Prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a Telfair County man accused of killing an Atlanta-area husband and wife he allegedly lured to south Georgia after the husband posted a Craigslist ad seeking a vintage Ford Mustang.
Ronnie Adrian “Jay” Towns, 28, was jailed Jan. 26, charged with robbing and killing Marietta retirees June Runion, 66, and her husband, Elrey “Bud” Runion, 69, who had ridden down from Cobb County a few days earlier.
On Monday, prosecutors filed their notice to seek the death penalty, citing four aggravating circumstances, factors the state must prove for Towns to be executed.
Aside from the broad, commonly used terminology in capital punishment cases that the alleged killer’s act “was outrageously or wantonly vile,” they also contend that Towns killed the pair while stealing from them.
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The bodies of the slain couple were found the same day Towns was arrested. The two were shot in the head and hidden along a dirt road near the Telfair farm where Towns’ parents live. The property lies east of U.S. 441 between Abbeville and Hazlehurst, roughly 75 miles southeast of Macon.
On Jan. 22, the Runions had apparently gone to meet someone about buying a 1966 Ford Mustang near the Ocmulgee River hamlet of Jacksonville, where Towns was raised.
The day he was arrested, the Runions’ 2003 GMC Envoy was found sunk in a pond not far from where their bodies turned up.
News that prosecutors were seeking death for his client didn’t come as a surprise to Towns’ attorney, Franklin J. Hogue of Macon.
“I’ve known from the beginning of this case ... that the death penalty was in play as a possibility,” Hogue said.
The couple’s slaying drew international attention early on, largely because of its apparent link to the prominent online classified advertising site Craigslist.
Bud Runion had posted a Craigslist ad saying he was interested in buying a 1966 Ford Mustang. Authorities believe Towns fooled him into thinking such a car was for sale.
Prosecutors have said that in January, days before the killings, Towns was fired from his job at a tree-removal company and was desperate for cash.
At an April hearing where Towns was denied bond, a prosecutor said Towns not only shot and killed the Runions, but he had also tried to trick other potential victims into thinking he was selling things they’d posted want ads for on Craigslist.
Prosecutor Joshua Powell said at that hearing that Towns bought a “burner” cellphone and was in touch with people -- the Runions among them -- who were looking to buy merchandise, including antique cars.
“Jay Towns had a personal cellphone,” Powell said, “but instead decided to buy this second telephone to contact the Runions.”
Powell said Towns was “in contact with multiple other individuals concerning (them) coming to Telfair County -- the same address that was given to the Runions -- to look at other vehicles.”
Towns’ arraignment, originally set for June 25, won’t happen until after a so-called first proceeding, the initial step in a death penalty prosecution, which won’t likely come for a month or so.
To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.