Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carlton Gary: The Columbus, Georgia Stocking Strangler

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Discussing Gary's escape from the Onandaga prison, Rose writes, "he sawed through the bars of his cell and jumped more than 20 feet to the ground, breaking his ankle." Rose continues, "One thing on which there is no dispute is that for the first few weeks after reaching Columbus, [Gary] was wearing a plaster cast and could barely walk." Rose finds it unlikely that "someone in that condition could have spirited himself undetected into and around Wynnton."

However, what is really remarkable is that a man with a broken ankle was able to make good his escape. Rose says Gary found and stole a bicycle near the prison wall. He then had the cast put on by a Rochester physician.

Testimony from prosecution witnesses about Gary's time in Columbus after the escape indicated that he did indeed have an injured foot but that it did not prevent his getting around. Bruce L. Jordan, in Murder in the Peach State, quotes a witness as remembering him "hopping like a duck." Even with an injured foot, Gary would have been considerably stronger and more agile than the Strangler's elderly female victims.

Carlton Gary in 1970
Carlton Gary in 1970
Rose claims that when Gary was in custody in Gaffney, South Carolina, for robbery in March, 1979, detective Richard Smith took Gary's fingerprints to Columbus print identification officers, who found that they did not match prints at the scenes of the stranglings, even though the prosecution would claim at Gary's trial seven years later that they did match.

Rose disputes the identification of Gary by surviving victim Gertrude Miller. He claims that an attorney for Gary who handled his appeals before Martin, Jeff Ertel, won access to a prosecution sealed dossier through the Open Records Act. According to Rose, that dossier disclosed that when first questioned, "Miller had said it had been so dark that she didn't know whether the intruder was black or white. Later, she went on to identify three other suspects in succession - all of whom looked different, and none of them like Gary." However, there were several other witnesses who placed Gary in the vicinity of the stranglings, but Rose's article does not mention them.

Bruce L. Jordan, in Murder in the Peach State, expresses confidence that Gary is the Columbus Stocking Strangler. "The evidence against Carlton Gary was strong," he wrote. "To believe he is innocent, jurors would have to have believed that police had been planting evidence against him since 1970. It would have to have involved a collaboration between police in Albany, N.Y.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Albany, Ga; and Columbus, Ga. The strongest evidence that this is not the case is whenever Carlton Gary was confronted with the fact that his fingerprints were in the home of strangled women, he never claimed they had been planted. He always acknowledged his presence and pointed the finger at other men." Jordan continues that Gary invariably accused "other black men" showing that the "loyalty that many African-Americans display towards each other apparently did not extend to Carlton Gary."

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