Johnnie A. Worsley, convicted of capital murder in 1998 and on death row more than 13 years, was booked into the Muscogee County Jail on Thursday, records state.
Worsley, 50, was convicted of killing his wife, Flora J. Worsley, 36, and her 17-year-old daughter, Yameika Bell. However, his case has not yet reached the Georgia Supreme Court for an automatic appeal. It’s one of three aging death penalty cases in Columbus that remain at the initial appellate stage more than a decade after conviction.
Superior Court Chief Judge John Allen held in December the first of two hearings on Worsley’s motion for new trial. Allen was not persuaded by jury selection issues raised by appellate defense attorney Bill Mason, saying there was an “absence of thoroughness” on the part of Worsley’s trial attorneys but nothing that rose to the level of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Mason is expected to argue at Worsley’s second hearing that his client’s trial attorneys were ineffective because they failed to present sufficient mitigating evidence for jurors to weigh during their deliberations.
The slayings happened just months after Worsley reconciled with his wife and was taken back into their home. The couple’s relationship had been rocked over the years by Worsley’s cocaine abuse, but Flora Worsley “had taken him in because she was assured he was clean and was dedicated to remaining clean,” Assistant District Attorney David Helmick said.
Shortly after midnight on March 7, 1995, Johnnie Worsley took a butcher knife into the bedroom of the stepdaughter he’d known since she was 6 years old. “I began stabbing her,” Worsley told police in an interview. “Sometime in the night I must have woke up and went berserk.”
Worsley then drove to East Highlands and bought some crack before returning to the 32nd Avenue home. He lay in wait behind a bedroom door and attacked his wife with a baseball bat and stabbed her in the neck when she arrived home from work about 7:30 a.m.
Worsley covered the bodies with quilts and blankets and fled Columbus in a car he stole in Phenix City. He stopped at a roadside church in Twiggs County and confessed to a Baptist minister, who telephoned authorities.
Worsley was taken into custody after a high-speed chase on Interstate 16.