Magnet Fisherman Retrieves Key Evidence in a 9-Year-Old Murder

by Vern Evans

Earlier this month a magnet fisherman turned up new evidence related to a double homicide from 2015, in which an elderly couple, Bud and Jane Runion of Marietta, Georgia, were murdered. Over two days of dredging on April 14 and April 16, the magnet fisherman (whose identity remains unavailable to the public) pulled a .22-caliber rifle, drivers’ licenses, and credit cards from Horse Creek, a tributary of the Ocmulgee River in the town of McRae-Helena, according to a press release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

As a result of the findings, investigators executed two search warrants at a home in McRae-Helena, where they found more evidence to enter into the investigation both times. Currently, the primary suspect in the case is a man named Ronnie Adrian “Jay” Towns, 28, who allegedly lured the victims to his home under the guise that he had a 1966 Mustang for sale, a car that Bud was interested in purchasing. The couple drove over three hours from Marietta to McRae in January 2015 to see the car and meet Towns. Both victims died of gunshot wounds to the head from a .22-caliber gun. Investigators found their bodies lying off a county road. Their SUV was parked at Towns’ residence. 

Towns was charged with malice murder and armed robbery almost immediately after the bodies were discovered on Jan. 26. But his case was thrown out in 2019 for complications with jury selection. He was charged again in 2020 and pleaded not guilty. A trial is tentatively scheduled for August of this year, although no date has been set and the process is moving slowly. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, the Associated Press reports.

Magnet fishermen often pull all sorts of weapons and other eyebrow-raising items out of the waters they search. In one case from 2022, a trio of magnet fishermen entered a Georgia military base and pulled dozens of rockets, large-caliber ammunition, and other explosives out of a river. The law around keeping guns found while magnet fishing is murky. But experienced magnet fishermen like Bryce Nachtwey encourage their peers to turn guns and other weapons into local police. 

“It’s the right thing to do,” Nachtwey told Outdoor Life in 2022. “If it was used in a murder and that was the one piece of evidence they were looking for, I’d rather help bring closure to the family than have something hanging up on my wall.”

Read Next: As Magnet Fishing Booms, More Guns Are Being Pulled from America’s Waters. Can Magnet Fishers Legally Keep Them?

In this case, the magnet fisherman’s choice to contact local authorities led to even more evidence discovery beyond the gun, cards, and cell phone, making those items crucial keys to the chain of proof prosecutors will present when Towns’ case eventually goes to trial. 

“It was a good case already,” county prosecutor Tim Vaughn told the AP on Tuesday. “But this makes it an even better case.”

Read the full article here

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