Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of rape and murder.
|Carlton Gary 1970|
In the early hours of the morning, she is awakened from a deep sleep to be confronted with a nightmare scenario. Although it is too dark to see anything, Nellie senses the presence of an intruder. As her eyes get used to the darkness she becomes aware of a man standing by the side of her bed. She speaks calmly to him, reassuringly, telling him to take what he wants and leave. She even tells him where she keeps her meager savings.
The intruder does not reply. He clamps his hand over the frightened woman's mouth and drags her from the bed.
The next morning, Nellie Farmer's lifeless body is found lying face down on the bedroom floor. The 85-year-old woman has been brutally raped and then strangled with a scarf. Police investigators are appalled at the level of violence inflicted on a frail, elderly lady.
The next evening, another elderly woman is attacked in her home. Like Nellie Farmer, Josephine Deitz is preparing for bed when an intruder grabs her by the throat and slams her to the floor. But Josephine fights back and her surprised attacker, a young black male, realizing that the neighbors may have been alerted by the noise, grabs Josephine's purse and runs off before police arrive.
Unable to dispute the hard evidence, Carlton Gary admits to being in the room when the elderly woman is attacked, but claims it is an accomplice who rapes and murders her. Gary suggests the accomplice, named as John Lee Mitchell, left no fingerprint because he was wearing gloves.
Carlton Gary testifies against Mitchell, who is convicted of murder. Gary later retracts the story and Mitchell's conviction is overturned on appeal. A subsequent police investigation finds John Lee Mitchell played no part in the rape and murder of Nellie Farmer. Carlton Gary is convicted of burglary and sent to Onondaga Correctional Institute in Janesville, New York.
Nobody is ever convicted for the murder of Nellie Farmer.
Despite her ordeal, the woman survives and gives police a detailed description of her attacker. Police investigators quickly realize that the woman has described a young, black male with an uncanny resemblance to Carlton Gary. An artist's impression of the assailant is released and the investigation continues.
Four days later on January 3, 1977, another Syracuse woman, 55-year-old, Jean Frost, is awakened from a deep sleep to find a man standing in the bedroom doorway. The man leaps across the room onto the bed, rips the terrified woman's nightgown off and shoves part of it into her mouth as a crude gag. He then punches her several times in the face before raping her and then strangling her with a scarf. Jean Frost blacks out but survives her ordeal.
When she recovers consciousness, she is aware of a burning pain in the lower part of her body and is horrified to discover that she is bleeding profusely from her genital area. Because of the substantial injuries suffered by Jean Frost, a police surgeon is unable to do the rape tests normally carried out to determine the presence of semen.
Gary admits to stealing the coins and to being in Jean Frost's apartment on the same night, but claims he was just acting as a lookout and played no part in the attack. He states that the man arrested with him at the bank is responsible for raping and beating the victim.
Unfortunately, Jean Frost, who is still suffering severe trauma to her genital area, fails to identify either of the men in custody as those who broke into her apartment and sexually assaulted her with such brutality. Due to the severity of the injuries sustained by the victim, the police doctor is unable to gather any forensic evidence and the charges of rape and attempted murder are dropped.
Nobody is ever charged with the sadistic attack on Jean Frost.
Carlton Gary, in possession of the stolen coins and gold watch, is sent back to prison for breaching his parole conditions. Less than one year later, on August 22, 1977, Gary escapes from Onondaga Prison and makes his way to Columbus, Georgia, his birthplace.
|Mary Willis Jackson|
Four days later, on September 15, 1977, another Columbus woman, 60-year-old Mary Willis Jackson, is raped and then strangled with her own stockings. She becomes the first victim of the serial killer dubbed the "Columbus Stocking Strangler" by the local press.
The city of Columbus, with a population of less than 300,000, is shocked by the revelation that a serial killer is targeting elderly white women. The details of the beatings, rapes and strangulation terrorizes the whole community.
The next victim is Jean Dimenstein, 71, who before retiring owned and managed a department store. She is a friendly, outgoing woman who enjoys dining out with friends. Although aware of the serial killer stalking Columbus, she doesn't feel at risk in her apartment. She has added extra security with deadbolt locks on all the doors and windows.
The Columbus police department respond to the second murder with extra patrols in marked and unmarked cars. They stake out several apartments thought to be at risk and even place undercover officers in the homes of likely targets.
And then the police get a break. They arrest the serial killer - or so they think.
Jerome Livas is arrested on October 2, 1977, for raping and beating his girlfriend to death. The similarities between this murder and those carried out by the "Stocking Strangler" lead police to suspect that Jerome Livas may be the killer.
On October 14, 1977, Jerome Livas confesses to murdering Mary Willis Jackson and Jean Dimenstein. The elderly female residents of Columbus breathe a collective sigh of relief. All police activities relating to the murders are canceled; extra patrols curtailed, stakeouts ended, the city returns to normal.
But not for long.
Frail and suffering increasingly annoying mobility problems, Florence, a feisty lady, somehow manages to move around her small apartment with the help of a walking frame. She values her independence.
In the early evening of October 21, 1977, an intruder forces his way into Florence's apartment. He drags the frail old lady into the bedroom, throws her onto the bed and punches her repeatedly in the face.
Later that same evening, Florence's son stops by to make sure everything is all right. He discovers his mother's battered body lying on the bedroom floor. Unbelievably, she has been brutally beaten, raped and then strangled with a nylon stocking. The level of violence directed at an elderly lady unable to defend herself shocks even the most hardened of police officers.
Florence Scheible dies just 10 days short of her 90th birthday.
The city of Columbus is in turmoil.
Meanwhile, it becomes patently clear that the main suspect, Jerome Livas, who has now confessed to murdering Presidents Kennedy and McKinley and several other famous victims, is not the "Columbus Stocking Strangler". A deranged attention seeker, he remains in custody and is later convicted of murdering his girlfriend.
Despite the efforts of the Columbus police department, the horrific killings continue. Before the year is out there is yet another victim. Socialite, Kathleen Woodruff, the 77-year-old widow of George Woodruff, a wealthy businessman, is discovered three days after Christmas. She has been beaten, raped and strangled with a nylon stocking.
With public outrage reaching fever pitch, and police seemingly unable to stop the so-called "Columbus Stocking Strangler" murdering elderly women, a task force, lead by Deputy Commander James B. Hicks and Director Ronald A. Jones, is setup to investigate the serial killings. A detective named Ronald Lynn joins the investigation. He wonders how long it will be before the killer strikes again.
He doesn't have to wait long for the answer.
But this time it is different. What the intruder does not know, is that there is a panic button located on the side of the bed, and Ruth Schwob, despite being beaten and strangled, manages to reach down and press it.
The police arrive just three minutes later. As Detective Lynn approaches the house he hears the sound of somebody gasping and fighting for breath. The intruder is still in the bedroom, still tightening the nylon stocking around his victim's neck.
Although Detective Lynn arrives just in time to save Ruth Schwob's life, the intruder manages to evade capture. A neighbor sees a young black male vaulting over his garden fence and disappearing into the darkness. Paramedics arriving in an ambulance see a black male sprint across the road in front of them before vanishing from sight. Nobody, not even Ruth Schwob, who was face to face with the intruder, can give a positive identification. The elusive killer has managed to evade capture yet again, but this time he escapes by the finest of margins. Frustrated police officers coin a new name for him.
|Carlton Gary 1977|
It is also obvious to police investigators that a violent struggle has taken place. Chairs have been tipped over and a bedside lamp knocked to the floor and broken. One police officer viewing Mildred Borom's battered body breaks down in tears.
Two months pass and then on April 20, 1978, first grade teacher, Janet Cofer, 61, is found dead in her bed. She has been strangled with one of her own nylon stockings. She is the seventh victim of the "Columbus Stocking Strangler" and, as it turns out, the last.
The killer has murdered seven elderly woman in just six months, but another six years will pass before justice finally catches up with the Columbus serial killer.
|Carlton Gary 1984|
That name is Carlton Gary, a.k.a. Micheal David, a.k.a Carl Micheals. He is wanted by several police departments across the states for a prison escape, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, drug dealing and murder.
Finally, police get the break they are looking for. Fingerprints of Carlton Gary, supplied to Columbus police by South Carolina, match the prints found in four of the Columbus victim's homes.
A swat team acting on a tip-off eventually arrest Carlton Gary at a Holiday Inn Hotel in Albany, Georgia. True to form, he admits being in the homes of the Columbus victims but denies murder or rape. "I did the burglaries," he tells investigators, "and my accomplice killed the old ladies."
Police locate the accomplice but he denies taking part in any of the Columbus murders and police can find no evidence to connect him to the crimes.
A detective involved in the arrest of Carlton Gary commented on the sense of unreality he felt when he confronted the vicious, serial rapist and murderer. "He had been a ghost, slipping in and out of people's lives, but he was a human being. I brushed against him to see if he was real. He was."
And the ghost now has a name.
33-year-old Carlton Gary goes on trial in 1986. He is charged with three of the Columbus murders, but prosecutors say they will connect him to at least seven others. The most emotional testimony is given by Jean Frost who explains how she survived a beating, a vicious rape that left her physically scarred and a brutal strangulation.
Carlton Gary is convicted on nine counts of murder and sentenced to death. Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, there have been several stays of execution and as of July, 2014, Carlton Gary remains on death row.
He has been awaiting execution for 28 years.
Bruce L Jordan, in his book, Murder in the Peach State, writes, "The evidence against Carlton Gary was strong. To find him innocent, jurors would have to believe that police had been planting evidence against him since 1970. It would have involved a collaboration between police in Albany NY, Syracuse NY, Albany GA and Columbus GA. The strongest evidence against police corruption is that whenever Carlton Gary was confronted with the fact that his fingerprints were in the homes of strangled women, he never claimed they had been planted. He always acknowledged his presence and pointed the finger at other men."
Carlton Gary (December 15, 1952 - ?)
The Ghost with a Name.
Information and pictures courtesy of:
The U.S. Justice Department - Columbus GA
Murder in the Peach State
Bruce L. Jordon
The Crime Library
The Daily Mail (UK)