Ronnie Adrian Towns (left), who is charged with the 2015 murders of Marietta residents Elrey and June Runion.
Photo: AJC FILE PHOTO / SPECIAL
Photo: AJC FILE PHOTO / SPECIAL

DA vows Craigslist murder case will proceed no matter court’s ruling

A day after the Georgia Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the state’s appeal of a trial judge dismissing the indictment against a man charged with killing a Cobb County couple, the lead prosecutor said he will try the case no matter what the justices decide. 

Tim Vaughn, the district attorney for the Oconee Judicial Circuit, said the justices’ opinion will not impact his quest to move the case against Ronnie Adrian Towns through the justice system.

Vaughn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday that he believed his argument went well, but quickly added that the only opinion that matters in his appeal is the one the nine justices will issue later this year. 

Towns is charged in the murder of Marietta residents Elrey and June Runion, who responded to an ad he listed on Craigslist selling a 1966 Ford Mustang. The couple drove to McRae in Telfair County on Jan. 22, 2015, to look at the car, but arrived to find there was no vehicle. Their bodies were found with gunshot wounds four days later on a dirt road near where Towns’ parents lived. 

Towns, who remains incarcerated and is facing the death penalty, was indicted on two counts of malice murder, four counts of felony murder and two counts of armed robbery. 

READState appeals ruling dismissing Craigslist murder suspect's indictment

However, a trial court judge quashed the indictment in 2017 on the grounds that the court clerk improperly contacted people she knew to serve on a grand jury. 

Vaughn appealed the judge’s decision and he and defense attorney Gabrielle Pittman, both spent 20 minutes spelling out their respective arguments before the justices.

The district attorney said his appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court is the last stop for him, as he’s contesting an issue related to a state law. If the case concerned a constitutional question, Vaughn said he would be allowed to take the case through the federal courts. 

If the court sides with him, Vaughn said the original indictment would be reinstated against Towns. If he loses, he said he will seek another indictment by a future grand jury.

The AJC reached out to Pittman, who works with the Office of the Capital Defender, and she said she can’t speak about the case or her oral arguments.

Georgia Supreme Court spokeswoman Jane Hensen said justices will have to issue an opinion on the case by the beginning of November, but added a ruling could come earlier. 


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