The Murder of Bud and June Runion

Coupled Lured by Reply to Their Craigslist Ad

Bud and June Runion
Bud and June Runion. Telfair County Sheriff

On Jan. 22, 2015, Bud and June Runion disappeared after driving from their Cobb County home north of Atlanta to McRae in south Georgia to check out a 1966 Mustang for which they had placed a wanted ad online. Their bodies were found four days later in a wooded area near where their vehicle was pulled from a secluded pond. They both had been shot in the head.

Here are the latest developments in the murders of Bud and June Runion.

Death Penalty Sought in Runion Case

June 23, 2015 - Prosecutors have announced they will seek the death penalty in the case of a Georgia couple who were lured to their deaths with a Craigslist advertisement for a classic car. Ronnie Adrian Towns will face possible execution if he is convicted of the murders of Bud and June Runion.

Telfair County District Attorney Tim Vaughn filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty in the deaths off 69-year-old Bud Runion and 66-year-old June Runion, who drove from Marietta to McRae, Georgia in hopes of buying a 1966 Ford Mustang from Towns.

Investigators said the vehicle never existed and Towns used the online advertising to commit malice murder and armed robbery.

Accused Killer Had Other Targets

April 10, 2015 - A Georgia man accused of luring a retired couple to their deaths by answering their Craigslist ad for an antique car also targeted other victims by using a throw-away cell phone, court papers revealed.

Ronnie "Jay" Towns bought a pay-as-you-go cell phone to contact Bud and June Runion, who were found shot to death in Telfair County, after they drove from their Marietta home to purchase a 1966 Mustang Towns claimed to have for sale.

Prosecutor Joshua Powell said in a court hearing that Towns already had a personal cell phone, but bought another phone to contact the Runions and others.

"The cell phone that was used to communicate with the Runions was a TracFone. Mr. Jay Towns had a personal cell phone, but instead decided to buy this second telephone to contact the Runions," Powell said.

A GBI investigation found that the same TracFone was used to contact others on Craigslist.

"Towns was in contact with multiple other individuals concerning (them) coming to Telfair County, the same address that was given to the Runions, to look at other vehicles," Powell told the court.

Couple Lured to Their Deaths by Reply to Craigslist Ad

Jan. 27, 2015 - On Jan. 19, Elrey "Bud" Runion placed a wanted ad on Craigslist looking for a 1966 Mustang. He was excited when he received a reply from a south Georgia man who claimed to have for sale one of the classic vehicles like Bud drove when he returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam.

On Thursday, Jan. 22, Bud, 69, and his wife June, 66, set out from their home in Cobb County, north of Atlanta, to drive to the small community of McRae, about 80 miles south of Macon. They planned to return home the same day.

Family members said the Runions took their cell phones and chargers with them and insist that the couple was not carrying any significant cash with them on the trip, but Bud Runion did intend on buying the 1966 Mustang.

When the Runions failed to show up the next day to babysit their grandchildren, their daughters reported them missing.

Last Phone Call Traced

Investigators, using telephone records, traced the last call Bud Runion made to a cell phone in Telfair County. They linked that cell phone to Ronnie Adrian "Jay" Towns, 28, of McRae.

After interviewing Towns, Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson said what Towns told detectives didn't match the facts in the case. The Sheriff said his investigation also found no record that Towns owned a 1966 Mustang.

He issued a warrant on Sunday, Jan. 25, for Towns for making false statements to investigators and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception.

Vehicle, Bodies Found in Woods

On Monday, Jan. 26, Towns turned himself into the Sheriff. Relatives of Towns set up a meeting with Towns and investigators and he was taken into custody at that meeting, Steverson said.

After Towns turned himself in, searchers found the Runion's 2003 GMC Envoy in a secluded, rural pond near land that is owned by Towns. Nearby in the woods, they found two bodies.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, those bodies were officially identified as Bud and June Runion. They died as a result of gunshots to the head, Steverson said.

Later Tuesday, Towns was arraigned at the Telfair County courthouse on charges of malice murder and armed robbery. Towns, who was wearing black and white prison stripes during the brief hearing, was ordered held without bond.

A Heinous Act

Sheriff Steverson said the McRae community has been shaken by the accusations.

"This community feels betrayed," Steverson said. "For an individual who was raised in this community to have orchestrated such a heinous act, we are very upset to say the least."

Family members were also puzzled by the charges against Towns, who lives with his wife and young daughter.

"He's a good kid, and very smart," said his uncle, Buddy Towns. "It just doesn't make any sense why this would even go down. It's hard for his parents. They're not understanding."

Well-Loved Church Members

The deaths of the Runions hit their Marietta community hard, where the couple was described as well-loved and active members of their church. Married for 38 years, they were known for refurbishing bicycles and giving them away to children.

"Bud and June Runion are some of the most generous, loving people you'll ever want to know," their pastor, Dr. Mark Walker, told reporters. "They would be saying to us, don't mourn for us, we're where we want to be. You love that person (the suspect), you pray for that person, you forgive that person."

Before forgiving Towns, prosecutors in Telfair County will likely try to insure that at some point in the future, the State of Georgia puts a needle in his arm.