This is part two of a five-part series on the Stocking Strangler; a serial killer who murdered elderly women in Columbus during the late 1970s.
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Carlton Gary was born in Columbus on Sept. 24, 1950.
His mother was poor, often bouncing from place to place. Gary frequently stayed with his aunts, who worked as maids for rich, elderly women.
When Gary was 12 years old, he met his father for the first and last time. He was a construction worker who wouldn’t associate with or provide to the family.
Cut to Gary’s teenage years in Gainesville, Florida, and he’d started using drugs. From ages 14 to 18, he was arrested on charges of assault, arson and robbery.
One conviction included firebombing a grocery store. The crime may have been motivated by a dislike for the shop owner, who pressed charges against Gary’s mother for writing a bad check.
Other arrests included breaking and entering into various vehicles.
Gary seemed to find a slice of normalcy when he married a woman named Sheila, but not long after tying the knot, he was taken into custody once again. He later escaped from jail and went to Connecticut, where Sheila joined him.
The newlyweds hopped from shore-town to shore-town. They had two children, and Gary had another run-in with the law.
He’d assaulted an officer. He found himself back behind bars.
After getting out of jail once again, Gary and Sheila left for Albany, New York, where Gary said he wanted to become a singer.
He’d booked a couple gigs, but soon after the couple moved upstate, an elderly woman named Marion Brewer was robbed and attacked in a hotel.
Later on, 85-year-old Nellie Farmer was found raped and strangled to death with a scarf.
And after another elderly woman was nearly assaulted, Gary was arrested under the fake name of “Carl Michaels.”
Officers said his fingerprints were found in Farmer’s room, but Gary told officers he only helped to burglarize her home while a man named John Lee committed the murder.
After Gary testified against John Lee, he was convicted of Farmer’s killing. Lee’s conviction was later overturned.
Gary was only charged with robbery, and he served in the Onondaga County Correction Institution in Jamesville, New York.
Upon being paroled in 1975, Gary moved to Syracuse, New York. During his time in prison, he re-married to a woman by the name of Nancy Page, although they divorced in 1976.
On New Years Eve that year, a man raped and choked a 59-year-old woman after breaking into her Syracuse home. She survived the brutal attack, but a couple of linens were stolen from her house.
These linens were later recovered at the home of Ann Lee — a woman claiming to be Gary’s new girlfriend.
A few days later on Jan. 3, 1977, another woman in her fifties was attacked in a similar manner. She too survived, although some items were stolen from her residence — nearly $200 in coins, as well as a watch.
Later, Gary and a man named Dudley Harris were found cashing coins at a bank. A watch was also found on Gary.
Both the coins and the watch were found to be connected to the crime on Jan. 3.
According to Gary, he was only helping Harris cash the coins. He also said he went with Harris to the victim’s home, but he waited in the car while Harris stole the money.
On top of that, he told authorities that the linens from the prior assault wound up at Ann Lee’s house simply because Harris brought them there.
Gary was arrested on a charge of third-degree possession of stolen property in both cases. He fought investigators during the arrest and was found with a misdemeanor amount of marijuana.
He was then charged with third-degree assault, third-degree violation of parole, seventh-degree possession of a controlled substance and third-degree possession of stolen property.
In April of 1977, Gary was sent back to the Onondaga County Penitentiary.
The sentence lasted only a few months before Gary escaped from prison in August — less than a month before he was due to be released.
From prison, he fled to his girlfriend’s place, and in a later interview with Ann Lee, she told authorities he beat and raped her.
Up until the end of August, Gary found himself back and forth between spots in New York, until he eventually returned to the Fountain City.
Gary rented a home on Old Buena Vista Road. He was employed at Golden’s Fountries for a little over a month, until being fired for his frequent absences.
All the while, concern increased over the string of murders throughout the Chattahoochee Valley. The Stocking Strangler had become dinner table talk as Columbus continued to see elderly women brutally murdered.
Months passed since Gary’s return to the River City, then come June of 1978, he moved back to Florida.
He continued traveling around the Southeast, robbing various restaurants with or without an accomplice. He used fake names when needed, until witnesses of a South Carolina robbery called his lie.
Investigators traced Gary’s fake names back to each other, then tied him to fingerprints found in Nellie Farmer’s home the night of her death.
Columbus investigators traveled to South Carolina to question Gary, although their questions didn’t pertain to the strangler — they had to do with a string of similar robberies in the Chattahoochee area.
Gary was arrested in February of 1979. He confessed to multiple robberies in both South Carolina and Columbus. A gun belonging to his most recent girlfriend, Theda Cartwright, was recovered.
In prison, Gary was charged with possession of marijuana as well as the obstruction of institutional operations and inciting or creating a disturbance or riot. He was also charged with multiple counts of telephone abuse.
Fast forward to 1984 and Gary escaped from prison yet again.
He fled south of South Carolina. He returned to his usual ways of robbing fast-food joints in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.
But Gary was unaware of his luck running dry. His next prison sentence would be his last.
“A look at the Stocking Strangler” comes out every Wednesday on WRBL.com.