Alday Family Murders
I have often stated that names make it on my list of cases to research in a variety of different ways and often it takes me plugging a name into a Google search before I even remember anything about the case. This is a case where my list only contained the name of one of the perpetrators, the state (Georgia) where the crime occurred and stated that the person had been executed in 2003. So, per my usual routine I through the name in as a search and found a case that quite honestly I do not remember hearing. Maybe I never have. Maybe I just heard or saw that the state of Georgia executed a man named Carl Junior Isaacs in 2003 and I just simply wanted to know why. After doing the research, and despite my obsession with true crime, I am a bit sure I could have gone forever without knowing this case. I found references in which it was compared to the Clutter Family case from Kansas in 1959. I have blogged about that case in the past as it was the basis for what is considered to be the first “true crime” book In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I put the words true crime in quotes because quite honestly despite the distinction that it was given and the fact that the names of the victims and the perpetrators were not changed, not all that was included in the book were actually “facts.” It is not uncommon for an author to express themselves and their opinions in their writings, of course I do it here, but it has been alleged that some of the facts of the case were skewed a bit for drama, not unlike you sometimes see in docudramas about cases. While I do believe the Alday murders and the Clutter murders have some similarities, I find the Alday murders more calculated and vicious. I do not think this way simply because there were more members of the Alday family murdered. I come to this conclusion because while the Clutters were attacked in their home in the middle of the night, the Alday family came to the home either in pairs, or alone, and were slaughtered. An almost better comparison in my opinion would be the murders committed by John List in November of 1971. The vast difference however is that John List committed the murders of his three children, his wife and his mother in his own home and the Alday murders were committed by four men who had entered the home in the middle of the day to commit a burglary.
In early May of 1973 nineteen year old Carl Isaacs escaped from a minimal security prison in Maryland with his half brother, twenty-five year old Wayne Coleman and another man, thirty-four year old George Dungee. Just exactly what each man was serving time for is not completely clear. There is not really what seems to be easy access to that information and with the passage of time the facts of this case, let alone crimes committed earlier seem often skewed. One report says that Carl Isaacs killed fourteen people, whether they meant total, or prior to the murder of six Alday family members does not likely matter because either way I do not find that to be true. First, if it was before his escape at the very least it appears that he would have had to have killed at least six people so it is highly unlikely he would be in a minimal security prison. To add to that we are talking 1973 so an era in which the death penalty was a questionable thing as far as legalities. If he had committed eight murders and gone through a trial and escaped the death penalty in one form or another it is unlikely that I would not have found something in my research indicating this. Soon after the escape the trio went and picked up Carl's younger brother, fifteen year old Billy Isaacs and went on the run.
Reports are sketchy as to what they did, and crimes they committed leading up to May 14th. There is an indication that they were involved in the murder of a high school girl in Maryland as one of the perpetrators apparently would be sentenced in that crime it seems. There are also reports that they possibly killed a man in Pennsylvania and stole his vehicle and headed south. I will address these issues later because many questions surround these alleged crimes. What is known is that they were near the small town of Donalsonville Georgia in Seminole County on May 14th. Behind the home owned by Jerry and Mary Alday was a gas pump of some sort and the car the group, later to be dubbed “The Isaac Gang,” was driving was running low. They apparently went to the home, which by all indications was a farm but for whatever reason were unable to get gas for their vehicle. They discovered that no one was home at the Alday home and they decided to go inside and steal items.
It is not clear how long they had been there before thirty-five year old Jerry Alday showed up with his sixty-two year old father, Ned. Some reports say that the two men, along with two more of Ned's sons and Ned's brother, were working in a nearby field and they may have gone back to the home to get gas for some equipment. Carl Isaac met Jerry and Ned outside and at gunpoint forced them into the home. Each of the men were taken into a bedroom and it was there that they were killed. At some point after this Jerry's twenty-five year old brother, Jimmy showed up at the home driving a tractor. He apparently went to the door and was greeted by the group inside. He too was forced inside at gunpoint and shot inside the home. While one of the men went outside to move the tractor that was apparently behind their get away car in drove twenty-six year old Mary Alday, Jerry's wife. Just after that Jerry's thirty-two year old brother, Chester and his fifty-seven year old uncle, Aubrey also showed up. All three were taken into the home. The two men were murdered inside apparently almost immediately like the others, while Carl Isaac and his brother, Wayne Coleman proceeded to rape Mary Alday in her kitchen. Once it seemed that they had gotten all they wanted they forced Mary into their car and drove her to a wooded area some six miles away where she was again raped and tortured before she was shot and killed.
I found nothing that stated just how the murders were discovered or any clues that may have been found at the scene but considering there were six people now dead, five of which who were apparently supposed to be working in a field it surely did not take long to determine what had happened. The “gang” had obviously taken off and headed toward Alabama and then to West Virginia where just two or three days after the murders they were arrested. It was said the murder weapons and items belonging to the victims were found with the men at the time of their arrests.
It appears that fifteen year old Billy was the first to make a deal with the state and he agreed to testify against the other three. Future President Jimmy Carter was the governor of Georgia at the time and while it is rare for a governor to comment on crimes he apparently had no problem expressing his disgust at the crime. Carl Isaac, Wayne Coleman and George Dungee would all apparently go on trial together and in January of 1974 all three were convicted and sentenced to death.
Then of course began the appeal process. This was a rather sketchy area of time when it came to capital crimes. There was so much going on about the constitutionality of the death penalty at that time and while as most of us know it would be abolished federally for a few years some states never re-established it. Obviously Georgia did not fall in the latter category but just like today in many states, despite seeking the death penalty and often times obtaining it Georgia does not seem to use it often. Despite whether a state utilizes their right to the death chamber often or seldom rarely changes the arguments when it comes to appeals. There always seems to be an argument somewhere in every death penalty case arguing the constitutionality of the death penalty laws in that state (or federal as it may be). I cannot say that this case was much different but strangely, despite agreeing that the evidence in the case was “overwhelming” that the three men committed the crime the Supreme Court overruled their convictions in 1985 stating that pre-trial publicity prevented the opportunity to receive a fair trial. They also apparently pointed out that family members of the victims had paid for a special prosecutor to be brought into the case and word is that the prosecutor was a nephew to the sitting judge. To be fair I did not see an appeals record on this portion and can only go with what I found in my research. The bottom line of the case, no matter how you cut it is that the convictions and sentences were revered and new trials were ordered.
Apparently at that point the state planned to try each of the men separately. Billy Isaac had long ago been sentenced to forty years in his plea deal. He had agreed to testify against the other three and apparently it was planned for his testimony again. Carl apparently went on trial first in 1988. This time not only did they have Billy's testimony they also had Carl's own words to use against him. Of course the prosecution could produce fellow inmate who would claim that Carl had talked about and even bragged about the murders but a film had been made after his first conviction based on the crime and Carl had openly confessed and talked about his role. The film, or at least his confession part was played for the jury. Of course it did not take the jury long to convict him and once again he was sentenced to death.
Wayne Coleman faced his own trial and was convicted but the jury hung when it came to his sentence so he was given a life term. In the end George Dungee did not face another jury and pleaded guilty, receiving a life sentence. Dungee would die behind bars on April 4, 2006. Billy Isaac would be paroled in 1996 and would die a free man in 2009. Carl Isaac would finally be executed by the state of Georgia on May 6, 2003, nearly thirty years after the massacre at the Alday home. Wayne Coleman is the only one of the four men still living and he remains behind bars.
Of course when researching this case an over abundance of information surrounded the execution of Carl Isaac. Surviving family members had longed for this day and had expressed their criticism of the justice system that took thirty years to exact punishment. There were reports that they claimed Jerry Alday's dog, who had been at the scene of the crime spent the rest of his days grieving and they felt the dog had more compassion for the victims than the justice system. Several dozen family members drove the two hours from Donalsonville to Jackson to at least be present at the execution. In 2015 an article retelling the story of the crime saw family members saying complete closure will not be had until Coleman dies. They expressed resentment that many family members died before ever seeing justice in their eyes.
On the surface it would appear that the men only served time for the crimes committed during the massacre but digging a bit deeper I found a little more information that was a bit confusing. As I stated earlier there seemed to be some confusion as to what occurred between the Maryland prison break and the events at the Alday home. Part of that confusion or the lack of information likely comes from the fact that the crime at the Alday home was so horrendous and the state of Georgia sought the death penalty, which they did at least initially receive, it seemed senseless, at least financially, to prosecute the men for crimes committed elsewhere. However, I came across something that indicated that while Billy Isaac got forty years (served twenty) for pleading guilty for the robbery part in Georgia he was also given a sentence in Maryland in the disappearance, and or murder of a high school girl. It seems that Billy served his time concurrently (meaning at the same time) in Georgia for both crimes but when it came time for parole he wanted to go live in Wisconsin. Noting that as well as the animosity held in the community, held over from the viciousness of the crime, that one of the perpetrators was to be released it appears that Maryland stepped in attempting to use legal moves to keep him. By the sound of things he initially should have been released in either 1991 or 1992 but after legal rambling, eventually ending with the Maryland courts he was released in 1996.
Sadly because the crimes at the Alday home were so horrendous that, as well as Carl Isaac's execution overshadowed anyone else who was a victim of this group.