Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Nightrider and Lady Sundown: The Bonnie and Clyde of Georgia

S/He Did It

That was the way they operated.   When theyd been arrested back in 1980, each gave a conflicting version of events.  Alvin said that the check cashing schemes had all been Judiths idea and hed done nothing.  Judith claimed that they had planned and pulled the robbery together.  But two years later, her story became more vivid.

Judith Neelley at time of arrest
Judith Neelley at time of arrest
Shortly after their arrest, Alvin lawyered up, effectively shutting down interrogation, but his attorney urged him to tell the police what he knew.  He claimed that Judith had instigated the crimes and was responsible for eight murders (Frasier says 15 and Furio accepts fifteen victims as fact); he had just gone along with her.  She liked to have power over others, he said.  He didn't know what else to do.  He even said he was afraid that his wife might even kill him.  To his interrogators, he insisted that she was dangerous. 

Alvin apparently believed her tales about sexual abuse at the YDC and thought she had good reason to be angry, but he also gave the impression that he had not wanted to commit the rapes and murders.  He thought there had been a prostitution ring at the YDC in which Judith had become a willing participant and believed that she had been raped by various court personnel as well.  In other words, he was fairly ignorant and gullible, and she seemed to have known how to push his buttons.  Alvin claimed that the weapons all belonged to Judith and that she had killed the two girls because of some rage that she carried around with her at all times.

And at first, Judith did accept the blame, exonerating him every step of the way.   In her own confession, she described her final moments with Lisa and Janice.  She spoke of how the shots of Liquid Drano and Liquid Plumber had hurt Lisa, how she had begged for her life, and how her blood had gotten on Judiths jeans, necessitating that she be rid of them.  She also took responsibility for the fire-bombing and the shooting incident in Rome, but insisted that Dooley had raped her and that Adair had set it up.  But the suspects would both change their minds and their stories several times.

Alvin told the police how Judith had killed Janice Chatman and gave directions to where they could find the body.  He even drew a map, implicating himself at least as an accomplice.  It wasnt long before they recovered the decomposing corpse.  She had been raped, shot to death, and dumped in a wilderness area. 

Prosecutors Mike O'Dell (front) & Richard Igou
Prosecutors Mike O'Dell (front) & Richard Igou
Two bodies, two murders, two suspects.  It seemed obvious what came next, but the DA in Tennessee was stuck with a strange impasse.  The major crimesmurder, rape, and assaulthad all been committed in different counties, indeed, in some cases in different states.  And the evidence was weak against Alvin.  They could get him for the Chatman murder but not Lisa Millicans.  So he remained in Tennessee, pleading guilty to his part in the kidnap-murder of Janice Chatman in exchange for life in prison.  Judith, however, faced first-degree murder charges in Alabama for the murder of Lisa Millican, and with her confession, they had a good case against her.  She was extradited there for trial, with a possible death penalty hanging over her head. She and her court-appointed attorney, Robert French Jr., got ready.

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