Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carlton Gary: The Columbus, Georgia Stocking Strangler

In Again, and Out Again

David/Gary admitted to being involved in the robbery but said an accomplice had actually committed it. The story collapsed when witnesses from the restaurant fingered the supposed Michael David.

Research revealed that "Michael David" was the same "Carl Michaels" whose fingerprints had been found in the home of the strangled Albany woman Nellie Farmer and who had escaped from prison in Onondaga, N.Y.

Investigators from Columbus, Georgia came down to South Carolina to question Gary, not about the Wynnton area murders but about similar restaurant robberies. The suspect confessed to five armed robberies.

Convicted of robbery and escape, he was imprisoned in South Carolina but escaped in 1984. He headed for Columbus, Georgia.

There on April 18, 1984, an undercover officer saw him sitting in a Ford in a parking lot smoking marijuana. The officer tried to arrest him but Gary pushed him away, and then ran into the woods behind the parking lot. The officer gave chase and took him into custody. Gary gave his name as Michael David when arrested on charges of possession of marijuana and obstruction of an officer. Again he easily posted the modest bond on these charges and was freed.

The wily Gary began traveling with three other people, two men and a woman. They were driving a 1984 Lincoln. The robber of restaurants from Gainesville in Florida and Columbus in Georgia was known to use such a car.

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.

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