Tag Archive for Georgia

Pushing Her Luck

Dorothy Glaser

Experienced gamblers do not depend on luck. If they believe in it at all, they do not ever count on its help.
 
A frequent gambler favoring bingo and dog tracks, Dorothy Glaser had ample opportunity to learn this but her greed made her careless. With one successful murder under her belt, Dorothy had the bright idea that lightning could strike twice; it did, but not in the way she expected.
 
The twice-widowed homemaker from Warner Robins, Georgia, did benefit from the murder of her third husband, Jerry Glaser, although it was only temporary: She did not get away with the crime and so will die behind prison walls.
 
There are not many new lessons for us to learn from this tragedy. Yet Dorothy’s lethal bravado, the coldness in which she pursued a plot that came straight from Hitchcock’s pile of rejected scripts, and the twists of fate (or was it luck?) that helped bring her to justice certainly make its study worthy of our time.

Jerry and Dorothy

Dorothy’s motivation to kill Jerry remains a mystery. There was conflicting testimony whether Dorothy and Jerry fought over money, and her actions following the crimes prove she is a cold-blooded murderer who may have been on the cusp of achieving serial killer status. Dorothy’s own words about her complete and utter lack of regard for Jerry — and for that matter her own children — reveal her true character.
 
Dorothy’s first marriage ended tragically. Although the facts remain hazy and the investigation has long since been closed, re-opened and closed again after Dorothy was convicted of Jerry’s murder, that first death was still considered suspicious although ruled an accident.
 
Death ended Dorothy’s second marriage when her husband died of cancer before he was 30. He left Dorothy with two sons, both under the age of 3.
 
Dorothy didn’t seem particularly upset with losing two husbands back-to-back. During a police interview, Dorothy’s son remarked that the only photograph he had of his father was the man’s driver’s license.
 
Sometime later, she met Jerry and they were wed. Jerry was very close to Dorothy’s boys, whom he adopted and who was the only father they had ever known. He and Dorothy had a daughter together who was a young teen at the time of his murder.
 
After his death, police could not find a single person who had anything bad to say about 41-year-old Jerry, and it is clear why. He was was described as a strong, confident, loving husband and father, (a “man’s man,” his son told police) who was a civilian contractor at a nearby military base. He was an active athletic booster and a community baseball league coach.
 
Nobody had much to say about Dorothy — bad or good — except that she liked to spend money and did not care about running up credit card bills, something that exasperated Jerry. She could be found twice a week at a local Moose Lodge playing Bingo, and with her husband went to the nearby dog track when she wanted some faster action.
 
Aside from monetary policy disagreements, which Jerry told his counselor resulted in “mild-to-moderate marital problems,” and a neighborhood peeping tom who had spied on his daughter recently, Jerry had no reason to think anything was wrong in his life.

The Failed Attempt

Dorothy’s plot called for Jerry’s murder to happen on Oct. 4, 1985, a typical Friday when the Glaser family planned to attend the Northside High School football game. Sometime after the family left, the hitman entered the Glaser home and waited in Jerry’s own bedroom to complete the contract.
 
During halftime at the football game, Dorothy complained of nausea and other flu symptoms before pretending to vomit. Naturally concerned for her welfare, Jerry offered to take her home. Their son and his younger sister (the oldest son was married and away at college) each had other means of getting home and stayed behind.
 
Shortly after 9:30 p.m., while most potential witnesses were miles away at the football game, Dorothy followed her husband through the carport into the home where she expected him to die.
 
According to the statements Dorothy gave that night and again repeatedly to investigators over the next few months, she decided to rest on the couch. She asked Jerry to go into their bedroom to fetch a pillow.
 
Inspector Hank Lowry of the Houston County Sheriff’s Department testified to what happened next. According to Lowry, both Jerry and Dorothy told similar stories.

Question: Tell me what you spoke to [Jerry] about and what the nature of the conversation was…
Insp. Hank Lowry, HCSD: …When they arrived at the residence, they entered through the garage door into the residence. She went into the den and was going to lay down on the sofa…She stated she asked him to go back and get her a pillow.
Q: Did he state that that was so, that she did ask him to go get her a pillow?
HL: That’s correct. And at that point he started telling me that he was walking down the hallway to the master bedroom, which is the last bedroom on the left down at the end of the hallway…
He started entering the bedroom door, turned to the right to turn on a light switch, and at that point he heard an explosion, saw a bright flash from the right side of his face.

The explosion knocked Jerry to the ground. As the gunman continued to fire, Jerry tried to get to his own guns by crawling toward the closet where the .38 Smith and Wesson revolver, a .22 rifle and an expensive shotgun were stored. As Jerry unsuccessfully tried to find the pistol, the shooter approached him and pointed the gun — Jerry’s gun, it turns out — at him and pulled the trigger. The gun, never found, misfired.
 
The intruder left clues that he was very familiar with the Glaser property. Not only did he know how to get into the house without breaking in, more importantly he also knew where Jerry kept his firearms. Because nothing in the house was disturbed, investigators wondered if the killer had been tipped to their location, strongly indicating an inside job.
 
The list of possible suspects was quite large, according to the initial police report: “An inspection of the exterior of the residence and the area was made and it was noted that there was no signs (sic) of forced entry into the house through the window or back door…Mr. Glaser stated that they kept a key in the dresser drawer out in the carport area and all of the kids’ friends knew the key was kept there.”
 
The first responding officers found what appeared to be a bloodbath.

Upon entering the house it was noted that there was blood on the door leading from the carport into the house. It was also noted that there was blood on the telephone in the kitchen and drops on the kitchen floor leading into the back bedroom…
An inspection of the bedroom revealed blood on the inside door facing, blood on the shelf of the closet, and two bullet holes on the west wall near the window. There was also a bullet hole at the foot of the bed in the center.

Based on the amount of blood found at the scene, it was a fair assumption that Jerry had been seriously hurt in the attack. That was not the case.
 
Despite firing four shots, the gunman only hit his target once and that was by the narrowest of margins. The bullet grazed Jerry’s temple, cutting the skin but otherwise doing no physical damage to his skull or brain. That the wound was to his head explained the amount of blood. He was treated and released from the ER before investigators had cleared the crime scene.
 
The only description either Dorothy or Jerry could provide was that the shooter was a white/Hispanic male dressed in blue jeans.
 
Foiled in his attempt, the luckless gunman fled and left Dorothy to figure out a contingency plan on her own. Like an expert gambler, Dorothy — who had apparently recovered from her bout of the flu — kept her head despite holding what looked to be a losing hand. But walking away from the table was not an option. The alternative, according to Dorothy, meant doing nothing until Jerry “put 2 and 2 together,” followed by a long prison term.
 
Where frontal attack had failed, perhaps bluff would succeed, she reasoned. Adopting as her guide the ancient proverb that whom the gods destroy, they first make mad, Dorothy hatched a cruel plot to push her husband over the edge mentally. The plan would culminate in an “accidental shooting” caused by Jerry’s paranoid behavior.
 
Dorothy and the investigators went to work, everyone anxious to the solve the problem of this failed murder.

Investigation

There were no fingerprints or forensic evidence at the scene that could not be accounted for by the family, and the few neighbors who were home that night were unhelpful.
 
The first person of interest was the man suspected of being the neighborhood peeping tom. Warner Robins Police Detective Andy Chratian and Lt. Mac Derrick met with Lowry from the Sheriff’s Department who was handling the peeper case. However, the man was quickly eliminated as a suspect in the shooting — but not the peeping — due to a solid alibi of sitting around with friends and being too high to do anything except ponder the lint in his navel.
 
Almost from the get-go, Dorothy began reporting harassing telephone calls from someone who she alleged was watching the house.
 
The investigators put a strap on the two lines in the Glaser house which would trigger a recorder when a call was connected, but were unsuccessful in catching the caller although the harassment continued.
 
From the beginning police looked for any role Dorothy may have played in the crime. Because no one could be eliminated as a suspect, Dorothy was at the top of the persons-of-interest list. However, she did nothing to incriminate herself. While police continued to follow every lead they encountered, no matter how odd, the aggravated assault and burglary cases quickly went cold.
 
Until a new lead on the gunman was developed, there was little they could do except wait to for the killer’s next play. No one realized that it was already happening right before their eyes.

Madness

Dorothy was working twice as hard, driving Jerry insane and making the police waste their time chasing bogus leads.
 
Jerry was prescribed tranquilizers but he did not like to take them. His reluctance proved no problem for Dorothy, who laced his food with Benadryl. Living in a semi-permanent dissociative state multiplied the effect of normal post-traumatic stress to the point where Jerry could not sleep, was incoherent and amnesiac. He would not move — literally — without taking his new handgun with him.
 
At the suggestion of the case investigators, Jerry agreed to see a psychiatrist. The doctor’s visit with Jerry shows how Jerry was doing less than one week after the shooting.

The patient was visibly upset throughout the session, was quite concerned that he suffers from periods of amnesia, and has adopted phobic behavior when outside the home environment. Apparently he is quite uncomfortable when he and his wife go to the shopping mall because he anticipates that someone is watching him and is out to harm both him and his wife…
The patient also reports that on one occasion his wife said he went into an amnesiac state and had pointed a gun at her, although he was not consciously aware of any of these actions and the situation was conveyed to him by his wife.

The doctor agreed with police and recommended all of the firearms be removed from the Glaser house. The guns remained in the home. There was no legal basis at that point for the authorities to get an order, and Jerry was unable to decide what to do. At times he would admit the guns were a danger and that they should be removed, but as his son testified, he went nowhere unarmed.
 
The psychiatrist’s report, delivered to the Warner Robins Police, also describes Dorothy’s demeanor in a very unflattering way.

The patient was seen individually which did apparently cause some distress to his wife and she would frequently ask the secretary “What is is he asking him and why does he have to see him all by himself?” The wife appeared to be quite resistant to psychological intervention and was visibly upset with her husband for wanting mental health assistance.

Jerry never saw the counselor again. On Oct. 22, Dorothy called and cancelled his appointment, saying “all the talking in the world is not going to help this problem. We are going to put him in the hospital.”
 
Suffice to say that Jerry’s natural fear, compounded by the surreptitious drugging and its side effects, turned into full-blown paranoia within a few weeks of the murder attempt. While many people could attest to the profound change in Jerry’s personality, John Dillon saw first-hand how far gone his father was.

He didn’t trust himself and he didn’t trust me and he didn’t trust my mom, he didn’t trust nobody. He went out and got that other gun…and he told me not to come in that house until I knocked and said who it is because he was afraid he’d shoot me. He said he was afraid he’d (PAUSE) Just he said he didn’t trust himself and he was afraid…

His brother told police of watching Jerry mow the lawn with the revolver tucked in the back of his pants and how he would watch television with the pistol in his lap covered by a sweater or blanket.
 
Dorothy described the scene at home after the murder attempt to officers investigating the fatal shooting:

He depended on me for everything, even in the mornings. On the mornings he would go to work I would walk out into the garage because he was scared. He would look around. Took his gun with him and look around and always breathe or look a sigh of relief when he got in his car and drove off.


He would have (PAUSE) sometimes he would be sitting there as normal as I’m sitting here talking to you and all of a sudden he’d like doze asleep a few minutes and then he’d wake up and he’d act normal, but he had no recollection of it (PAUSE) He would talk to friends that would come over and he didn’t remember. He would lose 16 hours one time, 24 hours another time and then this morning he didn’t know me.

Whether by luck or just because of her meticulous malevolence, Dorothy’s plan was right on the money. It looked like this dog could be a winner.

The Murder

Sometime shortly before 11 a.m. on Halloween 1985, Lowry received a frantic call from Dorothy Glaser. Working the voyeur case and over the past several weeks, he had taken a special interest in Jerry and Dorothy’s plight. Lowry was not part of the official shooting investigation team, but he was the one Dorothy called when the showdown came.
 
“Hank, this is Dorothy. Please help me,” Lowry reported Dorothy as saying. “I’ve shot him.”
 
“Shot who?” Lowry asked, possibly expecting her to say she shot an intruder — either the gunman or the peeper (who by this time had added a panty fetish).
 
Instead he was shocked to hear that the casualty was Jerry. He left the Sheriff’s office and headed to Warner Robins, on the way alerting the local police and EMS.

Hank Lowry, HCSD. Supplemental Report
We arrived at the residence at 11:14 a.m. I approached the door in the garage leading into the residence and knocked on it. Mrs. Glaser opened the door and was holding a blue steel pistol in her left hand by the handle. I asked her 3 times to drop the weapon. She finally put it on an end table just behind her. I…went to the master bedroom. I found Jerry Glaser laying on the bed, his right arm was hanging off the bed on the left side as you are looking at the bed from foot to head. Also, his head was hanging off the same side. I checked for a pulse at the wrist and throat but could not find one. I noticed a blood stain on his t-shirt near the middle of his chest. I also noticed a tan holster laying on the floor near his right hand.

Being a few minutes ahead of the Warner Robins detectives, Lowry was the first to hear the story Dorothy would stick with until the bitter end.
 
Dorothy told Lowry that she awoke early in the morning and Jerry told her he was not going in to work that day as he felt awful. She let him sleep and tended to her morning chores.
 
This much was confirmed by the children. She dropped the children at school and returned home, resuming her work. She was interrupted by a call from her son who had forgotten a project for French class, so she ran to the store and then delivered a plate of croissants for him. She headed home, passing Lowry who was at the time on the road. He noted it was 10:45 a.m.
 
By this time Dorothy was wondering about Jerry’s plans and went into the room where he was sleeping. She got into bed with him and spooned. Dorothy told the inspector that Jerry rolled over and looked at her with a blank stare. She saw he had his pistol and was pointing it at her.
 
“Who are you and what do you want?” Dorothy said her husband asked.
 
She instinctively struggled for the gun and it went off, shooting him in the upper abdomen.
 
Dorothy, perhaps with a touch for the melodramatic, made sure that Lowry knew Jerry’s last words were “Oh, Dorothy. I’m sorry.”
 
This time the shooter did not miss. The single gunshot wound right below the sternum could not have been better placed if it had been aimed.

Questions, Answers and More Questions

Dorothy Glaser was taken to the Warner Robins police headquarters for her initial interview. While she was booked on Suspicion of Voluntary Manslaughter, she was not under arrest. The men who interviewed her, Detective Andy Chratian and Lt. Mac Derrick, took no chances and they Mirandized Dorothy anyway.
 
On the surface, the story is not that bad, particularly when compared to her original “burglar killed my husband but not me” plan. That plot would not have held water past dinner time. But police were not interested in what was on the surface, and that is where Dorothy almost messed up.
 
Dorothy’s performance in this crucial interview was pitiful. This was one conversation she had to know was coming and yet she was woefully unprepared. As she had no intention of telling what truly happened, we should expect someone as cunning as Dorothy to have a cover story that has an answer for every question a detective might ask.
 
Answering “I don’t know” to a basic question such as “In which hand did you grab the gun?” is a warning bell for investigators and Dorothy was setting off a lot of them.
 

Det. Andy Chratian, WRPD: Okay and after you screamed, what did you do?
Dorothy Glaser: I reached for the gun.
AC: Did you grab the gun?
DG: Yes.
AC: How did you grab it?
DG: I don’t know.
AC: With one hand, with both hands?
DG: I don’t know. I was just wrestling with it to get away from him and he was like in a weird, I don’t know what it was he just was (PAUSE) when I reached for it it just went off. I guess I pulled the trigger. I don’t know.

Continuing to probe this most important aspect of the shooting, Chratian and Derrick get stonewalled again:

Det. Andy Chratian, WRPD: Did you get the gun away from him?
Dorothy Glaser: Um hum. He had it in his hands and he had the hammer pulled back. It was pulled back and when I grabbed it all of a sudden it was just BOOM!


Lt. Mac Derrick, WRPD: All right. When you got it away from him…why would it be pointed back at him?
DG: No. It was just like I was wrestling with it. (PAUSE) And I don’t know how it happened.


MD: Okay, Dorothy, I’m gonna ask you one more thing and then I’ll let Andy here finish it up. Approximately how far away were you when the gun went off?
DG: Okay, I’m going to try to be precise. (PAUSE) I’ve got a king size bed. (PAUSE) Jerry was laying here. (PAUSE) I came in and laid down on my pillow at first and then I reached over to hug him. I don’t know exactly how close but I had my arms around him when I realized he had a gun…
MD: You don’t know if you were right up on him or…
DG: No, I wasn’t. I was back a little bit because when I saw it I got back and I screamed “Jerry!” like that, you know. And I saw the gun come down like that and I reached. I just don’t know. I just (PAUSE) It was so fast (PAUSE) I don’t know.

The problem with the telephone recordings also came up and Dorothy’s only means of addressing it was to throw her teen daughter under the bus.
 
The tap was put into place the day after Dorothy reported receiving a menacing phone call. Whenever a call was received by the Glasers, a tape would begin recording and the telephone company would trace the number. However, the single tap was moved randomly back and forth between the children’s phone and the main line. As if by magic, almost every call went to the untapped line. The calls that were caught were traced to local payphones.

Lt. Mac Derrick, WRPD: Okay, Miss Dorothy, I want to go back and ask you some questions that’s puzzling me. Maybe you can give me an answer: On these phone taps that Det. Lowry has placed on one phone and on the other, how do you suppose that this person that is making these calls knows when these different phones are changed?
Dorothy Glaser: I don’t know.
MD: Doesn’t it make you think that it’s somebody that’s in your house — that’s been in your house that knows what’s going on.
DG: Let me explain that most of the time when these calls would come through that as far as the tapes are concerned, he didn’t talk. He just made deep breathing sounds. There was a couple of times that he did talk, a few times, he did talk, but unfortunately it was at the times when we had turned that tape off or either we put it on the other phone.
MD: Okay, that’s what I’m saying.

Only the family was supposed to know of the phone taps, but Dorothy speculated that word had gotten out. She particularly blamed her teenage daughter, who was reportedly upset that her phone calls may be recorded.
 
Unlike her statement to police, Dorothy confessed later she told Jerry the caller was watching the house because he knew when they were coming and going. Jerry shared this with the psychiatrist.
 
As a red herring, Dorothy suggested perhaps the gunman was a parent who disagreed with how their child was being coached. Sometimes, Dorothy said, these parents would “cuss him out until they were blue in the face.”
 
It was not until about 30 minutes into the interview that Dorothy realized she was missing one important piece of information that might have made all of this drama meaningless. As far as she knew, Jerry was alive when he was taken to the hospital. Before Dorothy could get there, Jerry was pronounced dead and she was driven to police headquarters.
 
“Oh, God! Did he ever regain consciousness?” she asked. “I wanted to see him so bad.”
 
Chratian’s response was non-committal: “I didn’t go to the hospital.”
 
The rest of Dorothy’s interview was a recitation of how much she loved Jerry, how she wished it had been her, how they had no money problems, and other lies. There is one exchange, however, where Dorothy makes a very odd statement that provokes a number of chilling questions:
 

Lt. Mac Derrick: We’re just trying to cover all of the bases, Mrs. Glaser.
Dorothy Glaser: You know I want you to believe me. I feel so terrible. I feel like a murderer.
MD: Well, I wouldn’t be mentioning that kind of word at this point.
DG: Oh, God. (INAUDIBLE)
MD: You’ve got enough on your mind.

Was it the most oblique confession ever, a taunt, or a bluff meant to draw out her opponent?

Forensic Evidence

Autopsy report for Jerry Glaser
…Located 22 inches from the top of the head and in the midline of the upper abdomen at the xyphoid, there is a gunshot wound of entrance which measures up to 1/4 by 3/16 in. No powder residue is noted on the skin. Free flow of blood is present from this wound. No powder residue is noted on the skin of the anterior chest or of the abdomen. Examination of the clothing includes a V-necked tee shirt that is blood stained. No powder residue is identified on the shirt…

Once the autopsy results were delivered to police, investigators knew that Dorothy’s story was untrue.
 
The angle of the wound and the gunshot residue results were not consistent with the struggle as she described it. Rather than having the expected circular shape made by a bullet striking the body at a 90 degree angle, the wound was slightly oblate. This evidence was interesting but not useful as a one sixteenth-inch difference from perpendicular could easily be challenged as rounding error.
 
More importantly, there was no stippling, or gunpowder tattooing, on Jerry’s body, as there should be if the shot was fired from as close as Dorothy claimed.
 
When a gun is fired, soot, unburned powder, wadding, and dust is propelled out the barrel along with the bullet. Depending on the amount of residue found near the wound, investigators can estimate the distance the shot traveled.
 
The process for estimating distance based on what are erroneously called “powder burns” (the powder is present because it did not burn) is more complicated than one might think at first. Instead, investigators must know a great deal about the type of bullet and the quantity and chemical portrait of the gunpowder. Once those variables have been calculated and environmental conditions are factored in, a distance estimate can be made.
 
The accepted scientific standards for stippling determine that if the struggle happened the way Dorothy said, Jerry’s body would have a ring of soot with powder embedded in his skin. There was a strong likelihood that his body would also bear an imprint of the muzzle and front sight of the gun. Autopsy photo close-up of muzzle imprint
 
Yet the ME reported four times that no powder residue was present. For that to occur the muzzle of a gun would holding .357 caliber bullets of the type that killed Jerry could be no closer than 5 feet away.
 
By the time investigators received the results, Dorothy was no longer cooperating, so they never got a chance to ask her about it.

Cold Case Closed

The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, but Dorothy asked for a coroner’s inquest to look into the death. On December 30, 1985, the coroner’s jury — 2 persons who took the only sworn testimony Dorothy ever gave about the incident, overruled the medical examiner and said Jerry’s death was accidental.
 
No charges were filed, nor should any have been at that time. With only the lack of stippling as solid evidence that the shooting did not occur as she described it, the investigation was stalled. There was plenty of other evidence — that of Jerry’s bizarre behavior, for example — that a savvy attorney could easily use concoct a plausible alternative theory of what happened.
 
Frustrated, the detectives were also confident that the case would eventually get hot again. Someone knew who did this and they could lay good money that person was no stranger to local police somewhere. In cases like this, sooner or later that somebody else who knows more than they should will be happy to supply the lead that breaks the case.
 
In the end they were right, but even so, they had no idea how much they had underestimated Dorothy Glaser.
 
Over the next few years, Dorothy concentrated on collecting the double indemnity insurance policy and suing the shrink who failed to cure her husband in the one session they had together. The insurance company was balking at making the payout because it suspected Jerry’s death was not accidental and did not want the main suspect, Dorothy Glaser, to profit from her crime. The psychiatrist should have known that Jerry was a danger to himself and others, she argued, asking for $1 million.
 
It was a lot of money on the table — around $1.25 million and Dorothy was determined not to leave any there. In the end both the life and malpractice insurance companies folded, paying Dorothy the $250,000 life insurance payout and a $40,000 nuisance settlement on the malpractice allegations — a little gravy to top things off.
 
By the time the lawyers took their share, Dorothy’s walked away with “just” $180,000 — a little less than 15 percent of what she was hoping.
 
Dorothy lived well on the blood money for a while, but all good things must end. It is surprising how fast $180k disappears when you spend it on things like new cars, trips, a swimming pool and gifts for family. In almost no time at all, Dorothy was back where she started.
 
In need of a cash influx, Dorothy and her sister, Nell Matkin, agreed to repeat the crime with Nell’s husband as the victim.
 
dorothyglaser2Dorothy contacted her nephew, Bobby Spargo, hoping that Bobby would do the killing.
 
Instead, Bobby, a career criminal facing legal troubles of his own, went to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which wired him with a listening device to catch the conspirators. Bobby came back with more than just a request to kill Andy Matkin.
 
For Dorothy to commit herself on tape, Bobby had to get her to talk about the crime. Bobby opened the discussion by expressing a reluctance to do the job. To the stunned amazement of everyone involved, she tried to encourage him by sharing her experience five years earlier and provided a solid gold revelation served up on a silver platter: a step-by-step admission of guilt. For years Dorothy stood just out of reach of the long arm of the law and here she was talking herself into a murder charge.
 
In one conversation Dorothy told Bobby how she hired someone to kill Jerry on October 4, but “the little son-of-a-bitch didn’t do the job right.”
 
Dorothy also confessed to planning and carrying out the October 31 murder.

He was acting delirious and going crazy and all this shit and paranoid. I had set that scene, too, for a whole month. I had a whole month to prepare the police and neighbors and friends about his delirium, his paranoia, his schizophrenia, his idea that someone was coming back to get him.

In answer to the prosecutor’s prayers, she admitted she “shot Jerry with his own gun.”
 
She was tried for attempted murder and malice murder, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Nell Matkin was convicted of conspiracy and received five years.
 
If Dorothy learned anything from her crimes it was probably if you want something done right, do it yourself.

All or Nothing

Robert Dale Conklin learned the hard way that a self-defense or justification defense is a risky way to fight an all-or-nothing murder charge, and the lesson cost him his life.
 
Conklin was a 23-year-old ex-con working as a fast food restaurant manager in 1984 when he was arrested for killing 28-year-old attorney George Crooks.
 
The two men met at an interstate freeway rest stop known as a gathering spot for men searching for anonymous sex, and over a few weeks established a more monogamous sexual relationship. On the night of March 26, 1984, after Crooks showed up at Conklin’s apartment still suffering from the after effects of wisdom tooth extractions earlier in the day, the attorney’s day went from bad to worse when Conklin told him he wanted to end the relationship.
 
Crooks, according to Conklin, became “moody and upset,” but remained in the apartment at which time they smoked some pot and went to bed.
 
After he was arrested for the crime that landed him on Georgia’s death row, Conklin gave police a lengthy confession, which he probably thought would help establish his claim of self-defense or justification for the crime.
 
According to Conklin, while the two soon-to-be ex-lovers were in bed, Crooks would not let him go to sleep.
 
“(Crooks) kept messing with me and it turned into a wrestling match. I got tired of it, told him to quit and he wouldn’t.”
 
The “messing” went on for at least 90 minutes, Conklin said, and escalated in intensity when Crooks said he wanted to perform anal sex, which Conklin refused to do.
 
“Eventually he had me pinned on the bed sitting on my stomach,” he recounted. “I was wrestling trying to get free. I was mad but he thought it was all a big joke.”
 
Conklin told police that he was afraid for his safety at that time, and feared that he was going to be sexually assaulted. The fear of sexual assault can, under certain circumstances, allow for a justification defense when the person with the fear is charged with a crime.
 
Justification is a broad term for various types of affirmative defenses that defendants can offer as an explanation for their actions. The most common type of justification defense is self defense. Under the theory of justification, the use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.
 
Generally, a self-defense argument for use of deadly force requires that the defendant’s actions meet the following conditions:


  • The defendant believed that the force used was necessary to protect himself or herself against death, serious bodily harm, kidnapping or sexual assault.

  • The defendant did not provoke the use of force against himself or herself with the purpose of causing death or serious bodily harm.

  • The defendant could not avoid the use of such force or did not know that he or she could avoid its use by retreating.


Additionally, the deadly force must be stopped when the threat no longer exists.
 
Conklin’s confession recounts a particularly gruesome killing that negates almost any justification.
 
“Eventually I got an arm free and I did hit him and he hit me back. He was still sitting on me,” Conklin confessed. “We were there struggling and I reached over and grabbed a screwdriver. I swung the screwdriver and it stuck into him. He rolled off the bed and I followed him screwdriver in hand. I held him down and I stuck the screwdriver in his ear, I wiggled it around and I realized what I had done and got scared.
 
“I tried to stop him from bleeding but I think he was already dead.”
 
On cross-examination, Conklin stated that he may have stabbed Crooks up to seventeen times with the screwdriver, and that some of these stabbings may have been inflicted in the neck and shoulder area.
 
By following Crooks when his victim was already retreating, Conklin ruined whatever chance he had of a successful justification defense. His behavior after the crime however is what landed him on death row because at this point the type of homicide — murder or manslaughter — was still up in the air.
 
Rather than calling the police, he “panicked” and decided to dispose of the body. Conklin dragged Crooks’s body to the bathtub and attempted to lighten it by draining it of blood.
 
“I went ahead and got a steak knife from downstairs and tried to cut his throat and bleed him into the bathtub,” he confessed. “That did not work too good.
 
“So I went ahead and tried to tie his feet up several ways so his feet was up and his head was down. Tried to use a neck tie but it broke. Eventually I just propped his feet up and left him like that with the water running.”
 
Then he went to Crooks’s apartment to destroy any evidence connecting the two men. He replaced the cassette tape in Crooks’s answering machine, and took a card containing Conklin’s name and telephone number. Conklin then took Crooks’s checkbook and drove Crooks’s car to a grocery store, where he purchased cleaning supplies and knives. Conklin abandoned Crooks’s car in a parking lot and returned to his apartment.
 
Using a book on hunting and butchering animals as a how-to guide, Conklin proceeded to process his victim.
 
“When I got home, I went ahead and went to work to cut him in half so I could get him out of there. . . . I decided there would be less of him to move if I could put some of him down the garbage disposal. . . . I then cut the rest of him up in small enough pieces to put in the bags.”
 
During the next 24-hours, Conklin tried to maintain normalcy. Conklin went to a meeting at work from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and had friends over that evening while Crooks’s body was still in his bathroom.
 
That night, Conklin placed Crooks’s body in nine different trash bags and disposed of them in the dumpster outside of his apartment.
 
He got up for work the next day, but took a bus to Florida when he discovered that the police had found Crooks’s body. Conklin returned to Georgia a few days later and was caught by the police.
 
His actions helped the State of Georgia establish that he acted with malice aforethought, an element of murder in the Peach State. Under Georgia law, “[a] person commits the offense of murder when he unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being.”
 
Express malice is defined as the “deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being which is manifested by external circumstances capable of proof.” Implied malice exists “where no considerable provocation appears and where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.”
 
The trial and appellate courts all found that Conklin acted with both implied and express malice:

  • The multiple knife wounds to the victim’s neck were, in the expert opinion of the medical examiner, inflicted prior to death, implying a premeditated and brutal killing.

  • Conklin’s treatment of Crooks’s body after his death supports the finding of an “abandoned and malignant heart” necessary to find implied malice.


Conklin was indicted on April 25, 1984, and lead counsel was appointed on May 4, 1984. Trial began thirty-seven days later, despite the defenses requests for additional time to prepare.
 
On May 30, 1984, the defense requested additional time to prepare at a pretrial hearing, but the court denied his request. On the Friday before trial, the lawyer informed the court that he was unprepared for trial. The court again denied the request for a continuance, and proceeded to trial the following Monday.
 
After the trial, when the case went into the sentencing phase, Conklin’s attorney admitted that he simply “gave up.” During an evidentiary hearing on Conklin’s habeas corpus motion the attorney testified, “if I could not present my entire mitigation and all the evidence I wanted to present, there wasn’t any use of me presenting any of it.”
 
Conklin was executed July 13, 2005.
 
For his last meal, Conklin requested filet mignon wrapped in bacon, shrimp sauteed in garlic, butter and lemon; a baked potato; corn on the cob; asparagus with hollandaise sauce; French bread; goat cheese; cantaloupe; apple pie; vanilla bean ice cream; and iced tea.