tahoe at the library and hopping in a female friend's car. Police wouldn't disclose the friend's name Tuesday.

Police had fielded several domestic violence complaints about James Lynn over the years.

He was charged with battery and obstruction of law enforcement May 14 after an argument with his wife. Police said Tonya Lynn had moved out of the house and planned to divorce him, until they reconciled a few weeks ago.

A Barrow judge granted Tonya Lynn a protective order earlier this year, which was lifted at her request.

Evidence shows the killing happened at the Lynn residence sometime in a roughly two-hour window beginning at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dorsey said.

"Around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, she was deceased," the chief said.

One child was home at the time but did not witness the beating; the other kids were staying with family and friends, he said.

A supervisor at Athens Regional Medical Center, where Tonya worked as a cardiovascular pulmonary technician, told the Associated Press hospital staff have adorned their names badges with black ribbons in her honor.

Tonya Lynn's funeral was held Tuesday in Winder. A memorial fund has been established for her children.

James Lynn was denied bond at a Sunday hearing. Dorsey said he gave investigators no indication why he picked the specific well for a dumping ground, on private property outside the city limits of Auburn.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this article.