Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Carlton Gary: The Columbus, Georgia Stocking Strangler

"He Did it, Not Me"


Nellie Farmer had spent most of her life working as a schoolteacher. People don't go into teaching for the money but for the satisfaction that comes from nurturing and instructing the young. When she retired, Farmer was able to support herself but could not afford a nice residence. In 1970, she lived alone in a tiny retirement hotel. She was asleep when she was suddenly awakened to a real-life nightmare.

A man had broken in. He raped the elderly woman. One can only guess at the horror that went through her mind as a stranger violated her, causing her physical agony as well as psychic humiliation. Then he strangled her to death with a scarf.

Police found her corpse lying face down on the floor. Bedclothes covered her.

John Lee Mitchell
John Lee Mitchell
There had been a similar attack two months earlier but the victim had survived. Both victims were women, both were elderly, and both were white.

A short time later, Josephine Deitz was attacked in her home by a black male who broke in. Like the other two victims, she was elderly and white. He grabbed her by the throat and slammed her to the floor. Then he took her purse and took off.

The police apprehended a man for the Deitz crime just four days after it occurred. That man was named Carlton Gary although he told the officers that his name was Carl Michaels. A fingerprint of his had been found in Nellie Farmer's retirement hotel room.

Book Cover: Murder in the Peach State
Book Cover: Murder in the
Peach State
"Carl Michaels" acknowledged that he had been in Farmer's residence when she was killed but claimed he had never touched her. He claimed that he had burglarized her home while an accomplice, a man whose name is reported as John Lee Mitchell in Bruce L. Jordan's Murder in the Peach State and as John Lee Williams in Joel Norris' Serial Killer, and sometimes called "Pop," assaulted and murdered Farmer. He said the police wouldn't find John Lee's fingerprints because he had worn gloves while committing the crime. Then the seemingly helpful Michaels led them to a letter that he claimed John Lee had written. In it, John Lee talks about his involvement in the rape and murder of Nellie Farmer.


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