Atlanta tech mogul Lance Herndon’s career, like the city where he lives, flourished in the late 1990s. He was even hailed as a rising entrepreneurial star by the Clinton administration.
Herndon’s star tragically died on August 9, 1996. The 41-year-old computer consulting businessman was found batted to death in his bed in an upscale home in Roswell, according to UPI.
Herndon’s mother called 911 after employees told her he wasn’t showing up to work at his home office, investigators told “The Real Murder in Atlanta,” which airs Sunday 8/7c on Oxygen.
“He was hit hard on the forehead and on the top of his head, and there were a few drops of blood on the wall,” said Clint Rooker, a former Fulton County executive district attorney.
There were no defensive wounds on his hands, and there was little blood from the victim’s waist down.
“Our theory is that the killer climbed on his naked body, straddled him, struck him in the head and face, and killed him,” Lack said. This detail will later appear in court documents.
Investigators took stock of the crime scene, where there were no signs of forced entry or evidence that the killer took a shower before leaving.
Three clocks in the bedroom were unplugged and one froze at 4:10am. Silver chewing gum wrappers were found near the garage, Herndon’s valuable laptop was missing, and a bedside photo of Herndon’s current girlfriend, Kathy Collins, was face down.
Detectives interviewed and cleared Collins, who was with another boyfriend when the murder happened. “She was very sincere and she gave us an alibi,” said Tommy Williams, a former Roswell Police Department officer.
Herndon’s ex-wife Jenina Price was also considered. “Not only were they recently divorced, but Lance also had a $1 million life insurance policy that named Jenny as a beneficiary,” investigators said. Price provided an airtight alibi.
A medical examiner examined the wound and concluded, based on earlier cases, that Herndon was killed using an adjustable crescent wrench. Detectives found a 16-inch adjustable crescent wrench missing from Herndon’s workbench. Shortly before his murder, he used a wrench to assemble exercise equipment. This “makes it easy for killers to use it,” Williams said.
An interview with Talana Carraway, who dated the victim and now works for him part-time, helped pinpoint the time window for the murder. At 10:30 p.m., she leaves work at his home office. On August 9, after she returned home, the two talked on the phone until midnight.
Detectives speculate that the crime took place between 12am and 4.10am, with time frozen on an unplugged bedroom clock. Caraway told officers she did not return to Herndon’s home and dropped the Dionne Baugh name.
Bao met Herndon’s 41st birthday while attending Georgia State University, where she made it through her job at the Atlanta Metropolitan Transit Authority. They start dating.
“He gave Dion a lot of material benefits,” said Rod Stogill, author of “Redbone: Money, Malice and Murder in Atlanta.” That includes a shiny new Mercedes. Expensive gift-giving accompanied Herndon’s cultivated self-image. “He positioned himself in town as black Jay Gatsby,” Stogier told NPR.
“Lance didn’t realize that Dion Bow might be a player like him,” the crime writer said. “She didn’t tell him she was married.” Because her husband was not in Jamaica, she started dating other men. Herndon is one of Atlanta’s most qualified catches.
When authorities interviewed Bowe, she claimed she and Herndon were “crazy in love,” Lack said. She also said she had told her husband, a Jamaican resident and Air Jamaica pilot Sean Nelson, that Herndon was just a mentor.
But the expensive car said otherwise, and Nelson knew it. But at the time of the murder, he returned to Jamaica, freeing him from suspicion.
Detectives turned their attention to Bow, who had a chaotic relationship with Herndon because he had seen other women. A month before the murder, she came to his house, where she saw Collins.
Bow knocked on the door so hard, Herndon called 911. She was arrested and charged with trespassing. That criminal case was scheduled to go to court the day Herndon’s body was found, Rooker said.
Investigators scrutinized Bow’s account of the night of the murder. She claims Herndon came to her home in Norcross between 9pm and 10.30pm. Lend her his laptop. That timeline contradicts Carraway’s claims.
Detectives were convinced Bow was behind Herndon’s murder, but a lack of forensic evidence prevented them from linking her to the crime. Eighteen months have passed without new leads. But in 1998, a piece of news from Shaun Nelson, who was divorcing Baugh, brought things to light.
Nelson claims Bob became violent during an altercation a few months ago when he questioned whether she had anything to do with Herndon’s death. She threatened to kill him — “like she killed Lance,” Lack told the producers.
Baugh’s sworn statement about Herndon in divorce court contradicted what she told homicide investigators, words that plagued her again. In this case, she swears she and Herndon are just friends, a complete U-turn.
Baugh also said that on the evening of August 9, she went to the Herndon’s house to pick up her laptop. The statement contradicted what she told homicide investigators two years ago and placed her at the crime scene.
In 1998, police arrested Bao on charges of murder and aggravated assault. She faces life in prison in a trial that began in 2001. Prosecutors face a difficult case based on circumstantial evidence.
“The unanimous theme I pointed out to the jury was ‘When did Dion get the laptop?'” Lack said. “There was really a chance to do that. That was when she came home in the middle of the night.”