Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carlton Gary: The Columbus, Georgia Stocking Strangler

A Break From Murder

Janet Cofer
Janet Cofer
Unlike many of the Stocking Stranglers victims, 61-year-old Janet Cofer was not retired. She still taught first grade. Dark-haired and dimpled, she wore glasses, had had a Dachshund named Buffy who slept under her bed and an adult son named Mike who sometimes stayed with her. She attended church regularly and was active in her church's activities. Early in April, Janet Cofer suffered a heartrending loss. Little Buffy was struck and killed by a car.

Mike was not at his mother's home on the fateful night of April 19, 1978. Janet Cofer was strangled in her bed.

It is believed that, at about this time, Carlton Gary took a break from murder to raise money through robbery. Concealing his identity behind a bag with holes cut out so he could see, he did restaurant hold-ups with a gun.

Soon a Columbus woman named Theda Cartwright reported to police that her .357 Magnum Hi Standard revolver was missing. She did not live in the Wynnton area and officers had no reason to connect the apparent theft of the gun with the stranglings.

Theda Cartwright's boyfriend was Carlton Gary but she did not tell the police that nor indicate that she had any reason to suspect him of having taken the weapon.

In June, Gary moved back to Florida where he continued robbing restaurants. He threatened the people there with a sawed-off shotgun and hid his face behind a bandana and large sunglasses.

Carlton Gary was back in Georgia when the police arrested him, not for murder but for trespassing. He was in Hapeville, a suburb of Atlanta, when he was caught in the wee morning hours of June 19, 1978 scaling the balconies of a Royal Blue Inn. He was caught with a gold-colored bag. Inside it the police found $1,478.25.

He told the authorities his name was Michael David. He easily made the small bail required for the charge against him. A man as clever as he is evil, he once again slipped through the law's fingers.

For the next few months, he traveled Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina robbing various restaurants. Sometimes he raped women when he robbed. Sometimes he had an accomplice.

In Gaffney, South Carolina, a police officer named Richard Weaver spotted a black man with a gun running out of the back of a Po' Folks restaurant. Investigation revealed the Po' Folks had just been robbed. Weaver radioed for assistance. Police with a team of bloodhounds were in the area. After an intense, three hour chase, the canines led their handlers to a suspect. The man was Carlton Gary but gave his name as "Michael David."

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