FOR most people, May 14 is a day like any other. But for the residents of Donalsonville, Georgia, it’s a terrifying slice of the town’s history. On that day in 1973, a group of newly-escaped prison inmates—brothers Carl and Billy Isaacs, their half-brother Wayne Coleman, and George Dungee—committed the state’s bloodiest massacre since 1887.
The tale is something straight out of a horror film. Incarcerated at Maryland’s Poplar Hill Correctional Institute, 19-year-old Carl Isaacs enlisted the help of his half-brother, Wayne Coleman—also imprisoned at the facility—to draw up an escape plan. Carl, a vivacious fast-talker with an ego, had little difficulty swaying Coleman as well as George Dungee to his cause. Together, they climbed through a bathroom window, concealed themselves in the surrounding woods, stole a car, and headed South. Along the way, they picked up Carl’s younger brother, Billy.
Of course, if they had any hope of getting to Mexico or Florida, their ideal destinations, they would need money. And gas.
Just nine days after their escape and a string of robberies, the fugitives arrived at the Alday family farm. Spotting the gas pump on the property, they knew they had found their next target.
When Ned Alday and his son, Jesse, returned to their trailer to retrieve gas for their tractors, they found the Isaacs brothers, Coleman, and Dungee mid-ransack. The two were forced inside the trailer at gunpoint and then executed. One by one, as other members of the Alday family came to the trailer for gas, the fugitives took up their guns—killing every single one of them. The only member of the Alday family not immediately executed was Mary Alday, who was taken into the woods and raped before being killed. Her body would be found days later several miles away, after the Aldays’ neighbors stumbled upon the crime scene.
Today, Wayne Coleman is still serving his life sentence. George Dungee died in prison and Billy Isaacs—who only got 20 years for armed robbery—passed after his release. Mastermind Carl was executed via lethal injection in 2003. The murder of the Alday family shocked and horrified the local community. The sheriff of Seminole County, where the crime took place, emphatically stated, ‘’If I had my way about it, I’d have me a large oven and I’d precook them for several days.’’ Even then-Governor Jimmy Carter (future President of the United States) called the Alday family murders ‘’the most heinous crime in Georgia.’’
As it turns out, two witnesses had seen Carl, Wayne, and George after they left Poplar Hill in 1973. One was Norman Strait, who spotted the trio while traveling down the interstate. To get a better view, Strait had peered through the scope of his hunting rifle, watching as they loaded various things into their stolen Thunderbird. Of the incident, Strait had said, “I guess I should have shot that son-of-a-bitch right there. It would have saved a lot of lives.”
Six lives, to be exact: Ned, Jimmy, Jerry, Mary, Chest, and Aubrey Alday.
Slowly, Bud and the others got out of Bud’s truck and moved to the trailer’s back door. It was very still, the wide, recently planted fields a smooth, black slate all around them, the atmosphere utterly motionless until Jerry’s dog suddenly rushed around the corner, whimpering softly as it turned and followed them around the edge of the trailer to where they gathered at the back door.
Roy reached for the door and turned the aluminum knob slowly. It rotated smoothly. The door had not been locked. He tugged it open partially, then drew back...
By OLIVIA MASON
To be continued