Kissing and killing cousins kept crimes in the family

The chase on June 3, 1985, ended with an explosion that hurled metal shards, debris, and body parts 100 yards in all directions.

Moments earlier, the black Chevy Blazer had been rolling along Route 150, a major highway in North Carolina. Police followed behind, and an airplane kept track of the vehicle’s path.

The driver, her first cousin, Fred Klenner, 32, known as Fritz, periodically slowed or stopped to get off some rounds from an Uzi submachine gun. He wounded three officers.

Susie Newsom Lynch, 39, and her sons, Jim, 9, and John, 10, were his passengers.

After four miles, the Blazer slowed, then stopped and blew up.

Newsom Lynch’s body was ripped apart. Klenner, who had been thrown from the truck into a ditch, lingered for a moment, but as soon as police reached him, he gave one parting gurgle and died.

The boys were dead in the back seat, their arms wrapped around their mother’s two black chow dogs, which had also perished.

But it wasn’t the explosion that killed the children.

Autopsies would later reveal something horrible. There were traces of cyanide in their bodies and bullet wounds in their heads. Residue on their mother’s hands suggested that she had fired a weapon shortly before she died.

It appeared that Newsom Lynch had murdered her own children, wrote journalist Jerry Bledsoe in his book on the case “Bitter Blood: A True Story of Southern Family Pride, Madness, and Multiple Murder.”

Authorities speculated that the explosion — likely a murder/suicide— was the last act in a vicious custody battle over the two boys.

Newsom Lynch was in a frenzy over the possibility that the courts would give the kids to her ex — Tom Lynch, a dentist living in Albuquerque, N. M. They separated in 1979, and the boys stayed with their mom. He remarried and moved on with his life. But she made it very difficult for Tom to visit his children. Shortly after they separated she took them for an extended stay in Taiwan.

Newsom Lynch and her sons returned to the United States and moved in with her parents — Robert, 65, and Florence, 63, — in a tony suburb of Winston-Salem, NC. Susie’s grandmother, Hattie Newsom, 85, also lived there. The family patriarch was a top executive at R.J. Reynolds, and Newsom Lynch had grown up in luxury, spoiled, willful, and prone to tantrums when she didn’t get her way. Over the years, she became increasingly unstable.

Her relationship with her parents became strained when she started spending time with Klenner.

Not long after the couple’s 1982 divorce, two of Lynch’s relatives were murdered. In July 1984, his sister, Dr. Jane Lynch, 39, and his mother, Delores, 68, were shot dead in their home in a wealthy Louisville, Ky., suburb. Burglary was quickly ruled out. The place had not been ransacked, and no valuables had been taken.

Less than a year later, Newsom Lynch’s parents and grandmother were murdered in their Winston-Salem home. Once again, burglary did not seem to be the motive. Nothing was missing, not even a wad of cash —about $600 — that was lying on an etagere.

Police were beginning to speculate that the five murders were committed by Klenner. His motive, they believed, was to eliminate a source of grief for his kissing cousin.

Many who knew him called Klenner “Dr. Crazy.” It was a nickname used often by the gun dealers who sold him his arsenal.

After his death, police investigating the two places he lived — Newsom Lynch’s apartment and his parents’ home — found an impressive collection of weapons. These included pistols, shotguns, machine guns and assault rifles, knives, Mace, gas masks, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, Bledsoe wrote.

Klenner was the son of a respected alternative-medicine doctor — Fred Klenner — a proponent of high-dose vitamin C as a cure for such ills as polio, pneumonia, and cancer. He had a thriving practice.

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The doctor assumed that his son would take over and was thrilled when he got into his alma mater, Duke University School of Medicine.

Klenner never finished; in fact, he never even enrolled. But that didn’t stop him from running around in a white coat, saying he was an MD, a scientist conducting top-secret research, and a CIA agent. Nor did his lack of medical training or a license stop him from taking over the practice after his father died in 1984.

Newsom Lynch had started going to Dr. Klenner, her uncle, for intravenous vitamin therapy to fight fatigue soon after returning from Taiwan. Then she took up with her cousin. Eventually, they moved in together and told people they were married.

Police planned to arrest Klenner on June 3. But when they arrived, he took off toward Greensboro on his fatal road trip. He had a load of weapons, Newsom Lynch by his side, and two innocent children with a pair of big dogs in the back seat.

The question of who was going to get the children was the most likely motive, but money also may have played a role. Newsom Lynch was in line for a large inheritance from her grandmother.

“Almost everyone who died was going to testify in that custody case,” Forsyth County NC. Sheriff Preston Oldham told reporters as the cleanup of the explosion site began. He added that with the major players dead, it would be impossible to find out exactly what happened or why. “Only God knows, because everybody’s gone.”

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