Inmate convicted in fatal prison guard shootings sentenced to life

Donnie Rowe was convicted last week of murder in the deaths of two prison guards. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Credit: via Twitter

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Donnie Rowe was convicted last week of murder in the deaths of two prison guards. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Credit: via Twitter

An inmate already serving life and convicted in the fatal 2017 shooting deaths of two prison guards will spend the rest of his days behind bars.

Donnie Russell Rowe faced the death penalty following his conviction last week. Jurors were not unanimous in their decision, and Rowe was sentenced to life in prison without parole Wednesday.

The jury included seven women and five men who had been brought to Putnam County from Grady County, about 200 miles south, because of pretrial publicity. They deliberated for three hours Tuesday and five hours Wednesday, according to news outlets.

Rowe’s trial had been previously delayed after a defense attorney feared he had coronavirus. Jury selection resumed last week after a temporary break. The sentencing portion of the trial began Friday.

In June 2017, Rowe and Ricky Dubose were accused of using the guards’ guns to shoot them while escaping from a prison transfer bus southeast of Atlanta. They were arrested in Tennessee a few days later. After Sgt. Christopher Monica and Sgt. Curtis Billue were shot to death, the two suspects escaped, launching a massive manhunt that ended in Tennessee.

In Tennessee, the suspects led 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.

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Sgts. Curtis Billue (left) and Chris Monica

Credit: AJC File

Sgts. Curtis Billue (left) and Chris Monica

Credit: AJC File

Combined ShapeCaption
Sgts. Curtis Billue (left) and Chris Monica

Credit: AJC File

Credit: AJC File

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 at the time of 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.

Rowe had previously been convicted of armed robbery, possession of a firearm during a crime and aggravated assault in Bibb County in October 2001, according to GDOC records. He was serving a life sentence without parole.

Dubose had been convicted of financial identity fraud, credit card fraud, burglary by forced entry, theft by taking and entering a vehicle in Madison County in August 2010. That same month, he was convicted of robbery in Gwinnett County.

He was then sentenced to 20 years after he was convicted of aggravated assault, armed robbery and theft by taking in Elbert County in September 2014, according to the DOC.

He is still awaiting trial in the guards’ deaths and is also facing the death penalty if convicted.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.