They called the case “cold” because it was old -- old enough to have been a lifetime for victim Ann Curry, who was 24 when a killer nearly decapitated her with a bush ax.
That was almost 24 years ago, on Aug. 29, 1985, the day Michael Curry’s pregnant wife, 4-year-old daughter Erika and 20-month-old son Ryan were slaughtered in their Rockhurst Drive home.
As first the weeks, then the months, then years and decades passed, people became increasingly suspicious of husband and father Michael Curry, whose parents hired a prominent defense attorney to represent him as he refused to be questioned again by police, who had interviewed him for seven hours the night of the slayings and then released him without charge.
At a press conference this morning, police, prosecutors and parents expressed relief and gratitude that in what would have been another lifetime for Ann Curry, authorities finally have a suspect: Michael Curry.
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The case most recently was assigned to what’s called a “cold case” set of detectives who re-examine old crimes, but Police Chief Ricky Boren, who as a sergeant was involved in the initial investigation, said the case was never shelved.
“We’ve always had this assigned to an investigator,” he said.
More than 20 officers have followed up over the years, he said, and police never stopped collecting evidence, and never stopped tracking Curry as he moved from Columbus to Florida and from there to other parts of the South.
He was arrested about 7 a.m. Wednesday in Dalton, Ga., at the Dalton city school system’s maintenance office. School officials said he has been employed there since October 1999, and was working as an electronics technician. He faces multiple charges of murder and aggravated assault, and infanticide for the attack on Ann Curry that resulted in the death of her unborn son, who was to be named Tyler.
Boren said he never lost faith that the case would be cleared, and over the years he repeatedly assured Ann’s parents, James and Bernice Johnson, that one day, an arrest would be made.
James Johnson did not address reporters at Thursday’s press conference, but his wife did.
“Truthfully it’s a day we thought might never happen,” she said, thanking authorities for their “patience and encouragement” as time dragged on.
She said she believed District Attorney Julia Slater would represent the Johnsons’ slain daughter and grandchildren with “fairness and dignity.”
Slater said she would prosecute the case herself, but has not decided whether to seek the death penalty.
Mayor Jim Wetherington, who was the police chief when the crime occurred in 1985, thanked the Johnsons for their patience. “They have gone through literally hell for all the years,” he said.
He credited Slater for taking the case to a grand jury, which returned a sealed indictment against Curry on Tuesday. “She felt like we had enough evidence to go to trial with this case,” he said.
Curry now is in the Muscogee County jail. The next step in the case is for him to be arraigned before a Superior Court judge, Slater said. She said a judge could release Curry on bond.
Curry today is 51 years old. He was 27 when his family was killed in their home off Macon Road. It was a crime no one who saw the scene could ever forget.
Said Wetherington: “This is one of the most horrible cases in my 36 years of law enforcement that I’ve ever seen.”