But Murdock was the primary breadwinner in the relationship and her husband was upset about the prospect of having to leave their home once the divorce was finalized, said Leonard, who prosecuted the case.
“Over time, they had kind of grown apart,” he told AJC.com. “Sheryl had been discussing a divorce for five or six months and he was hesitant to sign the divorce papers. He didn’t want to sign them.”
Whynn initially claimed that he choked his wife in self-defense after she pulled a knife on him, but he later admitted to killing her during an argument over their divorce proceedings, Leonard said.
“It was a bone of contention that she was getting the house outright,” he said. “(Whynn) was going to have to move into an apartment and when he talked to the police afterwards, that’s something he brought up repeatedly ... I think he saw that his life would be drastically different.”
Prosecutors believe the murder was premeditated because Whynn arranged for his daughter to sleep over at a friend’s house before killing his wife.
Several days before the murder, Whynn told his daughter he “was in a bad place” and that he would leave Social Security numbers and bank records in case anything happened to him, Leonard said.
An autopsy revealed “extensive hemorrhaging” in Murdock’s neck, more than is typically seen in strangulation cases, authorities said.
Investigators also discovered what they believe were defensive wounds on Whynn’s arm.
“It was a very shallow scratch on his right forearm in between what appeared to be claw marks,” Leonard said. “Our position was going to be those were defensive wounds. When he was choking her with his hands around her throat, she was clawing at his arm.”
Detectives determined Whynn took steps to cover his tracks after killing his wife, moving both of their cars from the driveway and even vacuuming around his wife’s body after strangling her.
Investigators believe Whynn initially planned to remove Murdock’s body from the home and dump it elsewhere, but say he notified police when his daughter called from her friend’s house and demanded to speak with her mother.
At the end of the couple’s street, detectives found torn up divorce papers inside a trash can with Whynn’s fingerprints on them.
He pleaded guilty to felony murder Monday morning, just before his trial was set to begin.
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