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The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

Conyers psychiatrist charged in death plot Doctor targeted wife, police say

By Duane D. Stanford
April 30, 1994

A Conyers psychiatrist was arrested at his office and charged with conspiring to kill his estranged wife after he allegedly offered to pay an undercover officer and another man $ 9,000 to kill her.
Dr. J. Vernon Magnuson, 53, of 2690 Valleydale Drive in Conyers, was freed on a $ 50,000 bond. Rockdale County prosecutors had asked for bond of $ 500,000.
Conyers authorities and the GBI began investigating Magnuson several weeks ago after Covington police arrested the doctor’s alleged accomplice, Douglas Ledford of McDonough, on charges of trying to alter a prescription for anti-depressant drugs written by Magnuson.
Under questioning, Ledford surprised investigators by revealing the alleged slaying plot, police said. Investigators said Ledford told them Magnuson was going to pay him $ 9,000, half of which he had received, to kill his wife, Sally L. Beveridge, before a divorce hearing scheduled for Friday.
Police said Magnuson allegedly wanted to avoid the possibility of a costly divorce settlement.
In a Friday phone interview, Magnuson, who has been practicing in Conyers for about eight years, denied the charges. “It just didn’t happen,” he said, referring all other questions to his attorney, Michael Waldrop, who claimed his client was paying Ledford and the undercover officer for work done on the doctor’s home.
According to police, Magnuson thought the plot had been carried out Thursday morning when he paid part of the remaining money to an undercover agent. Beveridge actually had been placed in protective custody.
Less than three hours later, police arrested Magnuson and charged him with criminal solicitation to commit murder, which carries a maximum five-year prison term upon conviction. The case against Magnuson will now go before a Conyers grand jury.
Ledford was freed last week after posting bond in a Newton County court for the attempted prescription forgery charge. Authorities said he is now being sought on a Conyers warrant for conspiracy to commit murder.