Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carlton Gary: The Columbus, Georgia Stocking Strangler

Carlton Gary on Trial


Carlton Gary came to trial in August 1986 for the notorious Stocking Stranglings — a full nine years after the last killing had been committed.

Judge Kenneth Followill
Judge Kenneth Followill
At least one of the jurors was shocked she had been chosen for jury duty on the case. Retired schoolteacher Eleanor Childers was in the same age group as the victims. Both she and her attorney son believed that would keep her off the jury. Her son had told her, "They won't have you. They don't want you." She had been called up for jury duty on previous occasions but always had been rejected. "But they took me that time," she later marveled.

Early in the trial, a peevish Gary told the judge he was sick and asked to be excused from "this circus or whatever you call it."

The judge denied the request. He was Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Followill, a man with straight thin hair who wore large glasses. He was a respected jurist.

August "Bud" Siemon III
Gary was defended by August "Bud" Siemon III, an attorney who specialized in defending capital cases

Muscogee County District Attorney William J. Smith headed the state's team. In his opening statement, Smith told the jury that while Gary was charged in three murders, the government would show evidence connecting him to seven. He went on to say that they would hear of how, when Gary was suspected of killing Nellie Farmer, he had successfully deflected suspicion from himself by implicating another man and how Gary repeated this subterfuge.

Siemon's opening tried to downplay the significance of the fingerprint evidence. "Fingerprints prove nothing except that a person was at a location," Siemon told the jury. "They don't prove that he was the murderer." He also suggested that the police were desperate to pin the stranglings on someone because they had been so helpless to stop them. "They had officers in trees," he recounted, "they had officers hiding in the bushes with night-vision devices; they had stake-out houses with police inside. All this and they didn't catch the killer when he was committing all these crimes."

The state put on witnesses who saw Gary in the vicinity of the crime scenes, fingerprint experts, and medical personnel who testified to the condition of the victims' bodies. Much of the testimony was quite gruesome and some jurors had difficulty both listening to it and viewing pictures of what had been done to the elderly women.

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