March 15, 2018
Carlton Michael Gary was executed by the state of Georgia on Thursday, March 15, 2018. Carlton was pronounced dead at 10:33 pm EDT, inside the execution chamber at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia. Carlton was 67 years of age. He was executed for the murders of 89-year-old Florence Scheible on October 21, 1977, 69-year-old Martha Thurmond on October 25, 1977, and 74-year-old Kathleen Woodruff on December 28, 1977, all in Columbus, Georgia. Carlton spent the last 31 years of his life on Georgia’s death row.
Early in his childhood, Carlton allegedly showed signs of high intelligence, however he was malnourished and abused as a child. He was raised without a father, as his father wanted nothing to do with him. During his teenage years, he became a heavy drug user and was arrested for robbery, arson, and assault. He eventually served time for a burglary charge. Carlton was also responsible for sending another man, John Lee Williams, to prison when Carlton testified that John murdered a woman. He later recanted his testimony. Carlton was in and out of prison for several years, eventually escaping from a New York prison in August 1977, after which, he returned to his home in Columbus, Georgia.
Between September 1977, and April 1978, seven women in the Columbus area were raped and strangled to death in their homes: 60-year-old Ferne Jackson on September 15, 1977, 71-year-old Jean Dimenstein on September 25, 1977, 89-year-old Florence Scheible on October 21, 1977, 69-year-old Martha Thurmond on October 25, 1977, 74-year-old Kathleen Woodruff on December 28, 1977, 78-year-old Mildred Borom on February 12, 1978, and 61-year-old Janet Cofer on April 20, 1978. The man responsible for the crime was known as the “Stocking Strangler,” as stockings were frequently used as the method of strangulation. For years, police had few leads who had committed the rapes and murders.
Carlton Gary, meanwhile, was arrested and imprisoned in 1978 after committing a string of armed robberies. In 1984, he escaped from prison and began carrying out robberies again. He was eventually recaptured by police on May 5, 1984, in Albany, Georgia.
Police were able to identify Gary as a suspect in the rape and murders, as well as several burglaries, after the discovery of a stolen handgun with Gary’s fingerprint on it, matched fingerprints found at many of the crime scenes. Gary was eventually tried, convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Florence Scheible, Martha Thurmond, and Kathleen Woodruff.
During the trial, 64-year-old Gertrude Miller testified that Gary had attacked and raped her on September 11, 1977. Gary has also been connected, through various evidence, to the rape and murder by strangulation of 85-year-old Nellie Farmer in Albany, New York on April 14, 1970; the rape and murder by strangulation of 40-year-old Marion Fisher in Syracuse, New York on June 27, 1975; and the rape and strangulation (but not murder) of 55-year-old Jean Frost in Syracuse New York on January 2, 1977. On February 11, 1978, 71-year-old Ruth Schwob was nearly strangled to death by an intruder who fled after she set off a panic alarm. Mildred Borom was found two blocks away the following day.
Since DNA testing was extremely limited during Gary’s initial trial, many of his appeals focused on having many of the various samples in the case tested. Results have been inconclusive. Some of the testing would seem to indicate that Gary was not the attacker, however the lab that performed the testing has discovered that some of the samples were contaminated, making their results unreliable. Supporters of Gary have attempted to use this evidence to show that he did not commit the crimes for which he has been convicted. Those who believe in Gary’s guilt point to the other evidence in the case, including fingerprints found at the crime scenes. Additionally, some of the DNA evidence has matched Gary.
Please pray for peace and healing for all who have been adversely affected by Carlton Gary’s crimes. Please pray for strength for the family of Carlton.