An Augusta man convicted of taking part in a series of murders in 1976 will be considered for parole this month.
Nathan Brown, 55, is serving a life sentence for killing an 11-year-old boy, Bonnie Bulloch, and shooting Bonnie’s stepfather, Henry Phillips, the night Brown and two other men robbed Phillips’ gas station in Crawfordville, Ga.
Bonnie’s mother, Hazel Phillips, said it’s as though that terrible night is happening all over again.
“Their crimes live on,” she said.
Phillips said Brown should not be released because it’s the only way to ensure he doesn’t kill anyone else’s child.
In addition to the Crawfordville shootings, Brown, Judson Ruffin and Jose High were also linked to the Augusta slayings of Willean Hall, 36, and Leroy Linwood, 30, on Aug. 20, 1976, and the killing two days later of James C. Gray, 54. They were arrested after another couple was accosted and a teenage girl was raped.
A fourth man, Alphonso Morgan, was convicted in Richmond County for Gray’s murder.
Ruffin, Brown and High were convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Taliaferro County, but Brown’s and Ruffin’s convictions were reversed on appeal. In a plea deal, Brown was sentenced to life in prison. Phillips said she agreed to support the plea deal because of Brown’s promise never to appeal his conviction.
Though the law now provides for sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole, it cannot be imposed retroactively. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles must hold periodic hearings for all inmates not under a sentence of life without parole or death.
If Brown is denied parole again, the board has to set a reconsideration date in one to eight years, said Steve Hayes, the director of the board’s public affairs office.
Phillips said she worked hard for laws for victims’ rights and for the sentence of life without parole because of what she went through and continues to go through with the men who killed her son.
She said the best thing the state could do for families of murder victims is to impose a true life sentence so killers are locked away forever and the victims’ families can ignore them. If not, Phillips said, she and her other children will have to go through Bonnie’s slaying every few years.
“It’s a terrible legacy to leave to my other children,” she said.
Ruffin is serving a sentence of life without parole, Hayes said. Morgan is eligible for parole consideration, and his review is in March, he said.
The death sentence given to High for Bonnie’s murder withstood the appellate process. He was executed in 2001.