Georgia prisoner sentenced to death for killing 2 corrections officers

A Georgia prisoner convicted of murdering two corrections officers during a 2017 escape was sentenced to death Thursday.

Ricky Dubose was convicted Monday of felony and malice murder in the shootings of corrections officers Curtis Billue and Christopher Monica on a transport bus in Putnam County. He and fellow prisoner Donnie Russell Rowe escaped the bus after the killings, prompting a multi-state manhunt that ended with the men’s capture in Tennessee.

Rowe also faced the death penalty but was sentenced to life without parole last year after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous decision during his sentencing.

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Attorneys for Dubose said Thursday they accepted the guilty verdict, but asked the jury to give their client a punishment less than death, Macon-based WMAZ-TV reported.

Credit: George Mathis

Credit: George Mathis

Defense attorneys called more than a dozen witnesses who argued Dubose’s life should be spared.

Attorney Gabrielle Pittman told the jury to choose justice over vengeance, arguing death wasn’t the only appropriate punishment for her client, according to the news station.

But District Attorney T. Wright Barksdale told the jury not to be charmed or fooled by Dubose, whom he called an evil man, news outlets reported. According to WMAZ, the DA showed jurors photos of the corrections officers dead at the scene and told them their job was to sentence Dubose to death.

Given the publicity surrounding the guards’ killings, a jury was brought in from coastal Glynn County for the trial.

On June 13, 2017, Rowe and Dubose used one of the guards’ gun to shoot them while escaping from a prison transfer bus southeast of Atlanta.

The bus was headed from Baldwin State Prison in Milledgeville to the high-security Department of Corrections facility near Jackson. There were 33 prisoners on board at the time, officials said.

Credit: AJC File

Credit: AJC File

Authorities said Dubose shot the corrections officers in the head after he and Rowe slipped out of their handcuffs and went through an unlocked gate near the front of the bus. Billue was driving at the time and Monica was asleep, Dubose later said.

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Dubose, now 29, had been serving a 20-year sentence for a 2015 armed robbery and assault conviction in Elbert County.

In a recorded interview, he told investigators the attack wasn’t planned and that the other escapee didn’t want to kill anyone.

The gate inside the bus separating the officers from the prisoners had been left unlocked, and the guards failed to double lock the men’s handcuffs.

“It’s just something that happened spur of the moment,” Dubose said of the escape.

The two men fled the scene after carjacking the driver of a green Honda that pulled up behind the idling bus.

They were captured days later in Tennessee after leading police on a 10-mile car chase that ended in a wreck and gunshots, though no one was injured. They then fled into the woods and ended up in a homeowner’s nearby yard, authorities said.

Tennessee officials credited two neighbors for holding Dubose and Rowe at gunpoint until they arrived. A homeowner, they said, noticed the men in his driveway and called a neighbor.

When Rowe and Dubose were arrested, they still had the slain officers’ guns with them, investigators said after their arrests. The two had been cellmates at Baldwin State Prison.

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Billue, 58, of Milledgeville, had been with the Department of Corrections since July 2007. Monica, 42, also of Milledgeville, had been with the department since October 2009.