Georgia grandfather convicted of murder three decades later

Jurors deliberated for about six hours in Columbia, Mo., before deciding that Johnny Wright was guilty of second-degree murder in the August 1976 death of Rebecca Doisy, a college student.

Wright, most recently of Gwinnett County, raised a family despite being a suspect in the woman's disappearance. Wright was arrested in September 2009 -- 700 miles from Missouri -- when he asked Lawrenceville police to conduct a background check for a prospective employer.

Wright had a state-issued photo ID and paid the fee for the background check, according to Lawrenceville police Capt. Greg Vaughn. Wright had been issued the ID just days before, and it contained his real name and date of birth.

The background check turned up an arrest warrant from Missouri dating back to 1985, and Wright was arrested when he went to pick up the background check.

"It just happened there were officers in the lobby when he walked in," Vaughn told the AJC in September 2009. "He basically paid $15 to get extradited to Missouri."

Investigators believe Wright, a grandfather, lived in Georgia for several years and raised a family, eluding capture and living under the name Errol Edwards.

"We are in stunned disbelief," Doisy's younger sister Kathleen Doisy told the AJC after Wright's arrest. "Where has he been for 33 years?"

While in Georgia, Wright was a registered voter using the name Johnny Wright, voting records show.

Doisy, 23, disappeared after last being seen with Wright. Her body was never found.

Doisy was an aspiring teacher who was working as a part-time waitress while she took a break from college, her sister said. It was while working at Ernie's Steak House that Doisy first met Wright.

After repeated requests, Doisy finally agreed to have a drink with Wright, Kathleen Doisy said. Several of Rebecca Doisy's friends and co-workers testified that they had seen the two together the day she went missing. She was last seen alive that day: Aug. 5, 1976.

"He had been bothering her at work, trying to get her to go out with him," Kathleen Doisy said.

Two days later, when she didn't show up for work at Ernie's restaurant, Kathleen Doisy reported her missing.

"She never missed work," Kathleen Doisy said. "She didn't show up, and that's when we knew something was wrong."

Wright was initially questioned about the woman's disappearance, but later released due to a lack of evidence. Nine years later when a former acquaintance of Wright's came forward with new information, a warrant was issued for Wright's arrest.

But from 1985 until September 2009, Wright eluded police. After so many years had passed, Rebecca Doisy's family members assumed Wright had died.

William Simmons, who spent time in a St. Louis methadone clinic with Wright in the years following Doisy's disappearance, testified that Wright bragged about "offing" a woman in Columbia when several other patients were boasting of their role in a St. Louis killing. His account to Columbia police following a burglary arrest in suburban St. Louis led to charges being filed 26 years ago.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report

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