The Murder Of Gene Thurneau

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Are you the extra friendly type who attempts to get along with nearly everyone? Maybe you’re one who doesn’t scare easily? If so, this case may be concerning; it may creep you out a bit.

Gailen “Gene” Thurneau was that kind of guy. He was a nice looking extrovert, a popular guy who went out of his way to be friendly towards others. He was an air traffic controller in Columbus, Nebraska; it was a very small, tight knit team with which Gene worked. Back in 2001 he was going through a divorce, which was very difficult for him. He decided to move down to Florida; the change of scenery would serve him well, plus he’d be closer to family. I know where some of you think I’m going with this, but this isn’t a case where the husband kills the wife, or vise versa. Think more along the lines of “Single White Female” – the male version.

Robert “Bob” Peterson (seriously, watch out for those Peterson men!) was Gene’s co-worker from up north. He was heavy set, frumpy, awkward, introverted, and a kind of a loner; truth be told, Bob was everything Gene was not. The two men’s desks had been side by side in the Nebraska office so of course they had been friendly. At one point Bob had purchased a dog from Gene. But this man didn’t really have many relationships in his life; while Gene saw Bob as a coworker, Bob saw Gene as his nearest and dearest friend. When Gene transferred to the Saint Petersburg/Clearwater airport, Bob desperately missed his friend; he even visited Gene’s apartment, and mailed Gene photos of the now empty space. Then, out of the blue, Bob had suddenly transferred to Gene’s new place of employment!

It’s kinda odd for a man to pick up and move across the country just to continue working with a platonic colleague, right? But Gene was friends with everyone, he didn’t put too much thought into it; it’s often easy for men to miss these warning signs, they don’t think anything bad can happen to them. They explain away the red flags until it’s too late.

Anyhow, Bob was now in Florida with complaining of having no place to live, and Gene had just purchased a home. So Gene, ever the nice guy, invited Bob to live in his old home.
Since Gene had moved to Florida he’d bonded with a female co-worker named Juanita (AKA JJ) who had recently gone through a difficult divorce of her own. The two dated, fell hopelessly in love, and became serious. Though there had been no engagement party, no big fancy wedding yet, Bob purchased the happy couple an unusually expensive Waterford Crystal vase which retailed at $650.00. At one point, Bob sent Gene a friend anniversary card, which JJ thought was strange; Gene simply laughed it off.

A few months later, the couple married and they had a beautiful new home built. Bob asked to purchase the home and JJ were selling, he even paid full market price. The one thing he insisted on was that it came as is, completely finished; Bob threw a fit when he realized the sheets and blankets had been taken from the bed, he had desperately wanted Gene’s used linens.

Gene and JJ had moved into their fancy new house, and Bob was adamant about being invited over; he claimed to have a housewarming gift for the couple. It was November 3rd of 2006 when Bob was invited to dinner. JJ was taken aback by the fact that Bob hadn’t needed directions to their new house, he already knew exactly where to go. See, Bob was obsessed and had been stalking the couple for quite some time; matter of fact, their new address was already programmed into Bob’s GPS. During the evening Bob finally gave the couple that housewarming gift, it was presented in a great big fancy box wrapped up with a bow; inside was an expensive leather bound 50 page photo album filled with weekly pictures of their brand new home as it was being built. The last pictures in the album were taken after Gene and JJ had already moved in, you could easily see their furniture through the windows! Since they realized that Bob had been to their home frequently and they’d never even given him the address, Gene was finally a bit weirded out.

The happy couple had plans for after dinner. Bob was well aware of this, but the man simply wouldn’t leave; he lingered for hours and ignored hints that they needed to go. Not wanting to be rude, Gene decided to stay home while JJ followed through with those prearranged plans with her daughter. As she was leaving the home, Bob walked outside to retrieve something from his car; it was a 3 page letter.

Now alone with Gene, Bob did what he’d been trying to get up the nerve to do all evening. He gave Gene the typed out love letter which stated that he was jealous of JJ, he was in love with Gene, and he refused to leave the couple’s house that night until Gene, and I’ll quote, “put your manhood in my mouth.”.

Juanita was gone, and there were no cameras in the home so no one knows exactly what happened from there. Certainly Gene would’ve been surprised, upset, and definitely non receptive to this idea. He was a nice guy, but Gene was a military man and certainly not a wimp; it’s likely that he demanded Bob leave the premises. There was obviously a scuffle inside the home, and at some point Bob pulled out a gun. He must’ve known there was a damn good chance that Gene would turn him down, and his plan B was murder; Bob had been prepared for this.

When JJ returned home just an hour after she’d left, she discovered bloody drag marks running from the Christmas tree in the living room to the middle of the driveway. Beneath the Christmas tree was Gene’s cell phone, and the clothes he’d been wearing that night – including his underwear.

JJ alerted Police immediately. Officers found the love letter and a spent bullet shell near the tree; they went to the house which Gene had sold Bob, but nobody was home. Matter of fact, it looked exactly as it had when Gene had sold it, as if no one had lived there at all!

Investigators got in touch with Bob’s brother who told them to check his home in Safety Harbor. Absolutely no one had known of this place, why had Bob needed two homes?

As soon as police pulled into the driveway of the Safety Harbor home they knew that they had found their crime scene; the unmistakable smell of death was in the air, and from a garage window they could see Bob’s car door was ajar. There was bloody drag marks running from the passenger door and into the house.

The house was a pigsty, and the trail of blood lead to the bedroom. Bob was found lying on the bed, he was wearing nothing but his tightie whities; there was a .22 in his hand, and a bullet in his head. Gene was discovered laying on the floor, buck naked; the victim had been shot twice in the head.

Now, for the strangest detail: Gene’s penis was missing. Sometime before Bob offed himself, he’d sliced Gene’s genitals off with a razor blade. The missing member was never found – investigators checked everywhere they could think of, every nook, cranny, and orifice; Gene’s junk had simply disappeared. Heaven only knows what all was done to Gene, what he’d gone through before he finally passed. Death was probably a blessing for him.

JJ has since moved on, she’s coping the best she can. She says she doesn’t hate Bob, he had a lot of good qualities and says she believes he was mentally ill. Detectives say JJ is very fortunate to be alive as it’s believed that Bob’s original plan was to murder her as well.

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