The Women of Wynnton and Their Cold-Blooded Killer

All too often, it is the victims who are forgotten. We remember the story, but not the name. We know the circumstances surrounding the crime, but we don’t know that the victim had two children, taught Sunday School, and loved to read Dickens.

Carlton Gary has been convicted of attacking ten women, in Columbus, Georgia-all in the Wynnton area-killing seven of them. Most were raped and then strangled. Geraldine Moore was the first to be attacked, but she lived. She was unconscious and in the hospital, unable to talk to police, when Ferne Jackson was raped and murdered in her home on 17th street only five days later. Jean Dimenstien was next, followed by Martha Thurmond, Florence Scheible, Kathleen Woodruff, Mildred Borom, Ruth Schwob (survived), Janet Cofer, and Mary Sue Butler Ogletree. All of these women had either never been married, had been widowed, or were divorced. All lived alone. And all-with the exception of Mrs. Ogletree-were over the age of 60. These were women of note; school teachers, a city employee, a small business owner. Most were from wealthy families and all were white. 

Martha Thurmond was a retired school teacher and a widow whose son lived in Atlanta and had just come to visit his mother, changing locks and adding deadbolts in an effort to better protect her. But the unfortunate mistake of putting a door back up backwards was the point of entry for her killer in the early hours of the morning on Thursday, October 25th, 1977.

Florence Scheible was murdered mid-morning in her Dimon Street apartment on October 21st, 1977. The oldest of the victims, 89 year old Scheible was killed one day before her 90th birthday.

Ferne Jackson was the Director of the Educational Division of the Columbus Health Department. Police say there was an apparent struggle after her killer entered the home she lived in alone since the death of her husband.

Jean Dimenstein was 71 when she was raped and murdered in her home on 21st Street. Miss Dimenstein never married, but owned a department store with her brother, Fred. Miss Dimenstein struggled with her killer, but was found with stockings wrapped twice around her neck.

Kathleen Woodruff was found in her street clothes with no signs of rape. She was strangled by a scarf and there were no stockings to be found. She was bruised and beaten, but not as badly as the other victims. She was the widow of the late George Woodruff and lived alone in Buena Vista Road home in an area that is commonly referred to as Overlook.

Mildred Borom was a 78 year old Forest Avenue resident who had lived here all her life. She was not sexually abused either and was also believed to have struggled with her killer. She was strangled with a curtain cord. She was murdered within an hour and forty minutes of Ruth Schwob’s attempted murder. Which happened first is still a mystery, but the close proximity of their homes, Mrs. Schwob living only a mile or so away on Carter Avenue, makes it more than possible for it to have been the same person, namely Carlton Gary.

Mrs. Schwob survived her attack, reaching an alarm that was attached to her nightstand which rang her neighbor. She struggled with her attacker and it is believed that the continual ringing of her bedside phone scared him away.

Yet another widow, 61 year old Janet Cofer, lived on Steam Mill Road and was raped before she was strangled by a pair of stockings. She was an elementary school teacher, well liked by those who knew her.

The youngest of the ten women was 54 year old divorcee, Mary Sue Butler Ogletree. She was living in the Peacock Woods Garden Apartments on Forest Avenue and was stabbed to death. Her murder occurred two years after the others and caused quite a stir among those who knew the other cases well. While her murder was different from the others, there are those who argue that the change up reminded them of the Boston Strangler.

These women had multiple common factors. They all lived in the same area of town, one known for it’s wealthier residents from older Columbus families. Most lived within a mile and a half of one another, if not closer. Nothing was taken from any of their homes, even though several of them were wearing jewels of considerable worth. All were living alone, all were well liked, and all were white.

As a resident of the Wynnton area, although by no means wealthy and by no means living alone, it is nonetheless an eerie thing to think about these murders happening in my neighborhood now, knowing my neighbors, recognizing addresses, and wondering who would fall victim in present day.

Who are Carlton Gary’s Victims? This isn’t just about a man who killed innocent women in a brutal fashion. These are 10 women who were attacked. They have names and families and friends. Their stories are alive and important. Don’t forget the who when you are reading about the what, the when, and the where.

**All details were found in Murder in the Peach State by Bruce L. Jordan, The Big Eddy Club by David Rose, and True Facts Surrounding the Wynnton Stocking Strangler by T.W. Moody, JR.**

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Terri says:

    I live just off Wynnton. My neighbors’ house still has the bars on the windows that were put on during that time. It is a stark reminder of how vulnerable we are.


  2. A powerful and dramatic reminder from a person who was not yet born when these women were brutalized. Many of us who were around when these incidents occurred dwell too much on Carlton Gary and his cops and robbers arrest. The families of those victims are the ones that deserve our attention. Thanks for reminding us of them, Theresa.


  3. Mom says:

    I was 17 and a senior in High School when these murders took place. I wasn’t old, widowed, divorced or wealthy but scared none the less by this brutal crime spree. It is time to put this to rest and I hope Carlton Gary finally gets what he deserves & justice wins out! A well written post my dear!


  4. Sarah Sellers says:

    Little did you know, but the man that solved the murders was a good friend of your family. Your Gram was a mother to my children Brande and Michael. We have lived this case for years. I took my kids to see their dad in court and the were very small. They ask as innocent children when will all this be over and I told them probally when you are grow and have kids. They are now in their 30’s. It’s time for justice and let these poor women rest in peace.


  5. Mike says:

    Every time this case makes the news, they show the picture of Gary’s arrest and our friend, Mike Sellers is front and center! I had the privilege of serving with Mike in the CPD for a brief period of time before he went to Gwinnett County (along with a large group of officers…for better pay of course)…With the recent DNA testing concluded, it is clear that Gary was either working with someone else or he was a copy-cat killer…He should immediately be tried for the death of Jean Dimenstein since his DNA matched with the evidence collected at that scene and then sentenced appropriately…You know there were rumors running rampant during that time period of a “wealthy family” who had a son who was suspected of being involved but hushed up…maybe these test will encourage our local law enforcement officials to re-look at this…Great article girl…


  6. Seth says:

    Excellent writing Theresa, thank you. Every time I look at our windows I am reminded of the “strangler”. The holes were drilled into all the sashes so that you could put a nail through the hole. My Dad would always remind me why it was done. Mike is my cousin and every time I see the photo of him and the strangler I am reminded of his dedication to the case.


  7. Jack says:

    I think the first victim’s name was Gertrude Miller, not Geraldine Moore.


    1. Theresa Garcia says:

      Actually Miss Moore was attacked 5 days before the first death and lived.


  8. Jack says:

    Also – there were definitely signs of rape of Ms. Woodruff. Recently, DNA testing was performed on semen found on her body, though the results were inconclusive.


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