More than three months after authorities allege that two inmates killed two prison guards in an escape — leaving residents on edge for three days until they were captured — a Putnam County grand jury has indicted the prisoners on murder, kidnapping and carjacking charges.
At the same time, District Attorney Stephen Bradley filed paperwork Tuesday announcing that he would ask that armed robbers Ricky Dubose and Donnie Russell Rowe be executed should they be convicted of murdering Sgts. Christopher Monica and Curtis Billue just before daybreak on June 13.
“We’re looking forward to getting this case into court,” said Bradley, who is the district attorney in the eight-county Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit.
He declined to discuss specifics of the case he has built against the two.
Bradley had said when Dubose and Rowe first appeared in court in Putnam County, after their capture in Tennessee on the evening of June 15, that he would ask for the death penalty. But Bradley could not make it official until the two were indicted, which could not happen until the next scheduled meeting of the Putnam County grand jury, which occurred this week.
Dubose, 24, and Rowe, 43, are both charged with two counts of felony murder, two counts of malice murder and once count each of escape and carjacking. The felony murder charges are based on allegations they killed the officers while escaping and while armed. The malice murder charge says they planned to kill Monica and Billue. The carjacking charge stems from allegations that they took a vehicle that pulled up behind the idling prison bus on Ga. 16 between Eatonton and Sparta.
For three days, local, state and federal authorities mounted an aggressive manhunt for the two former cellmates. They were captured in Tennessee on the third day they were on the lam.
By that time, the reward had topped more than $130,000.
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Bradley's notice that he was seeking the death penalty lays out six aggravating circumstances to support his decision: Both of the accused men have already been convicted of a major felony, in this case armed robbery; they were inmates when the killings took place, and those killings occurred as they escaped and to ensure they wouldn't be immediately recaptured. In addition, the two victims were correctional officers, and they were killed in the commission of another capital offense.
Because of the many steps required in a death penalty case, it could be years before the two go to trial. In the meanwhile, Dubose and Rowe will continue serving their sentences for previous armed robberies. Dubose is serving 20 years without parole for an offense in Elbert County, and Rowe is serving life without parole for a Bibb County conviction.
The brazen escape from a prison bus that was transporting 33 inmates to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson unmasked a number of security shortfalls that the state Department of Corrections has said it is correcting.
The transfer of inmates began before the sun was up, which violates department policy. The inmates were not properly handcuffed, and the heavy-mesh gate that separates inmates from the officers in the driving compartment was not secure, allowing Dubose and Rowe to free themselves and get to Monica and Billue, according to a department review.
Monica, 42, and Billue, 58, both veteran officers, also had not followed the policy for securing their sidearms, so Dubose and Rowe were able to get the officers' 9 mm Glocks, which authorities allege they used in the two killings, the department found.
For three days, after authorities allege that Dubose and Rowe carjacked a green Honda that stopped just behind the bus, there were sporadic reports of the two breaking into a home and taking food and clothing or ditching one car to steal a truck that was later abandoned.
The two are also accused of holding an elderly Tennessee couple hostage for several hours on June 15 before leaving in their Jeep and leading Tennessee troopers on a high-speed 20-mile chase that ended in a crash and the two surrendering to a homeowner.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com