Man using magnet in Middle Georgia creek finds new evidence in Craigslist killings, GBI says

Items linked to Marietta couple’s 2015 slayings located in Middle Georgia; suspect’s trial slated for later this year.
Authorities said they have discovered new evidence in the 2015 killings of Marietta couple Bud and June Runion (right). Ronnie “Jay” Towns (left) is charged in their deaths.



Authorities said they have discovered new evidence in the 2015 killings of Marietta couple Bud and June Runion (right). Ronnie “Jay” Towns (left) is charged in their deaths.

A man with a magnet who was fishing in a Middle Georgia creek discovered items linked to the 2015 killings of a metro Atlanta couple who drove 200 miles in the hopes of buying their classic dream car, authorities said.

The GBI said Monday that the man found a .22-caliber rifle on April 14 while magnet fishing in Horse Creek on Old Prison Camp Road in McRae-Helena. Two days later, he pulled up a bag containing drivers’ licenses and credit cards belonging to Bud and June Runion, along with what authorities believe was the couple’s cellphone.

Investigators said they executed multiple search warrants last week at a home in the 400 block of Webb Cemetery Road and that the items collected will be analyzed at the agency’s crime lab. Officials would not say exactly what was taken from the home or who lived there.

Magnet fishers use a large magnet to scour bodies of water for metal debris, often as a hobby.

In January 2015, investigators charged Ronnie “Jay” Towns in the Runions’ deaths and armed robbery. After more than nine years, his trial is tentatively scheduled to start in August or September. Tim Vaughn, the district attorney for the six-county Oconee Judicial Circuit, said Tuesday that he is still seeking the death penalty.

Towns was initially indicted in March 2015, but that indictment was quashed when a judge determined the grand jury was “improperly constituted,” Vaughn said. On the day the grand jury was convened, only 15 people showed up. So the clerk called in additional grand jurors from the county’s trial jury list.

Towns’ case was reindicted in January 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought judicial proceedings to a standstill, Vaughn said. Pre-trial motions in the case resumed last year, he said, acknowledging that “it’s been a long process.”

The Runions had lived for more than three decades in their Marietta home, where they raised their children and had recently become grandparents, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.

Bud and June Runion were killed in 2015.

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June, 66, was a longtime second grade teacher in Cobb County and was working as a preschool instructor at Johnson Ferry Baptist. Bud, retired from AT&T, used to collect old bicycle parts, restore them and build new bikes that he would deliver to underprivileged children at Christmas. He was 69.

Family members said the couple had driven to Telfair County to see, and hopefully buy, their dream car — a 1966 Ford Mustang.

But there was no car, authorities said. Instead, investigators believe that Towns tricked them into thinking he would sell them the Mustang after seeing the couple’s past Craigslist posts looking for that exact vehicle.

The Runions were reported missing and their bodies were found four days later hidden along a dirt road in Telfair County, near where Towns’ parents live. The two had been shot in the head, according to police. Cellphone records indicated that Towns was the last person to talk to the Runions before their deaths, authorities said at the time.

The AJC has reached out to Towns’ defense attorney for comment.