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Earl Llewellyn DAUGHTREY Jr.





Classification: Murderer?
Characteristics: Ex-con/mental patient publicly named as probable murderer
Number of victims: 0 - 3
Date of murders: 1971 / 1985 / 1987
Date of birth: 1949
Victims profile: Betty Renfroe / Cheryl Fletcher / Beverly Kaster
Method of murder: Ligature strangulation
Location: Alabama/Georgia, USA
Status: Never convicted of murder. Served time in Florida and Georgia for attacks on women

One of the South's most intriguing murder mysteries revolves around this native of Berrien County, Georgia, born in 1949.

While Daughtrey's long history of crimes against women does not include a murder conviction -- so far -- agents of the FBI and state authorities have publicly declared him a suspect in at least three Serial slayings, and their investigation is continuing with an eye toward prosecution.

On the side, the husband of his first suspected murder victim -- twice convicted for the crime himself -- has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Daughtrey, charging the Georgia suspect with wrongful death.

At this writing, the lawsuit remains unresolved. Earl Daughtrey's problems with violence are traceable to high school, in the late 1960s, when a female classmate accused him of trying to choke her on campus. No charges were filed, and he dropped out of school in his senior year to find work.

Married in March 1971, Daughtrey moved to Anniston, Alabama, where he was hired by a local construction crew. Three months later, Daughtrey's team was landscaping the home of Harvie and Betty Renfroe, at nearby Lincoln, when Harvie found his wife dead in their kitchen, partially clothed and strangled, one of his own shirts double-knotted around her neck.

Convicted of murder on the testimony of a local sheriff -- later impeached and removed from office for embezzlement and violent, irrational behavior -- Harvie Renfroe won his appeal for a new trial in 1972. Twelve years later, a report from state investigators named Earl Daughtrey as a "possible suspect" in the slaying, but prosecutors suppressed the document and Renfroe was convicted again in 1980, of first-degree manslaughter, ultimately serving 17 months of a five-year prison term. He emerged from the lockup embittered and determined to clear his name. Daughtrey, meanwhile, had moved back to Ray City, Georgia, in September 1971.

That same month, he was charged with assault after choking Jo Ann Peters in her Ray City home, the assault interrupted when her parents arrived and chased Daughtrey away. In lieu of criminal prosecution, Earl was sent to the state hospital at Milledgeville, where he was diagnosed as an hysterical neurotic with a "good" prognosis for recovery. He was released as "cured" on April 19, 1972.

On August 3, 1973, 27-year-old Emma Rogers was forced off the road and shot six times while driving through Madison County, Florida, just over the Georgia state line. Nine months pregnant at the time, Rogers survived to provide a description of the man who shot her and then stole her purse from the car. Earl Daughtrey was named as a suspect, but no charges were filed at the time.

Four months later, in Cook County, Georgia, Doris Register was chased down in her car and wounded by a shotgun blast to the head. She, too, would survive after facing the gunman who peered through a window and laughed in her face. More to the point, she saw his license number, traceable to Earl Daughtrey, and paint samples from his car matched specimens recovered in the Rogers case. Conviction for attempted murder earned Daughtrey a life sentence in Florida, plus fifteen years for robbery and aggravated assault with intent to kill.

A second trial, in Georgia, added ten more years, to run consecutively with the time Earl owed to Florida. Confined in the Sunshine State from September 16, 1974, through February 19, 1980, he was then delivered to Georgia authorities. Three and a half years later, Daughtrey was released by a parole board that "honestly believed he had gotten his act together." His act looked much the same on January 7, 1984, when police found him trying to strangle 34-year-old Brenda Debruhal at a public park, in Tift County, Georgia.

Captured after ramming two patrol cars in a high-speed chase, Daughtrey was charged with aggravated assault, reckless driving, and attempting to evade arrest. He failed to notify his parole officer of the case, and so his parole was revoked on January 23, landing Earl back behind bars until his ultimate release on February 24, 1985. (While still in prison, he was convicted of simple assault in the Tift case, receiving a one-year term of probation.)

On October 29, 1985, Cheryl Fletcher was found dead in her home at Ocilla, Georgia, northeast of Tifton; she had been strangled with a lamp cord, tied with double knots around her neck.

Investigators learned that she had advertised some articles for sale through a local newspaper, the Tiftarea Shopper, receiving at least one call from an unidentified male "customer." And there, for the moment, the trail went cold. A second "want-ad" murder was recorded on March 12, 1987, when Beverly Kaster was killed in her Lenox, Georgia, home, strangled with a blouse double-knotted around her neck. Again, the victim had placed ads in the Shopper, receiving several calls from an unidentified man who expressed interest in visiting her home.

Two months later, Louise Spotanski grew suspicious of the man who phoned in response to her Shopper ad offering a pair of recliner chairs for sale. She alerted the sheriff, then invited the "buyer" to drop by on May 13, 1987.

Officers arrived to find Earl Daughtrey advancing on the woman in menacing fashion, a towel wrapped around his fists, and he compounded the problem by giving them an alias when asked his name. Sentenced to thirty days for making false statements to police, Daughtrey served a week in jail before he was released. Meanwhile, state authorities had taken a look at his telephone records, discovering a call from Daughtrey's phone to Cheryl Fletcher's number on October 22, 1985 -- a week before she died.

The double knots employed in three known murders rang a bell, and in November 1987 state investigators sought a warrant to search Daughtrey's home, filing an affidavit that read in part: "Careful analysis by Special Agents of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation of crimes known and suspected to have been committed by Earl L. Daughtrey, Jr., strongly suggest that Daughtrey exhibits the behavioral traits and tendencies of a serial killer."

One incident cited had taken place since the Kaster slaying in March. The female organist at a Tift County church service had turned around to find Daughtrey standing behind her, grinning, his hands curled in a "choking posture." As she turned to face him, Daughtrey backed away and said, "I could have killed you easy." A search of Daughtrey's home revealed no solid evidence, but the investigation is continuing. Meanwhile, in December 1987, Harvie Renfroe filed suit against Daughtrey for the wrongful death of Betty Renfroe, seeking $32.5 million in punitive damages.

Daughtrey responded with a countersuit in January 1988, asserting that Alabama's statute of limitations had run out on the charge, denouncing Renfroe's suit as a "frivolous" example of harassment. At this writing, both lawsuits are still before the courts.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers



VICTIMS: Three alleged by FBI

MO: Ex-con/mental patient publicly named as probable murderer.

DISPOSITION: Served time in Fla. and Ga. for attacks on women.



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