If Tharpe is put to death, he will be the second man the state has executed this year. In 2016, Georgia carried out a record nine executions.
Less than a month after Tharpe’s wife had left him and their violent marriage in late summer 1990, he told her in a phone call that if she wanted to “play dirty,” he would show her what dirty was.
On the morning of Sept. 25, 1990, Tharpe intercepted his estranged wife and Jaquelin Freeman — who was married to Tharpe’s wife’s brother — as they drove to work.
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He pulled in front of their car, blocking them, and pulled out the 29-year-old Freeman. Tharpe threw Freeman into a ditch and fired three times from a shotgun, reloading after each trigger pull.
Tharpe kidnapped his wife and later allegedly sexually assaulted her in the car on the side of the road in a nearby county. Tharpe was never tried for rape.
Tharpe was caught because he had driven his ex-wife to Macon to withdraw funds from her credit union. She called police instead.
Tharpe went on trial three months after the murder.
During the sentencing phase that came after the jury convicted him, 13 witnesses — including his mother, sister, two of his daughters, and even the ex-wife he assaulted — described Tharpe as a good son, brother, father and husband who was emotionally distressed because his marriage was ending.
Though state and federal courts have upheld his conviction and death sentence, his lawyers still have an appeal pending that claims at least one juror had racist motives for voting for the death penalty. That juror, Barney Gattie, signed a statement for Tharpe's lawyers, confirming that he believed there were "good black folks" and people like Tharpe, whom he used a slur to describe.
But the state’s lawyers said Gattie, who has since died, told them that he was drunk when he made that statement and didn’t understand what he was signing.
That matter is pending before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.