The white cardboard box with Carlton Gary’s name printed on the side offers new insight into the condemned killer.
The box contains detailed records kept by the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office during the more than two years Gary spent in the Muscogee County Jail awaiting trial.
There is a handwritten suicide note presumably from Gary found after he attempted to hang himself with a bed sheet. There is documentation of Gary’s failed escape attempt. And there is also a jail report filed after Gary set fire to items inside his cell.Records also show he was belligerent when deputies had to move him from the jail to the Government Center.
The material was obtained by the Ledger-Enquirer under Georgia’s Open Records Act and reviewed in Sheriff John Darr’s office on Monday.
Barring a stay of execution, Gary is to be put to death at 7 p.m. Wednesday for his convictions in three of the seven “Stocking Stranger” murders during 1977 and 1978. He was arrested in May of 1984 and was in the local jail until after his conviction in late August of 1986.
Retired Sheriff Gene Hodge, who served from 1980 to 1999, was at Gary’s Georgia Pardons and Paroles Board hearing Monday. When asked about his observations of Gary, he told the board about the escape attempt but did not mention the other incidents.
“I didn’t go into any of that stuff,” Hodge said. “There was nothing there that was going to do the Pardons and Paroles Board any good in making their decision.”
Retired Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Richard C. Miles, the jail warden, remembers Gary as an inmate who was treated with care.
“He wanted to have a lunacy charge and we were keeping a record of everything he did,” Miles said recently. “... We treated him with kid gloves. We didn’t want to mess anything up.”
Hodge put it this way: “We tried to treat him as fair as we could.”
Part of that included documenting everything Gary ate and didn’t eat, his purchases from the jail store, and any time he created a scene.
“He would show out sometimes,” Hodge said. “He was not that bad, but he certainly was aggravating at times.”
Gary attempted suicide while in Muscogee County Jail, leaving a note in which he denied ever killing anyone, but asking for forgiveness.
Neither Gary’s suicide note nor a handwritten report by Deputy William H. Ferguson were dated.
A jailer noticed that Gary had put paper over the window in the door of his cell. The employees went inside and found Gary “lying on the floor with a piece of torn sheet around his neck,” according to Ferguson’s report. “Gary appeared to be having difficulty.”
Ferguson then cut the sheet from Gary’s neck and Gary was examined by medical personnel, according to the statement.A one-page, hand-written note was discovered in Gary’s cell.
It was addressed to “Mama, Sis, Niece, Nephews, Daughter Latuanna, Son Tony, Daughter Tiffany, Love of my Life Anita B. Walker.”
“I have not killed anybody and cannot bear to be locked away alone like this,” the note read. “I need somebody to talk to, but this Warden Miles, the Sheriff and District Attorney will not help me. The headaches are getting bad again, but they will not even give me an aspirin.”
In the letter, Gary said he was struggling with demons.
“All of you and many other people know that I am kind and loving, but I am troubled deep,” the note read. “These devils scare me as I try to sleep and I need these roots off of me.”
The note ended with an assertion that he was not a killer.
“Please forgive me, but I did not kill anybody,” according to the note.
Difficult to move
Witness reports from two deputies, Alton Taylor and James L. Smith, detail a difficult experience while transferring Gary from the jail to a 10th floor courtroom in the Government Center on March 14, 1985.
Gary resisted being shackled, hurled racial slurs at the two white deputies, and threatened to kill them and their mothers, according to the typed reports.
As Taylor and Smith unlocked Gary’s jail cell and attempted to put chains around Gary’s waist, he “snatched away from Dep. Smith and began shouting profanities with a loud voice,” Taylor reported.
They had to call for assistance. Three deputies responded and Gary was “secured” and transferred.
As Gary was moved through the hallway on the way to the courtroom, he shouted an expletive at television cameras, Taylor wrote.
“See how these (expletive) treat me,” Gary said according to the report. “I am going to kill Smith and Taylor.”
Gary was calm in the courtroom, but the rants continued and the threats escalated as he was taken back to the jail, according to Smith’s report.
“I am getting acquitted and I’ll get your white cracker (expletive).”
Gary and Smith then had a verbal exchange, according to Smith’s report.
“I am a money man,” Gary said, according to the report. “I love black women and taking money from your cracker women.”Smith said he then replied, “That would be pretty easy to do to defenseless women.”
All the Stocking Strangler victims were white women ranging in age from 59 to 89.
Gary’s response, according to Smith, was, “I wish I had killed your white cracker mother and I am going to get your white (expletive).”
At the time, Gary was facing the Georgia electric chair, which he referenced while insulting the deputies, according to Taylor’s account.
“Gary then stated if he got burned, he would see us in hell,” Taylor wrote.
As the deputies were preparing to take Gary out of the car and return him to the jail, the inmate said he had had a chance to hurt the deputies in the morning, but didn’t. He then threatened to hurt them when they were removing the chains.
Taylor and Smith were emphatic in signing their statements, ending their reports with “I SWEAR THE ABOVE STATEMENT IS THE TRUTH, SO HELP ME GOD!” followed by their signatures.
When Gary had to be transported to the Government Center or the hospital, the warden would seek out “athletic” deputies.“When we had to move him, I picked people I knew could handle him,” Miles said. “I was looking for pretty athletic people and I always picked somebody like that.”
Escape attempt and fire
In late 1985 and early 1986, two incidents were detailed in jail reports.
About 3 p.m. on Dec. 29, 1985, a deputy notified Capt. Michael A. Land and Sgt. William Nance that “there was a powdered substance and some pieces of cinder block found in the floor drain” of Gary’s cell, according to Land’s report.
Land removed two pictures from the wall and found a hole over the sink. “Two halves of a metal tray and pieces of cinder block were concealed in the hole,” the report stated.
Miles was notified. When the warden arrived, the “shakedown” continued and another hole in the shape of an “L” was discovered at the head of the bed. One of the bed’s legs had been detached.
Miles instructed that Gary be moved to a cell in another building.
On April 9, 1986, Gary was taken to the telephone about 2 p.m. to call his attorney, but the inmate was unable to reach him.About an hour later Land was summoned to Gary’s cell because there had been a fire, according to Land’s report.
There was “a pile of burned articles at the entrance to Cell 149,” Land wrote. “The articles burned included a mattress, pillow, pillow case, TV set, and some letters and magazines. Gary’s legal papers were on the bunk on the other side of the cell from the fire.”
A week after Gary was convicted, his mother, Carolyn David, collected his belongings from the Columbus jail.
There was a dictionary, pens and personal grooming items.
But the most prominent items were clothes.
There were three suits, one black with a vest, one light gray and the other silver/gray with a vest.
There were nine shirts, short- and long-sleeved, knit and dress.
There were five ties, three pairs of shoes and four handkerchiefs.
The descriptions were exact.
Miles, now 73, has been retired as the chief jailer for more than 15 years.
He remembers how Gary, a former men’s fashion model, would dress some days when he was leaving for court.
“He was dressed to kill,” Miles said.