Woman's Mysterious Death Ignites Her Family's Quest for Truth

PHOTO: Shirley Seitz and Michael WohlschlaegerPlayFamily Handout
WATCH Happily Ever After Ends Abruptly

What happened on a street called Camelot in Loxley, Ala., was not a fairytale, but the mystery of a sudden, unexplained death that has ignited one family's quest for the truth.

Shirley Seitz' last marriage had recently ended in divorce when she met Michael Wohlschlaeger. Seitz, then 55, and Wohlschlaeger, then 54, became newly-weds again, just three months after first meeting. The two had both been down the aisle four times previously.

"I didn't like him at all," Myrtle Thomas, Seitz' mother, told ABC News' "20/20." "I just have to admit that."

Wohlschlaeger, having just moved to Alabama, told Seitz he was a chiropractor when he lived in Florida. According to Seitz' family, he apparently didn't yet have a place to live in Alabama and was still looking for a job.

"As far as we can tell, he came into the marriage with a wore-out pickup truck, and a bunch of debt," said Rickey Thomas, Seitz' younger brother.

Wohlschlaeger's alleged financial problems were especially troubling to Seitz' family because one of Seitz' ex-husbands, Gene Seitz, had died and left her with an inheritance of $1 million.

"Yes, I was worried about her money," said Sharon Yeomans, Seitz' daughter. "I mean, he come into her life with the clothes on his back."

Seitz paid for her own engagement ring when Wohlschlaeger proposed, their wedding rings, and their house on Camelot Court, according to Seitz' family. They said Seitz even made payments to one of Wohlschlaeger's ex-wives.

However, four years into their marriage, Seitz' s health took a turn for the worse. In an audio interview recorded with police investigators months later, Wohlschlaeger said that Seitz had been ill for weeks, including food poisoning and thyroid problems.

"She gets bad migraines maybe two or three times a year that sometimes will last...three, sometimes four days," Wohlschlaeger told police.

Seitz' brother, Houston "Junior" Thomas, and her mother drove five hours into southern Alabama to see what was going on with her.

Myrtle recollected, "I called my son and told him, 'She hasn't called me in three days, and I'm going down there.'"

When they arrived, Seitz was so sick that she was unable to get up and open the door, her family said. Wohlschlaeger told them that Seitz may have fallen down the stairs and knocked down a potted plant, while he was out.

Myrtle and Wohlschlaeger nursed Seitz through that difficult weekend in Feb. 2010, with Wohlschlaeger giving Seitz migraine medicine that seemed to help. By Sunday night, she was even sitting up and eating.

"I said, "your head's better, and you better lay down and go to sleep... It's nine o'clock, and we don't want that to start back again." Myrtle recalled. "And that's the last words I ever said to her."

The next morning, Wohlschlaeger, who said he was sleeping on the couch, went into the bedroom he shared with his wife and found Seitz unresponsive.

"So I walked over and I turned on the light," Wohlschlaeger later told police. "Her lips were already blue."

Seitz, just 59 years old, was dead.

A Family's Sneaking Suspicions

Seitz was taken to South Baldwin Hospital in Foley, Ala., on March 1, 2010, where she was pronounced dead.

Seitz' family became suspicious of Wohlschlaeger's behavior, such as when he demanded an autopsy right in the hospital shortly after Shirley was pronounced dead.

Myrtle also said that she told Wohlschlaeger that she noticed a spot on the bed where Seitz had been found. But by the time Myrtle returned to the house, Wohlschlaeger had taken the sheets "and had them in the washing machine to wash," she said.

When it came time to settle Seitz' estate, or what was left of it, her family turned on Wohlschlaeger.

"He soaked her dry," Chester Thomas told "20/20."

Psychologist Jennifer Hartstein explained that in cases like the Thomas family's, grief may be a major influence.

"And very often while we're grieving, if we're angry, we might want some sort of retaliation, we think that they must have done it, so we're going to retaliate and go after that person," she said.

Seitz' brother, Rickey Thomas, continued to search for answers. He and Yeomans looked through Seitz's possessions when Wohlschlaeger wasn't home.

"And that's where we found Shirley's will," he said.

The will left everything to Seitz' daughters, not her husband. The two also found Seitz' journals, in which she wrote about her disappointment with Wohlschlaeger.

"Nothing but take, take, take from this man," she wrote. " No giving...I am not a wife, I am a bank that is taking care of all of his financial needs."

Seven months after Seitz' death, Wohlschlaeger collected $100,000 on her life insurance.

Nearly 20 years ago, police found Wohlschlaeger standing across the street from his chiropractic office, watching it burn. He claimed he had been trapped inside and that someone was trying to kill him. Wohlschlaeger was later arrested, tried and convicted of arson. He received 15 years probation but no prison time.

A Family's Shocking Discoveries

After the local police department opened an investigation into Seitz' death, her family discovered that Diana Yohn, the fourth Mrs. Wohlschlaeger, who was his wife before Seitz, told police that she suspected Wohlschlaeger of trying to poison her and she complained of severe migraines at the end of their marriage.

"I get migraine headaches, okay? And it's documented that I do," Yohn told police. "But they were so bad when I lived with him, I, I couldn't even work, I could hardly function."

"And I'll be honest with you...if something happens to me, he needs to be investigated," Yohn told police.

Wohlschlaeger's third wife, Gloria Potts, who was tracked down on Facebook by Sharon Yeomans, said she too was traumatized by her ex-husband. "I felt like I was being poisoned," Potts said.

She said there was another trauma involving Wohlschlaeger years earlier. Potts recalled, "I was asleep, and he hit me in the back of the head with a mallet."

"Then his hand came ... and covered my nose and mouth," she added.

Potts said she went to the hospital, but told them she had fallen in the tub. She and Wohlschlaeger did not divorce until about 10 years later, and she didn't tell anyone this version of the story until the time of their divorce when she also got a restraining order.

Seitz' family was still reeling from Potts' story, when Shirley Seitz's autopsy results were finally released. The cause of death was listed as "blunt force head injuries," but the manner of death was still "undetermined."

Police investigated for more than a year but no charges were brought -- Wohlschlaeger has repeatedly denied he was responsible for Seitz's death and has said he believes she fell accidentally.

The Seitz family filed a wrongful death action against Wohlschlaeger, which was dismissed because of any earlier estate settlement, in which the family agreed not to sue him. The family continues to seek answers to the questions of what really happened to Shirley Seitz.