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Two plead guilty in Futch hearing
062008 FUTCH PLEA 3
Jerry James Easters recounts his involvement in the murder of Jack and Paula Futch from the witness stand during a hearing Friday in Bulloch County Superior Court. Easters pled guilty to stabbing the couple and received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff


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    Two of three people accused of killing a Bulloch County couple in 2005 changed their original pleas to “guilty” Friday, admitting in court they were responsible for the stabbing deaths of Jack and Paula Futch.
    Jerry James Easters and Alexandria Elizabeth Futch Coulter each pled guilty, agreeing to testify about the murders in exchange for sentences of life without parole instead of the death penalty.
    Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty in the case. A third suspect, Dustin James Coulter, 25, Ms. Coulter’s husband, has pled not guilty and is slated to be tried in court Aug. 25.
     Easters, 23, took the stand first and answered questions from prosecutor Scott Brannen, assistant district attorney with the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.
    Afterward,  Ms.  Coulter, 24, also admitted being guilty of killing her father and stepmother.
    Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner sentenced both Easters and Ms. Coulter immediately after their pleas.
     Easters received a sentence of  life without possibility of parole for two counts of murder; 20 years each for two counts of armed robbery to run consecutively; and five years each for two counts of possession of a knife during the commission of a crime, to run consecutively.
    Turner sentenced Ms. Coulter to life without possibility of parole for the two murder counts; 20 years each for the armed robbery counts, to run concurrently with the life sentence; and five years each for the charges of possession of a knife during the commission of a crime, to run consecutively.
    Both Easters and Ms. Coulter agreed to waive rights of appeal.
Admitted planning, killing
    Easters took the stand, but didn’t elaborate much on the murders except to answer questions from Brannen after admitting he freely changed his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty.”
    He said Ms. Coulter approached him several times with the topic of killing, asking him if he had ever killed anyone, and if he would have a problem killing someone.
    He admitted Ms. Coulter told him about her father’s illness and said she was “thinking about having her father killed.” Jack Futch suffered from terminal cancer.
    He said Ms. Coulter picked him up and they were riding in a vehicle during one conversation about killing Futch, discussing the cost of having someone killed, and said Ms. Coulter “mentioned a lot of money.”
    Brannen asked him if she talked about insurance money, and Easters said “She didn’t say it was insurance money, but said there would be a lot of money.”
    Brannen asked Easters about smoking marijuana with Ms. Coulter at a Lydia Lane residence. Easters admitted he discussed killing Futch at that time, and answered further questions from Brannen, talking about how Ms. Coulter asked him to come visit the Futch home to become familiar with the surroundings. She told him where Jack Futch would be, “and she said it would be nice if Paula was killed also,” he said.
    Easters said Ms. Coulter told him she wanted  the murders done before the closing on the sale of the house Jack and Paula Futch owned.
    He told Brannen he asked Ms. Coulter if someone else (who he did not identify) could help with the killing, and “she said no she wanted me to do it.”
    Brannen outlined the events as they unfolded Nov. 21, 2005, at the Futch home on Windmere Drive off Ga. 46, near Kennedy Pond and Smithfield Golf course.
    He told how Ms. Coulter called Easters, telling him to “pack a bag and get ready,” and how her husband Dustin Coulter picked Easters up from his Marvin Drive home.
    Easters told how he found Alex Coulter “laying on the couch,” and said she asked him if he had a weapon. He did not, he said.
    “She directed me to the kitchen and told me to get a knife” and told him to kill Paula Futch as well, he said.
    “I explained to her Paula was not part of the deal,” he said. “She said I might as well” kill Paula Futch too, stating it would be easier to explain the double murder and staged break-in to police.
    Easters talked about going upstairs and killing Paula Futch as she slept, and told the court he had first turned off a baby monitor she used to keep check on her husband, who slept downstairs.
    “I came back downstairs and she directed me to go into Jack’s bedroom,” he said. When he killed Futch and went back into the living room, he said Ms. Coulter “asked me if it was done ... and told me to tie her up.”
    Brannen asked Easters about scratching Ms. Coulter’s neck with the knife and slapping her to make the staged assault appear more realistic. Easters admitted doing so.
    He said Ms. Coulter asked him to ransack the home, taking certain items including pills and jewelry, but avoiding items such as a lap top computer and cell phone because they had GPS devices that could be tracked.
    “She wanted it to look as if she was a victim also,” he said.
    Easters told how he took Paula Futch’s van and the stolen items and left, saying Ms. Coulter was to give him enough time to get away before calling police. He left the van on Old Groveland Road and called Dustin Coulter to pick him up, he said.
    As he spoke about the killings, Easters remained calm, spoke in an even tone of voice, and never showed emotion.
 Victim’s daughter apologizes
    Alexandria Coulter did not  take the stand, but instead stood at a podium before Judge Turner and admitted to taking part in and planning the murder of her father and stepmother.
    Speaking in a barely audible voice, she answered questions about her involvement and entered a plea of guilty.
    Then Ms. Coulter read from a written note: “I would like to express my most heartfelt apology in my life. Saying I’m sorry and accepting responsibility for my actions when I know I am wrong is a hard lesson that my loving parents taught me early in life.
    “I know nothing I could ever say, write, express or do can reverse the events that have brought me and the whole of your courtroom here today. My hope is that my actions from here on out will never again offend, shame, or cause harm to anyone; that I may one day be able to make amends to all whom I have caused any pain.
    “I hope that today will help to close a painful chapter in our history as a family and that my family can one day find peace.”   
    A member of Ms. Coulter’s defense team told the court she was baptized the night before at the Bulloch County Jail as a “symbol of putting the past to rest ... taking responsibility and starting a new life.”
    Dustin Coulter was present in the courtroom during the hearing, listening without visible emotion as Easters talked about the murders and as his wife admitted guilt and read her apology.  
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