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How Did She Die? Who Killed Glenna Kaye Catlin?


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Glenna Kaye Catlin died of mysterious “flu-like” symptoms in 1984. That was not the first unusual death in her husband’s family. His mother and his fourth wife also died similarly. It took toxicology reports to finally connect all the three deaths, and the police were able to zero in on the culprit. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Third Time’s A Crime’ features this dreadful story. If you are wondering about the details of the case, we have got you covered.

How Did Glenna Kaye Catlin Die?

Glenna Kaye Catlin was Steven David Catlin’s fifth wife. After their wedding, the couple shifted base to Fresno, California. Steven landed a job at a local garage, but after his employer did a background check on Steven, his criminal past surfaced, and Steven had to resign from the job. Steven found himself in a challenging financial situation. It was later proven that Steven was also committing adultery at the time. A few days after a very public argument with her husband, Glenna went to Las Vegas to visit with her mother in February 1984. Upon her arrival, Glenna started to complain that she was not feeling well. She returned to Fresno and was admitted to a hospital with fluid in her lungs. She died in March 1984, while doctors were still trying to find the cause of her illness.

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Some months later, Steven and his new fiancée visited with his mother, Martha, in Bakersfield. In December 1984, a few days after Steven’s visit, Martha was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital. She had been exhibiting symptoms including sore and purplish throat and difficulty in eating. Her death was credited to an apparent stroke, and Steven ordered his mother’s body be cremated. However, the cremation was put on hold by authorities to perform an autopsy. Analysis of tissue samples from both Martha and Glenna revealed that the women had died of paraquat poisoning. Paraquat is a highly toxic herbicide that is used to kill weeds and can be lethal for human beings if ingested in the pure form by causing acute respiratory distress syndrome.

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An autopsy was also conducted on tissue samples of Steven’s fourth wife, Joyce, who had died in April 1976. Joyce had died after being admitted to the hospital with similar symptoms as Martha. Her body had been cremated on Steven’s orders. However, the hospital authorities had managed to preserve the tissue samples that were sent for the autopsy. The autopsy showed that she had actually died due to being poisoned by paraquat.

Who Killed Glenna Kaye Catlin?

Glenna Kaye Catlin was killed by her husband, Steven David Catlin, who was also convicted for the murders of his mother, Martha, and his fourth wife, Joyce. He had killed all three in the same way through paraquat poisoning. The motives behind each of the murders were financial in nature. He was the beneficiary of the life insurance policies on both his wives, and he was named the sole inheritor of his mother’s estates on her death. Following Glenna’s death, Steven had received approximately $56,000 from the life insurance payments.

Following his marriage to his sixth wife, Steven was arrested after toxicology reports revealed the actual cause of the death of Martha, Joyce, and Glenna. During Steven’s trial, several witnesses mentioned that Steven was well aware of the deadly effects of paraquat on human beings, especially on their lungs. Their statements also indicated that Steven had access to the agricultural poison he had acquired when he worked at an agricultural job. In the book ‘Molecules of Murder: Criminal Molecules and Classic Cases,’ the author John Emsley says that Steven might have also committed a fourth murder, that of his father. The circumstances of Steven’s father’s death were also similar to the ones of Steven’s wives and mother, including the symptoms they had shown before their respective deaths. Emsley says that the probable motive might have again been financial. His father’s body was also cremated on Steven’s orders.

In 1986 Steven was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of his fifth wife, Glenna Kaye Catlin. In 1990, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Joyce’s murder, and he was given the death penalty for the murder of his mother.

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