Carlton Gary

Posted in Georgia History, Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on March 13, 2018








Carlton Gary, GDC ID: 0000418413, is scheduled to be executed Thursday, March 15. He was convicted of the rape, and murder, of Florence Scheible, Martha Thurmond and Kathleen Woodruff. They were killed, along with four other elderly women, in Columbus, GA, in 1977 and 1978. The serial killer became known as the Silk Stocking Strangler. “Gary’s execution was originally set for December 16, 2009. … The Georgia Supreme Court entered an order on December 16, 2009, remanding the case to the trial court to determine whether Gary was entitled to DNA testing.”

Chamblee54 published a report on the case in 2009. This post will be copied below. Before getting to that, we should consider whether there is any new evidence, that indicates that Mr. Gary should be executed. In 2009, the opinion of many was that the evidence against Mr. Gary was far from conclusive. This is not to say that Mr. Gary is innocent of all charges. In fact, DNA evidence links Mr. Gary to a 1975 murder in New York state.

However, it is far from clear that Carlton Gary is the Silk Stocking Strangler. This chart summarizes the problems with evidence against Mr. Gary. In addition, an article in Vanity Fair goes into great detail about the case, as does this story.

The story of the alleged confession is bizarre. “Albany, GA, police arrested Gary on May 3, 1984. Columbus police drove over that day to bring him back. Boren (Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren, who was a detective … in 1984.) testified that Gary that night offered to take police on a tour of homes he’d burglarized, so Boren and other investigators started driving him around midtown… Gary would talk about other victims’ homes he had been in, Boren said, but he always blamed an accomplice for the homicides. … Boren said police were so fatigued they ended the interview about 3:30 a.m. May 4, 1984, forgetting to drive by the 3783 Steam Mill Road where Janet Cofer, 61, was found dead April 20, 1978. Defense attorney Jack Martin challenged Boren’s account, noting detectives had neither recorded the interview nor taken notes.Boren said investigators feared Gary would stop talking if they used a tape recorder or took notes.”

DNA testing was done for some cases after the 2009 ruling. “Extensive testing was performed during the extraordinary motion for new trial proceedings, which revealed a positive DNA match between Gary and … Jean Dimenstein.” (Mr. Gary was not convicted of Jean Dimenstein’s death.)

“Prosecutors have operated on the theory that one person committed all seven murders, so any evidence that might clear Gary in one case could undermine the claim that he is the “Stocking Strangler” … Gary was convicted of killing Thurmond, Scheible and Woodruff. Authorities say his DNA matched semen evidence from Dimenstein’s rape but not from Thurmond’s.”

Gertrude Miller survived an early assault, and indentified Mr. Gary as her attacker. “a later DNA test on her clothing yielded a profile that did not match him.” Gertrude Miller’s testimony is questioned by others. In the Matha Thurmond case, “police collected semen samples later thought suitable for DNA testing. The G.B.I. crime lab accidentally tainted and destroyed that evidence.”

When Georgia decides to execute someone, they don’t like to give up. Troy Davis, Kelly Gissendaner, and Warren Hill are recent examples. No matter how inconclusive the evidence, no matter how bad it makes the state look, when Georgia wants to execute someone, they usually do it.

Since this is Georgia, race must be considered. Carlton Gary is black. The ladies who died were white. This was a high profile, racially charged case. The authorities were under enormous pressure to solve the case. While not necessarily racist, the authorities did not look good in their handling of the case.

“In February 1978 Columbus Police Chief received a bizarre, frightening letter supposedly from a white racist group of vigilantes called the “Forces of Evil.” The Forces of Evil wrote that if police did not apprehend the Stocking Strangler by “1 June,” they would murder a black woman in retaliation for what were believed to be murders of white women by a black man. That black woman, the letter went on to assert, would be Gail Jackson. She had already been kidnapped and was being held by the group. She would die unless the police caught, in the letter’s terms, the “S-Strangler.”Investigators learned that Gail Jackson was a black woman from nearby Fort Benning. And, chillingly, she was missing. While they were still puzzling over the disappearance of Gail Jackson, the police received a second letter from the supposed Forces of Evil. They demanded a $10,000 ransom for the kidnapped woman’s freedom.

Columbus police took this baffling, frightening letters to the Behavioral Science Unit of the F.B.I. As Jordan wrote in Murder in the Peach States, that unit “came to some startling conclusions. They felt the author, or authors, of the ‘Forces of Evil’ letter was not seven white men, but more likely one black man. The profilers believed he probably already killed Gail Jackson and that the letters were intended to divert attention away from the real killer. The profile predicted him to be an artilleryman or military policeman. An excerpt in the letter which stated, ‘the victims will double’ led profilers to believe that he may already have also killed two other women. … They also believed that he might be the stocking strangler.”Investigators eventually arrested William Hance for the murder of Gail Jackson. He was a black artilleryman at Fort Benning. He confessed to having authored the “Forces of Evil” letter and to have killed two other women in addition to Gail Jackson. However, there were no links between Hance and the Stocking Stranglings.”

UPDATE: Carlton Gary died at 10:33 pm, March 15, 2018. “… he did not accept a final prayer or make a final statement.” Mr. Gary declined a special last meal. He ate the standard prison dinner of a grilled hamburger, a hot dog, white beans, coleslaw and grape beverage.

The State of Georgia has set an execution date for Carlton Gary. December 16 is scheduled to be his date with the gurneygoinggone, in Jackson, GA. Mr. Gary is said to be the “Stocking Strangler”, who terrorized Columbus GA in 1977 and 1978. Not everyone agrees with the verdict.

Carlton Gary was born December 15, 1952. (His birthday is the day before the scheduled execution). He met his father once, when he was 12. His mother was poor, and often got relatives to care for her son. As Carlton Gary got older, he became familiar with law enforcement.

In 1970, there was an elderly lady strangled and murdered in upstate New York. Mr. Gary was involved. Later DNA tests indicate that Mr. Gary was the 1975 killer of Marion Fisher in Syracuse NY.

On August 22, 1977, Carlton Gary escaped from Onondaga prison. On September 15, 1977, Mary Willis “Ferne” Jackson was strangled to death with a nylon stocking. Between this date and April 20, 1978, six more women were raped and strangled with stockings. All were elderly white ladies, most of whom lived in the affluent Wyntown neighborhood.

— Ferne Jackson, 60, of 2505 17th St., killed Sept. 15, 1977.
— Jean Dimenstein, 71, of 3927 21st St., killed Sept. 25, 1977.
— Florence Scheible, 89, of 1941 Dimon St., killed Oct. 21, 1977.
— Martha Thurmond, 69, of 2614 Marion St., killed Oct. 25, 1977.
— Kathleen Woodruff, 74, of 1811 Buena Vista Road, killed Dec. 28, 1977.
— Mildred Borom, 78, of 1612 Forest Ave., killed Feb. 12, 1978.
— Janet Cofer, 61, of 3783 Steam Mill Road, killed April 20, 1978.

During this time, Carlton Gary was busy robbing restaurants. He was caught, and sent to prison in South Carolina. He escaped in 1984. At this time, the police in Columbus were working on a lead in the Stocking Strangler case.

“Police in Columbus hoped against hope that a lead they were developing in the long, dragged-out case of the Stocking Strangler would pan out. A .22 Luger handgun had been stolen from a Wynnton house at the time of the murders. An anonymous caller called the owner of the gun and said, “The police have the gun you had stolen from you.”

That gun owner reported the call to the Columbus police. At first they were baffled. They did not have that gun but could police in another area have it? Detectives put out a nationwide teletype asking if anyone had it. No other police department did. Two Kalamazoo, Michigan clerks went painstakingly through their records and found that the weapon had been registered at their shop in 1981. Detectives tracked the gun down to its current owner who said he had purchased it in Phenix City, Alabama from Jim Gary. The police interviewed Jim Gary who said he had gotten it from his nephew, Carlton Gary.

Detectives then discovered that Gary had recently escaped from the South Carolina prison where he was serving time as “Michael David.” That made their job especially urgent. If Gary was the Stocking Strangler, elderly women were in terrible danger.

Fingerprints of Carlton Gary were matched to prints found in the home of victim Kathleen Gary. Then Columbus police were contacted by investigators from Phenix City who were looking for suspected robbers and cocaine runners, one of whom was known as Michael David…

On the early morning of May 3, 1984, acting on a tip, a S.W.A.T. team went to a Holiday Inn in Albany, Georgia. Carlton Gary was in a room with a woman. When that woman came out of that room to go to an ice machine, S.W.A.T. members asked her to come to a room for questioning. She agreed to cooperate with authorities and told them that Gary had a gun on the nightstand.

Trying to decoy him into opening the door, she went back to it and knocked but ran away before he answered it. Gary opened the door, saw the police, and tried to shut it but officers kept it open with their shoulders. Then the team swarmed into the room and captured him…

True to his pattern, Gary confessed to having been at the homes of the Wynnton area victims but denied raping or murdering them. His accomplice, Malvin Alamichael Crittendon had done that. “I did the burglaries,” Gary explained, “and Michael killed the old ladies.”Crittendon existed and was located by the police. He denied taking part in the Stocking Stranglings and police could find no evidence to connect him to them.”

In August 1986, Carlton Gary went to trial. The state would not give the defense any money to hire investigators or expert witnesses. The star witness for the state was Gertrude Miller, who had been attacked, in similar fashion to the other victims, but survived. Mrs. Miller identified Carlton Gary as the attacker. On August 26, 1986, Carlton Gary was convicted of the murder of Florence Scheible, Martha Thurmond, and Kathleen Woodruff. He was sentenced to death the next day.

In a death penalty case, there are a lot of reviews. This is especially true for a high profile case like this. Evidence has come up which indicates Carlton Gary is not the stocking strangler.

DNA testing was not used during the trial. After the trial, the body fluids from the crime scenes were destroyed as a bio hazard. (This evidently was not done in Syracuse). It is not possible to compare DNA from Mr. Gary to what was found at the crime scene.

The following quote is from a Vanity Fair article about the case:
“Even though DNA-testing techniques had not been invented at the time of the stranglings, investigators did possess an older method for testing semen that could be very effective: secretor typing. Most people, about four-fifths of the population, are “secretors,” meaning that in their saliva, semen, and other fluids they secrete chemical markers that give away their blood group. A “group-O secretor” would be someone from the common O blood group whose semen contained a relatively large amount of the relevant marker.
The tests carried out on semen collected from the murder scenes of Ferne Jackson, Florence Scheible, and Martha Thurmond indicated that the stocking strangler was a “non-secretor,” whose body fluids contained only tiny traces of the group-O marker. As for Carlton Gary, the police took a saliva sample from him after his arrest. It revealed that, together with some 40 percent of the population, he was an O secretor.”

The star witness, Gertrude Miller, seems to have a few flaws as well. She had identified several other men as being her attacker, some of whom looked nothing like Mr. Gary. The trial was in 1986, when the murders had been committed in 1977-78. A commenter in a Columbus internet forum named “former Wyntown resident” says:
” I personally knew one of the “witnesses” well and she is a Hystrionic Personality Disorder who interjected herself in this appalling travesty of justice solely for the attention. She obviously presented well enough in court but I knew beyond a doubt she lied- she concocted the story of an encounter years after it allegedly took place.”
The last victim, Janet Cofer, had a bite mark on her breast. A impression was taken of this mark, and a model of the teeth marks produced. The teeth in that model do not match Carlton Gary. (“Gary was not convicted of the April 20, 1978, strangling of 61-year-old Columbus school teacher Janet Cofer, from whose left breast the impression of an apparent bite mark was made. Prosecutors used evidence from that case during Gary’s 1986 trial “solely to show similar mode, method and motivation,” U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land writes in his order Thursday granting funds for further examination of the bite cast. Prosecutors have operated on the theory that one person committed all seven murders, so any evidence that might clear Gary in one case could undermine the claim that he is the “Stocking Strangler” … Gary’s attorneys first sought the bite-mark mold in 2003, but no one knew where it was. It was not used as evidence in the 1986 trial, and Gary’s defense attorneys weren’t told about it then. Prosecutors later claimed it was irrelevant because Gary had dental work after the murders. Last month, Muscogee County Coroner James Dunnavant discovered the mold stashed back in an old file cabinet in an office storage room. For years Dunnavant’s predecessor, Coroner Don Kilgore, had kept the mold in his desk drawer, occasionally showing it off. But no one knew what happened to it after Kilgore died in 2000.”)

The fingerprints were not photographed “in situ”, or in the original location. They had been lifted and transferred to file cards. There is no tape of the interrogation. The detective, Mike Sellers, wrote the only record of the interrogation at his kitchen table at 4:30 am, after interviewing Mr. Gary. The tape of the discussion was destroyed.

A British journalist named David Rose came to Georgia to write about the death penalty, and got caught up in the case. He wrote a book, The Big Eddy Club, about the case.

Unless something happens to stop the process, Carlton Gary will die on Wednesday. While he is no choir boy, there is doubt that he is the stocking strangler.

Update The Georgia Supreme Court issued a stay of execution on Wednesday, helpfully before the 7pm deadline. The Supremes voted 5-2 to order Muscogee County Judge to hold a hearing to consider DNA tests.

PG was under the impression that the fluid samples from the crime scene had been destroyed. Other evidence in this case has been said to be destroyed or lost, only to turn up later. (i.e., the mold made from the teeth marks).

PG has too much free time these days, and was going to go to Jackson to witness the scene outside the prison. He went to the 11 alive weather radar to check the weather, and saw a headline announcing the stay of execution. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.










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