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Thread: Death Penalty Trial Set for Donnie Russell Rowe in 2017 GA Murders of Curtis Billue and Christopher Monica

  1. #31
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    Jury selection moved to February 2020 in death penalty case

    By Billy Hobbs
    The Union-Recorder

    EATONTON, Ga. — For the second time in less than two months, Donnie Rowe has learned that he won’t stand trial for the murders of two state corrections officers as originally planned. Rowe tentatively had been scheduled for trial in the double-murder case in January.

    During a pre-trial hearing held Tuesday morning in Putnam County Superior Court in Eatonton, Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Brenda H. Trammell said jury selection will instead begin on Feb. 10, 2020, in Grady County Superior Court.

    Once a 12-person jury along with alternate jurors has been selected, they will be taken to Putnam County where they will begin hearing testimony in the case that could last up to a month.

    Rowe and his co-defendant, Ricky Dubose, are accused of shooting to death Georgia Department of Corrections Sgts. Curtis Billue and Christopher Monica on the morning of June 13, 2017, in Putnam County. The two officers were helping transport prisoners from Baldwin and Hancock state prisons to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson when Rowe and Dubose reportedly escaped through an unlocked gate as they were being transported from one facility to another one.

    Both of the officers were shot to death with their own state-issued handguns, authorities said.

    Rowe and Dubose, who are being tried separately for the alleged crimes, escaped from the prison transport bus and made it into Rutherford County, Tennessee before they eventually surrendered to residents nearby and later turned over to local, state and federal law enforcement authorities. The two state prison inmates led authorities on a nationwide manhunt for three days.

    Billue and Monica were both assigned to the transportation department at Baldwin State Prison near Milledgeville. They also lived in Milledgeville.

    As has been the case during nearly all of the pre-trial hearings of the defendants, several members of the victims’ families were on hand for the hearing on Tuesday.

    One of Rowe’s defense attorneys, Franklin J. Hogue, of Hogue, Hogue, Fitzgerald & Griffin, LLP, of Macon, brought up Motion No. 47 during his client’s latest hearing.

    The motion was filed in an attempt to prevent prejudicial security measures, said Hogue, who was recently named the lead counsel. He is being assisted by Adam S. Levin and Erin L. Wallace of the Georgia Capitol Defender Northeast Georgia Regional Office in Athens.

    “It appears somewhere along the way, the court invited the sheriff to file a document saying what security measures he planned, and so Iooking at that document the sheriff filed on Aug. 6, 2019, five pages in which he lays out among other things, some security measures with respect to Donnie Rowe,” Hogue said.

    After Trammell informed him of some particulars in how such actually came about, Hogue continued.

    In response to the sheriff filing such security measures, the defense filed Motion No. 116, which bars the use of an electrical shocking device on the defendant. He described the device as a stun cuff.

    Hogue was referring to Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills.

    “And just to perfect the record of this hearing, as we did in the prior hearing, in the sheriff’s five-page filing, on page two, paragraph three, he wrote that considering the defendant’s criminal history and severity of the crimes he is charged with, ‘it is my intent that he will wear a stun cuff electronic wireless prisoner control device, and a humane restraint prisoner transport leg brace,’” Hogue said.

    The defense attorney also brought up a recent demonstration that the sheriff put on in the courtroom and later was aired by an Atlanta television station. The demonstration was done during a hearing that involved the co-defendant in the case, Ricky Dubose.

    Sills was called to testify during Tuesday’s hearing by Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale.

    Under questioning by Barksdale, Sills said this case marks the first time that he has ever been requested to provide a security plan in the many years that he has been sheriff of Putnam County.

    “Sheriff, what factors do you look at when you provide security for the courthouse,” Barksdale asked.

    The sheriff replied that one of those factors was the type of crime or crimes that the defendant is accused of having committed, as well as the defendant’s behavior, and most importantly, the defendant’s prior behavior, his prior record.

    “All of that is considered, and likewise, we obviously cannot have restraints present on a defendant that a jury can see,” Sills said. “I’ve studied a number of devices over the years and found the stun cuffs to be … virtually impossible for anyone to see, yet still a very effective device. We used it in every criminal case in this county no matter what the individual was charged with whether it was a misdemeanor or a felony, and if they were in custody up until the time of the Weldon case.”

    Sills said there had never been a problem and the device had never been activated.

    https://www.unionrecorder.com/news/j...608504608.html
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  2. #32
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    State investigator in Ricky Dubose death penalty case arrested

    By Billy Hobbs
    Union Recorder

    JACKSON, Ga. - A 31-year-old criminal defense team investigator with a state agency was arrested Wednesday afternoon after being accused of smuggling illegal contraband to an inmate at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson.

    The investigator was identified as Lily Eugenia Engleman, of the 900 block of Brookhaven Way, Brookhaven, Georgia, according to information released to The Union-Recorder from the Butts County Sheriffs Office, as well as the Georgia Department of Corrections.

    Engleman is accused of passing off undisclosed items to Ricky Dubose, who is expected to stand trial some time next year in Putnam County Superior Court in Eatonton for the murders of a pair of state corrections officers, both of whom worked at Baldwin State Prison and lived in Milledgeville.

    Dubose reportedly took the unnamed items from Engleman and hid them in the socks he was wearing during a visit with the state criminal defense investigator in early September.

    Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley is seeking the death penalty against Dubose and his co-defendant Donnie Rowe. The defendants are accused of shooting to death Sgt. Curtis Billue and Sgt. Christopher Monica during an escape from a state prison transport bus on June 13, 2017 in Putnam County.

    The two state inmates, who already had been convicted on other felony crimes, then escaped and became the subject of an intensified nationwide manhunt for three days, before they surrendered to state and federal authorities in Rutherford County, Tennessee.

    They subsequently were brought back to Georgia, where they were informed that the state would be seeking the death penalty against them in upcoming separate trials.

    Rowes trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 6, 2020, while Duboses trial date has yet to be set by a judge.

    Engleman is employed as an investigator with the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender in Atlanta and was assigned to the case involving Dubose. She was charged with a felony count of giving weapons, intoxicants, drugs, or other items to an inmate without consent of the prison warden, according to an arrest warrant and affidavit obtained by the newspaper.

    The Georgia Capital Defender is a division of the Georgia Public Defender Council, which is charged with providing defense counsel to all indigent defendants accused of felony charges and facing the death penalty.

    Engleman, who has attended numerous pre-trial motion hearings involving the Dubose case in Putnam County Superior Court, was taken into custody shortly before 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, jail records show. She subsequently was released from the Butts County Jail in Jackson shortly after 3 p.m. on a $5,000 bond, a jail spokeswoman said.

    Engleman, who technically is known as a mitigation specialist who serves in an investigative role, has been suspended from her job, according to Cheryl Karounos, director of external affairs for the Georgia Public Defender Counsel.

    Im not going to comment on the pending litigation, but I can confirm that she is an employee or ours and that she is currently suspended, pending an investigation, Karounos told the newspaper Thursday afternoon by telephone.

    Engleman is a 2017 graduate of Georgia State University with a masters degree in social work, according to her Facebook account. She is reportedly banned from any state prison facility pending the outcome of her case in Butts County Superior Court.

    A warrant for Englemans arrest was issued Monday by Butts County Magistrate Megan Kinsey to Nathan Adkerson, who is described as the prosecutor in the case.

    Engleman is specifically accused of being seen passing Dubose two small unknown items between 3:39 p.m. and 3:42 p.m. on Sept. 6 while visiting with the inmate in the prisons Special Management Unit, which is referred to as the SMU.

    After Dubose was seen picking the undisclosed items up off the floor, he then reportedly hid the items in his socks to avoid detection by staff, according to the affidavit.

    Said accused (Engleman) did pass these items to inmate Ricky Dubose without the permission or consent of the warden at the Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Special Management Unit, a correctional facility located in Butts County, Georgia, according to a copy of the affidavit.

    Englemans arrest stems from an ongoing investigation, which began after it was discovered that Engleman reportedly passed illegal contraband to Dubose, according to a press release from Lori Benoit, manager of the Office of Public Affairs with the Georgia Department of Corrections.

    The GDC closely monitors all interactions between offenders and outside visitors, and this case was no different, according to the press release. We applaud our diligent staff in their commitment to ensuring the safe and secure operations of our facilities, and investigators with our Office of Professional Standards for making the arrest.

    Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said he first learned of the ongoing investigation two weeks ago.

    I was aware that there was an investigation in this regard, Sills said. I did not know there had been an arrest made until after the arrest was made (Wednesday). Obviously, I was aware because when they are in court here, then they are my problem. So, thats why I was aware of it.

    The sheriff indicated he has never been told what the exact items were that reportedly were smuggled to Dubose.

    But it doesnt matter what was being smuggled in, Sills said. You cannot give something to an inmate no matter what it is without the specific permission of the warden or the sheriff if they are in a county jail, and it is a crime if you do.

    https://www.unionrecorder.com/news/s...f9dc213ed.html
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  3. #33
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    Rowe death penalty trial set for March

    By Billy Hobbs
    The Union-Recorder

    EATONTON, Ga. — After more than three years and dozens of pre-trial motion hearings, the death-penalty trial of one of two men accused of shooting to death a pair of state corrections officers during a daring escape from a prison bus in Putnam County will go forward in a few months.

    But when jury-selection in the trial of Donnie Rowe begins on March 1, 2021, in a Grady County courtroom in Cairo, there will be several new faces in the courtroom.

    The co-defendant in the case, Ricky Dubose, meanwhile, will be granted his death penalty trial at a later date next year.

    The defendants are accused of shooting to death Georgia Department of Corrections Sgt. Curtis Billue and Sgt. Chris Monica while they waged an escape from a bus loaded with inmates being transferred from one prison to another. The defendants were incarcerated at Baldwin State Prison near Milledgeville.

    That was also the facility where Billue and Monica worked in the transportation department. Both of the victims lived in Baldwin County.

    The prison bus escape led to a nationwide manhunt that was launched by Putnam County Sheriff Howard R. Sills. The manhunt included local, state hand federal law enforcement agencies and eventually ended in Tennessee following a series of felony crimes in that state, including a home invasion of an elderly couple, theft of vehicles, and a shootout with deputies along an interstate highway.

    One of the new faces in the upcoming trials of Rowe and Dubose will be T. Wright Barksdale III, who takes over as the new lead prosecutor.

    Barksdale, a Jones County resident, and former assistant district attorney, defeated Carl Cansino in the primary election to become the new district attorney of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit.

    Even though Stephen A. Bradley still serves as district attorney of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, he will no longer be in that position when jury-selection begins in the Rowe case in a few months. At the end of December, Bradley will be sworn in as the newest judge of the eight-county Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit.

    Bradley led the way in prosecuting the case since it happened on the morning of June 13, 2017, along Ga. Route 16, between Eatonton and Sparta.

    Now that Barksdale is transitioning in his role as district attorney-elect, he has already brought on Dawn M. Baskin, a longtime senior assistant district attorney, to help in the prosecution of Rowe during his death penalty trial.

    Barksdale told The Union-Recorder in a Thursday afternoon telephone interview that Baskin will be his replacement on the prosecution team. Baskin, who typically prosecutes cases in Jones County, will join a third member of that team, Allison Mauldin, who serves as chief assistant district attorney.

    “Alley has done a phenomenal job for our office thus far in this case,” Barksdale said. “I certainly wanted to leave her in place.”

    Barksdale, who soon will become one of the youngest district attorneys in Georgia history, said he decided to add Baskin to the team because he and Baskin had prosecuted “quite a few cases together” in the past.

    “She’s one of our better attorneys as it pertains to jury trials,” Barksdale said. “She brings a lot of experience and talent to our team. Those attributions, coupled with the way we have worked so well together in the past, just told me that it made sense to bring her into the fold.”

    Barksdale said it’s most important to have a cohesive team anytime prosecutors are involved in a big case.

    “I’ll take a step back and say, I don’t care what kind of case it is, if you don’t have a group that can work together, trust one another, and talk things through, you’re not going to get the outcome you were seeking,” Barksdale said.

    Take a basketball team, for example, he explained.

    “You can have five all-star players, but if they don’t play well together, the team isn’t likely to do well,” Barksdale said.

    The district attorney-elect said he and his assistant prosecutors are confident in their abilities.

    Since the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to still be around when jury selection begins next year, Barksdale said it is really anyone’s guess as to how long it will take to select a jury and alternates to hear the case against Rowe, who is currently incarcerated at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson.

    “I’m excited that Judge Trammell has given us a March 1 date to proceed with this case,” Barksdale said.

    The death penalty trials of Rowe and co-defendant Ricky Dubose should have already have concluded earlier this year had it not been for the global pandemic, Barksdale said.

    “I think the biggest impact to it was that it kicked the can down the road and drew out the case longer than it otherwise would have,” Barksdale said. “We’ve been ready to try this (Rowe) case from the time of the original trial date until now.”

    Once the Rowe case is completed, the separate trial for Dubose will go forward with jury selection taking place in the Glenn County seat of Brunswick.

    Similar to the Rowe case, jurors will be selected from that county and brought back to Putnam County where the trial will take place in Eatonton.

    Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Alison T. Burleson will preside over the Dubose trial.

    https://www.unionrecorder.com/news/r...e1abdb498.html
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  4. #34
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    Start of death penalty trial up in the air

    By Billy Hobbs
    The Union-Recorder

    EATONTON, Ga. It appears the death penalty trial of Donnie Rowe wont go forward in March next year as previously thought.


    He and co-defendant Ricky Dubose are accused of shooting to death Sgt. Curtis Billue and Sgt. Christopher Monica on a state prison transport bus on the morning of June 13, 2017, between Eatonton and Long Shoals Road in Putnam County. The shootings happened during a daring daybreak escape from the bus that sparked an intensified manhunt across the country that involved hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers.


    The pair were eventually captured following a series of violent crimes in Tennessee, including firing gunshots at deputies during a chase along a busy interstate highway.


    A number of criminal charges, including felony and malice murder, were later filed against Rowe and Dubose by Putnam County Sheriff Howard R. Sills, who led the shooting probe and subsequent manhunt.


    Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley later announced that the state would seek the death penalty against Rowe and Dubose.


    Since then, numerous motion hearings have been held in Putnam County Superior Court in Eatonton pertaining to the cases of both men, who will be tried separately.


    Another such hearing was held Monday, Nov. 16.


    Rowe was escorted into the courtroom by heavily armed state corrections officers before the hearing began in front of Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Brenda H. Trammell.


    The judge had previously announced that Rowes trial would begin March 1, with jury selection in Grady County Superior Court in Cairo.


    That trial date is now up in the air because one of Rowes defense attorneys, Adam S. Levin and his wife are expecting their second child around that same time.


    Levin, who is with the Northeast Capital Defense Team in Athens, along with co-counsel Erin Wallace, recently filed a motion to reschedule the trial because he would be on FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) for 60 days for the birth.


    Once other motions were dealt with, Trammel announced that they would deal with Levins request.


    Its not going to be 60 days, Trammel told Levin. Im going to go ahead and tell you that.


    Although Levin expressed appreciation to the judge for considering his request and a short delay for the start of the trial, he noted it still put him in a rough spot.


    Trammell asked Levin to try and get a better timetable concerning the expectancy of his second child.


    The judge asked Levin about the possibility of moving up the trial date to sometime in February or toward the end of March.


    Levin insisted that the bigger issue is his being there for his wife and his newborn child.


    Trammell was later made aware of other special days to follow what had been set as a trial date.


    Those special times include Good Friday and Easter.


    Sometimes I just have to come up with a date, which is one of the problems we have when trying to move things around, Trammell said. I thought we had a great day scheduled in March, but here we are.


    Trammell said she wanted to discuss the matter with the chief judge in Grady County and would get back with attorneys on both sides regarding a new trial date.


    She also requested that Levin let her know when he might be able to return to work and to the courtroom.


    The prosecution team announced that they were ready to proceed to trial, but needed time to get in touch with prospective witnesses as to when they would be needed to testify. Several witnesses are from out of state.


    Rowe, who came out with a buzz haircut and wearing jeans and a long-sleeve plaid shirt, sat beside his lead attorney Franklin J. Hogue, of Hogue, Hogue, Fitzgerald & Griffin Law Firm in Macon, and Wallace during the latest hearing that lasted a little more than a half-hour.


    The prosecution team, meanwhile, consisted of District Attorney Bradley; T. Wright Barksdale III, district attorney-elect; Chief Assistant District Attorney Allison Mauldin; and Senior Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin.


    Who knows what can happen next year, whether there will be another emergency shutdown, Mauldin said. We cant look into a crystal ball and know. We just have to prepare.


    Attorneys on both sides practiced social distancing and wore masks during the hearing because of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, which also has played havoc with court proceedings involving the Rowe case, as well as the Dubose case, which will be presided over by Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Alison T. Burleson.


    Rowe will be back in Putnam County Superior Court for another pretrial hearing on Dec. 11.

    https://www.unionrecorder.com/news/s...5bff72037.html
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  5. #35
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    Judge relents, allows lawyers concerned about COVID to appear remotely

    By Bill Rankin
    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    A Putnam County judge has relented to lawyers concerns about in-person court proceedings during the coronavirus pandemic by allowing a death-penalty hearing set for Monday to be held remotely.

    In an order signed last week, Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda Trammell said she will allow attorneys to appear via Zoom. The lawyers represent Donnie Rowe, charged with killing two guards during an escape from a prison bus in 2017. Prosecutors are seeking the ultimate punishment against Rowe and co-defendant Ricky Dubose, who will be tried separately.

    Mondays hearing will focus on the defenses request to postpone the trial, now set to begin April 5. In court motions, the lawyers Frank Hogue of Macon and state capital defenders Adam Levin and Erin Wallace of Athens said the pandemic will still be in effect and a potential danger at that time.

    Trammell had previously scheduled the continuance hearing for Dec. 11. When she refused the defense's request to hold it remotely, the lawyers declined to appear in court. Trammell then denied their motion to postpone the trial.

    In a new order issued last week, Trammell indicated she will consider the continuance request at the videoconference hearing.
    The judge noted that Putnam County has called in grand jurors and has been holding in-person court proceedings for both criminal and civil matters, all the while following mandated protocols for courtroom safety. These proceedings have occurred without incident, the judge said, although she did not specify how she knew that to be so.

    In a recent motion asking Trammell to consider holding Mondays hearing remotely, the defense team cited health statistics that show the risk of getting COVID-19 in Putnam was extremely high. They noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the best way to protect yourself and reduce the spread is to limit interactions with others as much as possible.

    Even though she relented to the videoconference hearing, Trammell expressed her misgivings about it.

    This court does not believe proceeding other than in person is necessary, desirable or proper in this case, other than on any but the current scheduling, and specifically, continuance issues, she wrote in her order. A hearing tentatively set for March 31 on evidentiary issues is to be an in-person court proceeding, she said.

    On Sunday, Hogue, who is at greater risk because he is 66, said the defense team has no comment on Trammells latest order.

    At the urging of Chief Justice Harold Melton, judges across the state have been holding videoconference hearings instead of requiring lawyers and litigants to show up in court during the pandemic. Jury trials are currently suspended because of safety concerns, although Melton has indicated he may allow them to resume in the coming months.

    If the Rowe trial proceeds as planned, jury selection will begin April 5 in Grady County, because of pretrial publicity. Once jurors are picked there, they will be taken to Eatonton for the trial at the Putnam courthouse.

    https://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-new...AE6PE3CWL45GE/
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  6. #36
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    Death penalty trial of Donnie Rowe postponed until August

    Donnie Rowe, the state inmate accused in the killings of 2 state corrections officers more than 2 years ago in Putnam County.

    The death penalty trial of Donnie Rowe has been postponed yet again.

    The trial was set for early April in Putnam County Superior Court in Eatonton, but it has been moved to August, according to court officials.

    The latest trial setback is among several that have happened since Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda H. Trammell began setting a trial date in the Rowe case

    Rowe and Ricky Dubose are accused of the June 13, 2017, shooting deaths of Georgia Department of Corrections Officers Sgt. Curtis Billue and Sgt. Christopher Monica, both of whom lived in Baldwin County. They were transporting a state bus of prisoners from one prison to another when the 2 escaped from the bus and shot the officers with their state-issued 9mm pistols.

    Dubose’s trial will be held sometime after Rowe’s trial. Superior Court Judge Alison T. Burleson will preside over that trial.

    In the Rowe case, jurors will be selected from Grady County, while in the Rowe case, jurors will be selected from the Brunswick area.

    Both defendants will be tried by Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale III. He will be assisted by Chief Assistant District Attorney Allison Mauldin and Senior Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin.

    Both Billue and Monica were assigned to the Transportation Department of Baldwin State Prison near Milledgeville.

    Rowe and Dubose hijacked a motorist immediately after getting off the state bus, along Ga. Route 16, between Long Shoals Road and Eatonton in Putnam County.

    The escaped convicts, wearing their state-issued prison garb, then drove through the city of Eatonton and into Madison in Morgan County before they burglarized a home and stole some clothing.

    They stayed there until nightfall, then they made their getaway by stealing a pickup truck from a business in Morgan County. They headed westbound on Interstate 20 and later into Tennessee where they were eventually captured by law enforcement authorities following a string of crimes in that state as well.

    The escape sparked one of the largest manhunts in the history of Putnam County.

    (source: The Union-Recorder)

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