Death Foretold: All Jane wanted was a loving relationship. What she got instead was a liar, a cheat, an abusive thug. And those were his better qualities.
Raised by Killers: What would you do if you found out that the people who raised you, your beloved parents, were both wanted for murder?
In the Name of Lust: Carl had an eye on his cousin’s attractive girlfriend. The fact that she was heavily pregnant in no way deterred him from his evil plan.
Paranoid: He was a quiet man, a former Marine now employed as a janitor at Cal State. He was also deeply psychotic and close to a meltdown.
The Ultimate Sin: A bored housewife decides to go online looking for casual sex. Her infidelity will exact a heavy price… on an innocent victim.
The Scissor Sisters: A Kenyan immigrant gets involved with a divorced Irishwoman and starts physically abusing her. Her daughters take exception.
In the Blood: His uncle had been a notorious serial killer. Matthew was determined to follow in his footsteps.
The Killer in the Rain: The city of Fort Wayne is under siege. As soon as the rain starts falling, a killer stalks the streets.
Plus 10 more riveting true crime cases. Scroll up to get your copy now.
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Murder Most Vile Volume 30
Odd Man Out
Divorce is a traumatic event in anyone’s life. For Gailen “Gene” Thurnau, it was doubly so. Gene had nursed his wife of 20 years through a life-threatening illness, devoting himself to her care. Then, after she recovered, she told him that she didn’t want to be with him anymore, that she was taking up with an old flame. Devastated by this betrayal, the forty-something Thurnau threw himself into his work. He was an air traffic controller at Columbus Municipal Airport in Nebraska, where he was popular with co-workers and good at his job.
Also working in the control tower at that time was a man named Robert Dean Peterson. He was a year older than Gene, but the two of them were polar opposites. Where Gene was trim and good-looking, Bob was pudgy and bald; where Gene was loquacious and outgoing, Bob was quiet and reclusive. It wasn’t that Bob was unpopular with his colleagues, just that he kept mostly to himself and seldom engaged anyone in conversation that wasn’t work-related.
The sole exception was Gene, who occupied the cubicle next to him. Bob was far more chatty with Gene. In fact, he appeared to be in awe of him. When Gene bought a new truck, Bob went out and purchased one of the same make and color; when Gene brought pictures of his pet Dachshunds to work, Bob went out and got a dog of the same breed; and when Gene announced in 2002 that he was transferring to Florida to be closer to his family, Bob appeared devastated. Although he wished his colleague well in his new endeavor, he did so with tears brimming in his eyes.
The move to Florida was a good one for Gene Thurnau. His siblings and parents were already living there, and the support of family helped to salve the wound of his failed marriage. He had also not given up on romance and hoped that he might find love again someday. At St. Petersburg/Clearwater Airport, his natural charm quickly won over his new colleagues, especially a divorcee named Jaye-Jaye, who had her eye on him from the start. Gene was attracted to her, too, but determined to take things slowly. He’d been hurt before and did not want to go through that again.
And then, after three months in Florida, Gene caught sight of a familiar figure entering the controllers’ office. It was Bob Peterson. As before, he had emulated Gene and put in for a transfer to Florida. Now here he was, in the flesh, beaming and holding out a hand to his “best buddy.”
Gene wasn’t quite sure what to make of Bob’s sudden appearance in Florida. On the one hand, he found it creepy, almost as if the man were stalking him. On the other, he felt a bit sorry for Bob who seemed like he was all alone in the world. In any case, life soon settled down to a familiar routine of shift work and leisure time. Jaye-Jaye continued to flirt with Gene at work and he to return her interest with a dazzling smile. It was she who eventually took the initiative and asked him out for coffee. After that, the couple started dating, keeping their relationship a secret for two years until Gene eventually plucked up the courage and asked Jaye-Jaye to be his wife. She, of course, said yes. When they announced their engagement to their colleagues at work, there was a spontaneous round of applause. Everyone seemed delighted for them, even Bob, who heartily shook Gene’s hand. Gene could have sworn, though, that he again saw tears welling up in Bob’s eyes.
Gene and Jaye-Jaye had decided even before their engagement that they wanted to build their dream home together. And since there was no time like the present, they put both of their existing properties on the market and bought a spacious lot in an upscale gated community in Lutz, Florida, some 15 miles north of Tampa. There, work was started on the home they would share. In the meantime, Gene had interest in his current property. Bob wanted to buy it, although he had one rather odd request. He wanted Gene’s linen to be included in the sale price. A sale was eventually negotiated, although Gene held on to his sheets and pillow cases.
The work on the Lutz property was by now advancing at pace. Before it was done, Gene walked Jaye-Jaye down the aisle in a small ceremony that included only family and close friends. Bob seemed slightly aggrieved that he wasn’t invited, but he nonetheless bought the couple a very expensive Swarovski crystal vase as a wedding gift. If his intention was to make the couple feel guilty for not including him, he succeeded admirably.
Months passed until finally their dream house was built and Gene and Jaye-Jaye could move in. But they barely had their furniture through the door when Bob was pestering them for a dinner invitation. He said that he had a special house warming gift that he wanted to give them. Gene wondered why he couldn’t just hand it over at work, but Bob was insistent that it had to be at their house. He said that they would understand when they saw it.
And so, Gene and Jaye-Jaye eventually acceded and invited Bob to dinner. In truth, they would have preferred to say no. Bob’s persistent intrusion into their lives was beginning to wear on them. But they still felt guilty about the expensive vase he’d bought them, and Gene still harbored some compassion for his long-term work colleague who seemed so lonely. He didn’t want to hurt Bob’s feelings. What was the worst that could happen? A boring evening with weird Bob. After that, their guilt would be allayed and they could get on with their lives.
Bob arrived early for dinner on the evening of Friday, November 3, 2006. This was not necessarily a bad thing. Gene and Jaye-Jaye had plans for later. An early start with Bob meant that they could get him out of the door at a reasonable hour. But Bob didn’t appear to be in a rush to go anywhere. After working his way through salad, entrée, main course and dessert, he said that he was still hungry and had seconds of everything. Then he anchored himself in a lounger and sat there, not saying much but showing no intention of leaving either. Gene and Jaye-Jaye cast a furtive glance at each other. When was this man going to leave? Not any time soon was the probable answer.
Eventually, Jaye-Jaye could wait no longer. She was about to tell Bob that they really had to leave when he suddenly blurted out, “I almost forgot about the house-warming gift I have for you!” He then reached into the bag that he’d kept between his feet throughout the evening and produced an expensive, leather-bound photo album, embossed in gold with the name Thurnau. This he proudly handed over to the couple who began paging through it. It was a photographic record of the construction of their home with each page containing a large glossy picture. Page one showed the empty lot; the final image was of the completed residence with drapes on the windows and furniture in the den.
Bob was clearly a talented photographer and the pictures looked professional. Still Jaye-Jaye could not help feeling violated. “You’ve been coming to our house throughout its entire construction?” she asked incredulously.
“Every couple of days,” Bob Peterson beamed, before adding, “I’ve photographed everyone’s houses from work.” He seemed oblivious to how creepy that sounded.
It was at this point of the evening that a minor twist occurred, one that may have saved Jaye-Jaye’s life or alternately may have cost Gene his, depending on how you look at it. Jaye-Jaye was just about to ask Bob to leave when her daughter pulled into the drive. She wanted her mother to accompany her on a few errands and Jaye-Jaye agreed to do so, with Gene staying behind to entertain their guest. She hoped that Bob would be gone by the time she returned.
Jaye-Jaye would be away from the house for approximately an hour. When she returned, she was pleased to see that Bob’s truck was no longer parked in the driveway. But her relief soon turned to annoyance when she saw what looked like dark spots of paint spattered all over the front steps. Then she entered the house and her irritation was supplanted by anxiety. Here there were drag marks, and what she had thought was paint wasn’t paint at all. It was blood. Thinking that Gene might have hurt himself, hoping that it was something trivial, like a nosebleed, she called out his name. Only silence answered.
Frantic now, Jaye-Jaye entered the lounge, where she had left Gene and Bob just an hour earlier. It was here that she spotted Gene’s t-shirt, lying on the floor. Then she saw his jeans and underwear, thrown under the Christmas tree they had erected just that afternoon. She then dialed Gene’s number and heard his phone ring from under the tree. Bob’s cell returned only voicemail. And then Jaye-Jaye saw something that had her immediately punching 911 into her phone. It was a spent cartridge, lying on the floor next to the couch.
Units were soon racing towards the residential complex. But before they arrived Jaye-Jaye would make one more discovery, perhaps the most disquieting of all. It was a three-page letter, folded open and positioned on the backrest of the couch. It was in Bob’s hand and addressed to Gene. Jaye-Jaye started reading, her revulsion growing with every word.
“I have loved you for some time now,” Bob had written. “But I’ve always chickened out when I tried to tell you.”
“I envy Jaye-Jaye,” he continued, “because she gets to touch and see your naked body every day.” He concluded by saying, “I have had sex with 25 men in my life, but I have never loved another man until I met you. I want to have sex with you. I am not leaving until I taste your manhood in my mouth.” By the time the first cruiser pulled up in front of her house, Jaye-Jaye was in tears and seriously concerned about her husband’s safety.
And the police shared those concerns. Reconstructing the scene, they believed that Bob had probably handed his “love letter” to Gene soon after Jaye-Jaye left. Gene would have read it, been horrified by its content, and most likely asked Bob to leave his house. That was when Bob would have pulled the gun and pointed it at Gene. There were no signs of a struggle suggesting that he’d fired without warning. He’d then dragged Gene’s body (either dead or unconscious) to his truck, loaded it up and drove away with it. If Gene was not yet dead, then every moment that it took to find him was crucial.
Units were soon racing toward Bob’s residence in Ellenton. The property, however, stood dark and empty. Wherever he’d taken Gene, it wasn’t here. The police then carried out a search of the house hoping to find some clue as to the fugitive’s whereabouts. It would be two days before they located a rental agreement for a house in Safety Harbor, Florida. It appeared that Bob had been planning this for some time. Officers were immediately dispatched to the area. They walked in on a grisly scene.
Bob Peterson was on the bed in the master bedroom, wearing only a t-shirt and underwear. He had shot himself in the face. On the floor beside the bed lay Gene Thurnau, shot in the head with the same .22-caliber handgun. And that wasn’t even the worst of it. Peterson had also mutilated the body, using a straight-razor to hack off the genitals of the man he professed to love.
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