A parole board hearing for condemned Stocking Strangler Carlton Gary began today with the board one member short, and the possibility of Gary being granted a stay of execution if that member can't quickly review a recording of the proceeding and vote today.
Board member Garland Hunt was in the hospital today, but expected soon to see a doctor and to be able to catch up on the hearing in time to cast his vote by telephone, said Scheree Moore, the board's public affairs director.
The has four members plus the chair, Gale Buckner. The other members are Robert Keller, Milton "Buddy" Nix Jr., James Donald and Hunt.
The meeting began about 9:20 a.m. with 21 others in attendance, most of those representing Gary's defense. His lead attorney, Jack Martin of Atlanta, brought his own team of expert witnesses to challenge crime-scene evidence he says does not match Gary. Martin is pushing the board to stay Gary's execution to DNA-test evidence he says could prove whether Gary is guilty of the brutal rapes and stranglings of older Columbus women in the late 1970s.
Also attending today's hearing were Gary's wife, Debra Gary, and daughter Tiffany.
Gary’s execution is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.
The witnesses Martin has brought to testify include Dr. Thomas David, a dentist expected to say a bite-mark mold made from a wound on victim Janet Cofer's left breast does not match Gary's lower teeth; Jim Covington, a former GBI agent, who has told Martin a shoeprint found on an air-conditioner outside Ruth Schwob's home is too small to match Gary's shoe size; and Roger Morrison, an authority on blood work, who's expected to say semen tests used to link Gary to the crimes was flawed.
Schwob was attacked in her home by an intruder believed to be the Stocking Strangler, but survived by punching an alarm button that prompted neighbors to call police.
Arrested in 1984, Gary was convicted in three of the seven stranglings that terrorized Columbus in 1977 and ’78. The victims were: Florence Scheible, 89, on Oct. 21, 1977; Martha Thurmond, 69, on Oct. 25, 1977; and Kathleen Woodruff, 74, on Dec. 28, 1977.
He was implicated in other slayings to show a pattern of behavior, as the same killer is believed to have committed all seven stranglings, and to have attacked Schwob and another woman who survived. Investigators also have linked Gary to similar crimes in New York.
Martin argues that the Columbus Police Department holds evidence that may be suitable for DNA testing from the three cases in which Gary was convicted, and from the April 20, 1978, rape and strangulation of Cofer, 61.
Martin in the parole board application wrote that only with DNA testing can the board “make an accurate assessment as to whether Mr. Gary is in fact guilty of the crimes for which he was sentenced to death, or at least whether there is sufficient doubt to make a case for clemency.”
The parole board has the authority to change Gary’s sentence from death to life in prison.