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Steven Catlin murdered two wives and his mother with poison: ID investigate

Mugshot of Steven Catlin
Steven Catlin was sentenced to death for killing at least three members of his family. Pic credit: California Dept. of Corrections

Investigation Discovery is in Fresno, California, to examine the vicious crimes of Steven David Catlin, who was eventually found guilty of poisoning three women after getting away with murder for years.

Caitlin’s victims were his fourth and fifth wives, Joyce Catlin and Glenna Kaye Catlin, and his adoptive mother, Martha Catlin.

On March 14, 1984, Glenna Kaye Catlin passed away at the age of 35. She had been hospitalized after developing serious flu-like symptoms, and she had fluid on her lungs.

When she died, the doctors were still trying to figure out what exactly was causing her illness. It took an autopsy to learn that she had been poisoned with paraquat, a herbicide used to kill weeds.

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A few months later, as Glenna’s death was still under investigation, Catlin’s mother, Martha Catlin, was admitted to the hospital and died following what appeared to be a stroke.

Catlin ordered that her remains be cremated right away; however, the authorities had now become suspicious of his motives, so they ordered an autopsy. She, too, had been poisoned with paraquat.

In the meantime, the detectives learned that Catlin’s third wife, Joyce Catlin, had died under similar circumstances in 1976. At the time, the doctors had suspected that Joyce might have been poisoned, but they didn’t have the technology to test for paraquat.

Steven Catlin had had access to paraquat due to his job in an agricultural company during the 1970s, and the cops found a bottle of the deadly substance in his garage. The police decided they had enough evidence to arrest and charge Catlin with the three murders.

Catlin’s third wife approached the police to say that she believed he had killed the three women. And while he was in custody, Catlin asked a fellow inmate to arrange to have her intimidated into keeping quiet. This was subsequently used as evidence against him.

Steven Catlin murdered for money

The motive was financial. Catlin had received thousands of dollars from life insurance policies taken out on his wives. He was also the sole beneficiary to his mother’s estate, and he had expressed concern that she had been about to disinherit him.

Steven Catlin was found guilty of first-degree murder with special circumstances in the case of all three women. In 1990 he was sentenced to death.

There is currently a moratorium on all executions in California, and Catlin remains on death row in San Quentin.

Suspicion has since arisen over the death of Catlin’s adoptive father, Glenn Catlin, who died in 1980. The fluid on his lungs was attributed to a pre-existing cancer condition, but it’s now thought it might have been poisoning. At the time, Catlin ordered a swift cremation.

More from Investigation Discovery

Follow the links to read about more crimes profiled on ID.

Shane Langley had subjected his wife, Christine Oliveaux, to years of abuse. When she finally plucked up the courage to leave him, he came after her family with a rifle and killed her mother, Vennie Oliveaux.

Ernest ‘Ernie’ Scherer III had gotten himself into debt because of his gambling and lavish lifestyle. He decided to brutally stab his wealthy parents so he could pocket the inheritance money.

Third Time’s A Crime airs at 8/7c on Investigation Discovery.

Jerry Brown


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