Inmate executed for 1977 'Stocking Strangler' murders

The man convicted of the so-called "stocking strangler" murders that terrorized Muscogee County in the 1970s has been...

Posted: Mar 20, 2018 6:37 PM
Updated: Mar 20, 2018 6:37 PM

The man convicted of the so-called "stocking strangler" murders that terrorized Muscogee County in the 1970s has been executed.

Carlton Michael Gary's death sentence was carried out at 10:33 p.m. March 15 at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison outside Jackson, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. Officials said he did not accept a final prayer nor record a final statement.

Gary was convicted in 1986 of three counts each of malice murder, rape and burglary, though at trial prosecutors presented evidence of six additional similar crimes that occurred in the historic Wynnton neighborhood in Columbus from the fall of 1977 to the spring of 1978. All involved elderly white women between the ages of 55 and 89.

Of the total of nine victims, seven were killed. The body of each deceased victim was totally or partially covered with pillows, blankets or sheets. In each crime, authorities said, the victim lived alone, was raped and her home burglarized. The victims were also strangled, often with stockings or pantyhose.

The conviction involved victims Florence Scheible, Martha Thurmond and Kathleen Woodruff.

According to a federal court summary of the case, Gary was arrested in May 1984 after a pistol stolen from a home in the Wynnton area in the fall of 1977 was linked to him. Gary's fingerprints were also found to match prints found at four of the crime scenes. Authorities said he confessed to being present at the burglary when the pistol was stolen and admitted to being at or having knowledge of eight of the nine Wynnton rapes and murders. Gary, however, claimed to have burglarized the homes while someone else, Malvin A. Crittenden, committed the rapes and murders.

Authorities, however, found no corroborating evidence linking Crittenden to the crimes, according to the summary.

Investigators also found a fingerprint taken from a 1970 crime scene in Albany, N.Y., where an 85-year-old woman was raped and strangled, matched Gary's. Gary admitted to being present, but alleged John Lee Mitchell raped and killed the victim. Mitchell was later acquitted.

In January 1977, Gary was taken into custody and found to be in possession of a watch taken during a burglary in Syracuse, N.Y., two days earlier that also involved the rape of a 55-year-old woman. Authorities said Gary confessed to being a lookout, but alleged another man, who was never convicted, committed the rape.

Following his Muscogee County conviction and death sentence, Gary was denied a motion for a new trial in 1986. His original execution date was set for Dec. 16, 2009, but on Dec. 7 of that year, Gary sought DNA testing in his case, which was granted.

Authorities said the DNA testing matched Gary to one of the nine Muscogee County stocking strangler cases, that of 71-year-old Jean Dimenstein, who was found covered in sheets and a pillow after having been raped and strangled to death in her home Sept. 24, 1977.

Gary was denied another motion for a new trial in September of last year. An appeal of that denial to the Georgia Supreme Court was also denied, as was a subsequent motion for reconsideration.

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