Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification, which appears Saturday: An article that appeared on the front page Thursday correctly stated that Antonio Lamont Murray, 39, of Pembroke, was convicted of seven counts in the abductions of two Bryan County businessmen, but it incorrectly listed the counts. The counts are as follows: one conspiracy to commit kidnapping and obstruction (one count each), kidnapping (two counts) and three firearms violations.
A man convicted Wednesday of kidnapping two Bryan County businessmen claimed he was framed.
Antonio Lamont Murray, 39, of Pembroke, denied involvement in the Dec. 1 kidnapping of Timothy Marshlett and the Jan. 12 kidnapping of Billy Downs, said Bobby Phillips, Murray’s attorney.
Murray said his half-brother and a cousin lied about his involvement in the dramatic kidnapping schemes, Phillips said.
A jury deliberated three hours Wednesday, from 10:30 a.m. to around 1:30 p.m., then returned a guilty verdict on all seven counts on which Murray was indicted: conspiracy to commit kidnapping, two counts of kidnapping, three firearms violations and obstruction of justice.
Senior U.S. District Judge B. Avant Edenfield is expected to hand down a sentence “in a couple of months,” Phillips said.
Gary Lenion McDonald, 36, of Statesboro, and Cecil Dewitt Nelson, 32, of Pembroke, both pleaded guilty recently to conspiring with others to commit kidnappings. Both face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
McDonald testified Tuesday that Murray masterminded the kidnappings and went along with others to collect the ransom money, Phillips said.
On Monday, the victims each told chilling tales of home invasions by men dressed in black, with masks and guns.
Marshlett said he was awakened when two men used his own ax to break into his bedroom. He was beaten bloody when he tried to escape, and after his business partner delivered $19,000 by throwing the money into a ditch off Twin Forks Road in Bulloch County, Marshlett was released in woods near Georgia Highway 119 close to the Bulloch-Bryan county line. As he recalled the ordeal, Marshlett said: “I was told if I made any sudden moves, I’d be splattered.”
Downs said was coming home Jan. 12 when three men accosted him in his garage. They took him upstairs, demanding $250,000 after ransacking the house and finding his wife’s bank statement.
He convinced the kidnappers to hold him hostage instead of his wife, and Carolyn Downs had to go to four banks to get the $250,000 the kidnappers demanded. After several grueling hours, Billy Downs was released by a man in a white truck who left him at a sporting goods store in Pembroke, he said.
Both Billy Downs and Marshlett spoke of being held blindfolded and under guard in a dank, smelly, freezing cold structure, where they were forced to urinate in a bucket.
During each kidnapping, the suspects also stole household items, firearms and jewelry. They threatened the victims’ lives as well as the lives of their loved ones, according to testimony heard Monday.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.