Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carlton Gary: The Columbus, Georgia Stocking Strangler


Movie Poster: The Big Eddy Club
Movie Poster: The Big Eddy Club
At least one author doubts Gary's guilt. He is British writer David Rose, who traveled to Georgia in 1996 to write an article on the death penalty for a magazine called The Observer. While researching it, he became interested in Carlton Gary and the Columbus Stocking Stranglings. He wrote a book about the case that HarperCollins plans to publish in March 2007. Its title will be The Big Eddy Club in the United States version, and Violation: Justice, Race and Serial Murder in the Deep South in the version to be released in the United Kingdom.

In a lengthy two-part article in The Observer, Rose states some of the reasons he questions Gary's guilt. He points to Gary's extroverted personality and his popularity with women as making him a contrast to the classic profile of the serial killer as a socially inept loner. However, there have been others, such as the infamous Ted Bundy, who broke that mold.

Rose has doubts that are more substantial. Some center around the aforementioned bite-mark evidence. He writes that Columbus dentist Sonny Galbreath "made a cast of the strangler's teeth." He also quotes Galbreath as claiming that "one of the killer's top front teeth displayed an unusual and striking deformity - a 'mesial rotation' in effect, it was twisted out of alignment." He further contends that the killer's "deformity would have been noticeable every time he smiled." Rose claims that he interviewed people who knew Gary at the time of the murders, who said Gary's teeth were perfectly straight.

Semen evidence is also cited by Rose as possibly exculpatory. DNA testing was not available when Gary was tried. Rose writes that prosecution expert John Wegel testified that he tested semen from Strangler victims and concluded that the murderer was a "non-secretor, a man who does not secrete the usual amounts of antigens," substances that stimulate immune response and can be used as blood group markers, into his body fluids. In response to evidence that showed Gary was a secretor in his saliva, Wegal responded that he might secrete antigens in one body fluid but not another, or that he had been a non-secretor and since become a secretor.

Rose claims to have contacted a British expert named Dr. David Roberts who disputes Wegel's findings and does not believe a man could secrete in one fluid and not another. According to his article, Rose then masterminded an experiment to test this possibility and writes of himself engaging in a cloak-and-dagger operation on a prison visit to Gary: "Gary ejaculated on to a piece of paper, wrapped it in clingfilm and put it in an envelope, which I hid in a document file and smuggled out of the prison. Then, in front of me, he plucked some hairs from his head. Following instructions from my British expert, I let the semen dry in my hotel room and then sent it and the hair to a specialist lab in California. There, Dr. Brian Wraxall — once Wegel's college tutor DNA matched the hair roots and semen to establish the semen came from Gary. Then he did the secretor test. ... Gary was a strong blood group O secretor. He compared the results with those that Wegel obtained when he tested the best sample from the strangler from a neat semen trace left on Martha Thurmond's body in 1977. The antigen level in Gary's semen was at least 3,000 times higher." After writing about this, Rose cites the opinion of a scientist interviewed by Martin, who asserts that if a semen test showed Gary to be a strong secretor, "he cannot be the killer."

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