Columbus inmates on Georgia’s death row

Looking Back: Carlton Gary and the Stocking Stranglings

Journalist and author Billy Winn, the former editorial page editor at The Ledger-Enquirer, shares his thoughts on Carlton Gary and the "Stocking Stanglings."
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Journalist and author Billy Winn, the former editorial page editor at The Ledger-Enquirer, shares his thoughts on Carlton Gary and the "Stocking Stanglings."

These are the inmates from Columbus currently awaiting execution at Georgia’s death-row prison in Jackson.

Carlton Gary

Columbus’ most notorious death-row inmate is convicted serial killer Carlton Michael Gary, the so-called “Stocking Strangler” who beat, raped and strangled older women here from September 1977 to April 1978.

His case, recently featured on the crime show “Vanity Fair Confidential,” still is tied up in appeals 30 years after a jury convicted and sentenced him to death in three of the seven horrific murders that terrorized the city.

Gary was arrested May 3, 1984. On Aug. 26, 1986, the jury found him guilty in these cases:

The Oct. 21, 1977, slaying of Florence Scheible, 89, of 1941 Dimon St., who was found raped and strangled with a stocking around her neck and a pillow over her face. She was partially blind and used a walker.

The Oct. 25, 1977, murder of Martha Thurmond, 69, of 2614 Marion St., who was found raped and strangled with a stocking around her neck, her body covered by a pillow, sheets and blanket.

The Dec. 28, 1977, homicide of Kathleen Woodruff, 74, of 1811 Buena Vista Road, who was found raped and strangled with a scarf around her neck, her body partially covered.

These are the other cases:

The Sept. 15, 1977, slaying of Ferne Jackson, 60, of 2505 17th St., Columbus, who was found raped and strangled in her bedroom, a stocking and dressing-gown sash wrapped around her neck. The killer left her body covered.

The Sept. 24, 1977, murder of Jean Dimenstein, 71, of 3027 21st St., who was found raped and strangled in her home, a stocking wrapped three times around her neck and her body covered.

The Feb. 12, 1978, slaying of Mildred Borom, 78, of 1612 Forest Ave., found raped and strangled in a hallway of her home, a Venetian blinds cord around her neck and her face covered.

The April 20, 1978, murder of Janet Cofer, 61, found strangled with a stocking and raped in her 3783 Steam Mill Road home. A pillow covered her face.

Gary was hours away from lethal injection Dec. 16, 2009, when the Georgia Supreme Court stayed the execution and ordered a Superior Court here to consider DNA-testing any stranglings evidence deemed suitable.

Johnnie Worsley

Johnnie Alfred Worsley raped and fatally stabbed his stepdaughter before smashing his wife’s skull with a baseball bat during a drug-fueled rampage in 1995.

He married wife Flora Worsley in 1984, but they separated four years later because of his cocaine addiction. They reconciled in January 1995, when he moved back in with her and her 17-year-old daughter Yameika Bell.

But his addiction persisted. In February 1995, his wife said she’d leave him if he kept using coke, and he said he’d kill her if she tried.

The following March 6, Bell noticed money missing from her purse and blamed Johnnie Worsley, who denied taking it, but gave her some back. About 2 a.m. the next day, he got a butcher knife from the kitchen, went into Bell’s bedroom, raped and stabbed her.

Investigators found her naked under a pile of comforters on the bed. She had 11 slashes to her neck and nine stab wounds to her chest and upper abdomen.

Worsley left to buy crack cocaine, came back and smoked it. At 8 a.m., his wife came home after working a late shift. He crushed her skull with the “full-force swing” of a baseball bat and stabbed her in the neck. Authorities later found her under a comforter on the bedroom floor.

Relatives became worried when Flora Worsley didn’t call her mother that morning like she usually did. Instead Johnnie Worsley called her and asked her forgiveness “for what I have done.” Police summoned to the Worsley residence saw nothing suspicious, but did not go inside.

The next day, a friend entered and found the bodies amid rooms splattered with blood. That same day, Johnnie Worsley drove his Oldsmobile Cutlass to a Phenix City car dealership and took a blue Geo Metro for a test drive. He did not return, and left a note in the Cutlass in part saying, “I now must go to hell and pay for what I am.”

He drove the Geo to a church in Twiggs County, where he met a deacon and asked forgiveness for killing two people. The deacon called the sheriff, who later saw the Geo on Interstate 16 and tried to stop it. For four miles the suspect led a chase at up to 95 mph before he finally gave up.

His trial began Nov. 12, 1998, and ended the following Nov. 14, when the jury found him guilty and recommended the death penalty.

Leon Tollette

A jury sentenced Leon Tollette to death after he pleaded guilty to gunning down Brinks security guard John Hamilton outside Columbus’ downtown SunTrust bank on Dec. 21, 1995.

He approached Hamilton from behind and shot him four times, once in the head, and fled with the money bag Hamilton had.

Tollette later claimed he fired out of fear when Hamilton turned around and saw him coming. A flurry of gunfire ensued as other guards and police immediately tried to prevent his escape.

The truck’s driver, Carl Crane, shot at Tollette, as did Cornell Christianson, who was driving a nearby Lummus Fargo truck. Toilette’s accomplice Xavier Womack, who had been watching from across the street, started shooting at the guards to aid Tollette’s escape.

Finally Robert Oliver, a police officer accompanied by a cadet, confronted Tollette, who tried to shoot at Oliver, too, but had emptied his revolver. He dropped the gun and surrendered. Womack and a getaway driver fled without him.

A former gang member and drug dealer, Tollette had come here from California at Womack’s invitation. Womack planned the robbery after studying the Brinks schedule for collecting bank receipts.

Tollette pleaded guilty Nov. 3, 1997 to murder, armed robbery, being a convicted felon with a firearm, using a firearm to commit a crime and two counts of aggravated assault. He had only a sentencing trial to decide whether he should get life with parole, life without parole or death. On Nov. 11, 1997, jurors sentenced him to death.

Ward Brockman

Ward Anthony Brockman shot Forrest Road gas station manager Billy Lynn in a botched robbery attempt on June 26, 1990.

Brockman and three accomplices met at an apartment in Phenix City where Brockman’s girlfriend lived. There they planned to rob several businesses while using as their getaway car a Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z that Brockman days earlier stole from a Columbus car dealer.

Brockman had a .38-caliber revolver. The next day he and his cohorts got a .22-caliber pistol and a sawed-off shotgun and went to a Kentucky Fried Chicken to rob the manager as she left to make a bank deposit.

But their timing was off, and they missed her. So they drove to the Premium Oil station Lynn managed, and Brockman some distance away dropped off two of his accomplices who feared Lynn might recognize them.

Brockman and his other cohort, Quenton Lewis, pulled up at the gas station about 5:30 p.m., when no customers were there. Armed with the shotgun, Lewis stayed in the car.

Brockman got out when Lynn asked if he could help them. Brockman told authorities he cocked the revolver, pointed it at Lynn and said, “Give me all the money.” Lynn held his arms out and said, “You got it,” but made no move to comply. Brockman demanded money again. Lynn, smiling, again said, “You got it.”

Brockman said, “No, you got it,” and shot Lynn in the gut, killing him.

Brockman later claimed the shooting was accidental. He said Lewis hit him on the shoulder and yelled, “Go!” when Brockman decided to abandon the robbery, and the revolver discharged.

But Lewis said Brockman never cocked the handgun, and had to have deliberately shot Lynn by fully depressing the trigger. Lewis said Brockman later told him he shot Lynn to keep Lynn from “laughing about it with his buddies, telling his buddies that we tried to rob him and didn’t really get no money.”

They really didn’t get any money: Though Lynn had $70 on him, they fled so fast they never checked the victim’s pockets.

They picked up their two accomplices and fled, with Brockman leaving the driving to Lewis. Police broadcast witnesses’ description of the stolen car, and officers spotted it in Phenix City, initiating a chase that reached speeds of more than 100 mph.

The suspects got away, abandoned the car and returned to the apartment — to which police finally tracked Brockman. He climbed into the attic and tried to hide under insulation until officers threw in tear gas to flush him out. Investigators found the stolen car and, inside it, a criminal to-do list that included stealing a car and robbing the station Lynn managed.

Authorities discovered Brockman had been involved in three armed robberies that month, two of them within 48 hours of Lynn’s death.

Brockman’s trial began on Feb. 28, 1994. He was found guilty on March 11, 1994, and sentenced to death the following day.