Fisherman reels in new evidence in 2015 Craigslist murder of Georgia couple

TELFAIR COUNTY, Ga. — A man magnet fishing in rural Georgia earlier this month uncovered potentially significant evidence in the 2015 murders of a Cobb County couple lured to their deaths by a Craigslist ad.

The man was fishing in Telfair County on April 14 when his magnet brought up a .22-caliber rifle believed to be connected to the murders of Elrey “Bud” Runion, 69 and June Runion, 66, both of Marietta. According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, the discovery was made in Horse Creek, at a spot located off Old Prison Camp Road in McRae-Helena.

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Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials said in a news release that the man returned to the area two days later and brought up from the creek a bag containing driver’s licenses and credit cards belonging to the slain couple, along with a cellphone believed to be theirs.

The surprising discovery led to search warrants and two separate searches of a home in McRae-Helena, the news release stated.

“Investigators recovered evidence from both search warrants,” authorities said. “The evidence will be submitted to the crime lab for further analysis.”

GBI officials did not offer details of the evidence found at the home, or who lives there.

Bud and June Runion vanished Jan. 22, 2015, after leaving their Marietta home to see about buying a car they had found through Craigslist, authorities said. The couple’s daughters told WSB-TV at the time that the car, a 1966 Ford Mustang, had long been their father’s dream car.

The military veteran, who had a car like it when he returned from Vietnam, had posted an ad seeking a similar model, the family said.

When the Runions were not home by the following day, when they were scheduled to babysit their grandchildren, their family reported them missing.

The couple’s bodies were found, along with their vehicle, in a pond in Telfair County four days after they disappeared, WSB-TV reported.

Both died of gunshot wounds to the head, CBS News reported at the time.

That same day, authorities arrested Ronnie Adrian “Jay” Towns, then 28, in connection with the murders. Towns, who was the last person to speak to the couple before their deaths, is accused of lying about a similar Mustang to lure the couple to a robbery.

The car never existed, authorities allege.

Towns was indicted on murder and armed robbery charges, but that indictment was thrown out in 2017 due to irregularities in how grand jurors were selected to hear the case.

The Georgia Supreme Court upheld that decision two years later. Court documents show that a total of 50 prospective jurors were summoned to appear for service on the grand jury.

Of those 50, about half were excused or had been given deferrals. Others just did not show up on time.

With fewer than the required 16 potential grand jurors present, the judge asked law enforcement to find the jurors who failed to show. He also requested that the court clerk supplement the jury pool with people who had been summoned for trial juries.

Between potential grand jurors who eventually showed up and two potential trial jurors contacted by the court clerk, the judge was able to impanel 23 people to the grand jury, who heard the evidence against Towns and indicted him in the Runions’ deaths.

The indictment was thrown out on appeal because the two jurors contacted by the clerk were not selected at random but were selected because the clerk knew they would be able to respond immediately.

“Those assessments were predicated on the personal knowledge of the clerk and her staff,” the court records state.

A new grand jury re-indicted Towns in 2020 on the same charges he faced in 2015: two counts of malice murder, four counts of felony murder and two counts of armed robbery.

After additional delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Towns’ trial is tentatively scheduled for August, WSB-TV reported.

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