Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carlton Gary: The Columbus, Georgia Stocking Strangler

"I Don't Have Any Parents"

Carlton Gary
Carlton Gary

Carlton Gary once said, "I don't have any parents." In a literal sense, of course, this was not true, he was biologically conceived of two parents. It was not completely true in a figurative sense either, for while Gary's father deserted him, his mother raised him at least some of the time. But it may have reflected a psychological reality that, as a child, he never felt truly bonded to his mother or anyone else.

Carlton Gary was born in Columbus, Georgia, on December 15, 1952. His father was a construction worker who wanted nothing to do with the son he had sired and would accept no financial responsibility for Carlton. The father saw Gary only once when the boy was 12.

His impoverished mother lived a nomadic life, moving about from one address to another. Sometimes she was completely unable to care for him and deposited the youngster with his aunt on his father's side, Lillian Nesbit or his great-aunt on his mother's side, Alma Williams.

His aunt Lillian and his mother both at various times worked as housekeepers for wealthy, older, white women. It is likely that Carlton learned contempt and hatred for this group through his aunt's and mother's experiences with them. Older people are often ailing and, as a result, complaining. Depending on personality, the people his aunt worked for may also have been petty, demanding and fussy. Since these employers came of age in an era when segregation and white supremacy were taken for granted, they may also have been racists. The boy may have heard about their prejudice and that may have fed the hatred for whites that he would later demonstrate.

Carlton Gary was a bright youngster with a very high IQ score. However, it is probable he also suffered some sort of brain damage. His mother or other guardian often could not scrape together enough money to feed him properly and the boy was malnourished, a problem known to result in brain deficiencies. The desperately hungry youngster was sometimes seen rummaging through garbage cans for food. In elementary school, the boy had an accident on a schoolyard ball field that knocked him unconscious.

Apparently, Carlton became a traveling sort early on. His mother's brother, William David, received a phone call from a military police officer at the Fort Lee Army Post in Virginia, saying a child wanted to talk to him. Carlton, then 8 years old, was put on the phone.

"Unk, it's Gary," the boy said. "Come get me."

David has said he never found out how the child got to Virginia on his own.

Carlton continued shuffling between his aunts and his mother, and (primarily) between Columbus, Georgia and various places in Florida into his mid teens.


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