314 S.E.2d 621 (Ga. 1984), 40350, Felker v. State

Docket Nº40350.
Citation314 S.E.2d 621, 252 Ga. 351
Opinion JudgeBELL, Justice.
Party NameFELKER v. The STATE.
Attorney[252 Ga. 385] Fred M. Hasty, S. Phillip Brown, Brown, Katz, Flatau & Hasty, Macon, for Ellis Wayne Felker. Theron Finlayson, Dist. Atty., Perry, Michael J. Bowers, Atty. Gen., Eddie Snelling, Jr., for the State.
Case DateMarch 15, 1984
CourtSupreme Court of Georgia

Page 621

314 S.E.2d 621 (Ga. 1984)

252 Ga. 351

FELKER

v.

The STATE.

No. 40350.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

March 15, 1984

Rehearing Denied March 29, 1984.

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[252 Ga. 385] Fred M. Hasty, S. Phillip Brown, Brown, Katz, Flatau & Hasty, Macon, for Ellis Wayne Felker.

Theron Finlayson, Dist. Atty., Perry, Michael J. Bowers, Atty. Gen., Eddie Snelling, Jr., for the State.

BELL, Justice.

Late in the morning of December 8, 1981, the body of 19-year-old Evelyn Joy Ludlam was found floating in Scuffle Creek, in Twiggs County, near a bridge on the "Cochran short route." She had been missing for two weeks and the last person known to have seen her alive was the appellant, Ellis Wayne Felker.

Felker was charged in Houston County with murder, robbery, rape, aggravated sodomy, and false imprisonment. At trial, a verdict of not guilty was directed on the robbery count, and a jury convicted Felker on the remaining counts. Felker was sentenced to death for the murder. We affirm.

The victim, Joy Ludlam, was a student at Macon Junior College and worked as a cocktail waitress at the Holiday Inn in Warner Robins. Her parents were residents of Macon but, about 10 months [252 Ga. 352] prior to her death, Joy had moved to Warner Robins to live with an older woman whom Joy had met through church. Not being entirely satisfied with her job at the Holiday Inn (her religious beliefs did not allow her to work Friday nights or Saturdays), Joy had begun to seek other employment prior to her death.

On Monday evening, November 23, 1981, between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m., Wayne Felker visited the lounge where Joy worked. He was wearing a T-shirt advertising "The Leather Shoppe," a business that he owned in Warner Robins.

Felker had been convicted in 1976 of aggravated sodomy. In April of 1981, shortly after his release from prison, Felker opened his leather shop. A neighboring businessman testified that from April until June, Felker's business gradually increased. Felker began to lose interest in the business, however, and, from September onward, was seldom there. His neighbor collected his mail for him. Felker attributed his disinterest to his romance with Patricia Woods, whom he met not long after he opened his business. Felker testified that after he and Ms. Woods began living together, he "more or less let the business fail." He admitted that the shop's checking account was overdrawn the night he met Joy Ludlam and that he had been making ends meet by borrowing money from his parents (who owned the house in which he lived), and by selling some of his furniture.

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Nonetheless, when Joy noticed Felker's T-shirt advertising his business, a conversation ensued which culminated in an offer of employment, pursuant to which they were to meet the next day.

Pat Woods had left Felker the previous Saturday after he had blackened both of her eyes, so he was alone Tuesday morning when Joy arrived. A neighbor, who had been asked by Felker's mother to keep track of the cars visiting Felker's house, noticed Joy's arrival at approximately 9:00 a.m. and wrote down the tag number of her car. The neighbor testified that the car was gone by 11:00 a.m.

Felker testified that he was at home awaiting a hoped-for call from Pat Woods. He testified that, when Joy arrived and wanted to see the shop, he told her that he was expecting a call and couldn't go then.

Joy returned to her residence at approximately 2:00 p.m. A visitor to the residence, Ms. Akins, testified that, some time after 2:30 p.m., Joy made a telephone call during which she mentioned that she "would like to see the shop." According to Ms. Akins, Joy left around 5:00 p.m. wearing a long, plaid coat.

At approximately 6:30 p.m., Joy called the manager of the Holiday Inn lounge and told him that the mother of the lady with whom she lived was in the hospital and that Joy wanted to stay with [252 Ga. 353] her. The manager gave her the night off.

When Guy Starling, office manager of the Trust Company Bank in Warner Robins, left work Tuesday evening, between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., he noticed an automobile parked in the bank's parking lot that did not belong to any of the bank's employees. He wrote down the tag number. The car was still there the next day.

Irma Anthony, with whom Joy lived, spent Tuesday night at the hospital with her mother. She returned home Wednesday morning to discover that Joy was not there. As evening approached and Joy still had not returned, she went to the police, taking with her a photograph of Joy and a napkin on which had been written Felker's telephone number and the address of his leather shop. Two officers visited Felker Wednesday evening at approximately 5:30 p.m. Felker told them that he had met Joy the previous evening pursuant to his offer of employment. He told them that she had left his shop at around 6:00 p.m. because that was when the shop closed. He said that they had traveled in separate cars and that, although he had opened and closed the door for her, he never got into her car, nor had she got into his. He stated that when he last saw her, she was wearing a plaid coat and a red dress.

Joy's mother, having been informed of her daughter's disappearance, drove to Warner Robins on Thursday to search for her. Mrs. Ludlam found Joy's car parked in the parking lot of the Trust Company Bank at about 2:30 p.m. The car was locked. She notified the police, who subsequently searched the car and found, on the front seat, a notebook opened to a page on which was written, in Joy's handwriting: "I'm going to Atlanta to eat dinner with Wayne and some of his friends. They are GS-11's on base. Joy."

On December 1, with Joy still unlocated, investigators questioned Pat Woods, who had resumed her cohabitation with Felker. Soon afterwards, Felker collected some of his pornographic magazines and his bondage cuffs (3-inch wide leather straps with "watch-band" buckles) and threw them in a garbage dumpster.

On Tuesday, December 8, 1981, two weeks after she disappeared, Joy's body was discovered in Scuffle Creek by a mechanic who was searching the right-of-way along the Cochran short route, looking for discarded bottles and cans. She was clothed in the same plaid coat and red dress that she had been wearing when last seen alive.

An autopsy was conducted the following morning. Warren Tillman, a medical examiner with the state crime lab, observed that pantyhose and underwear were still on the body but that the crotch of each had been ripped out. On her face, around her eyes and mouth, were lines of a whitish material

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which, on examination, appeared to [252 Ga. 354] be an adhesive substance. Tillman noted hemorrhaging inside the eyelids indicative of asphyxiation, and contusions at the junction of the lips indicative of some sort of force against her mouth. On her neck was a long, narrow area of bruising. On her breasts, he observed ecchymotic hemorrhage consistent with having been induced by suction. There were bruise marks on her left shoulder and on her right thigh. There were marks on her left wrist and on her ankles consistent with their having been bound. Tillman observed areas of contusion around the vagina and anus, which was distended, indicating traumatic entry of these orifices. On internal examination, Tillman noticed an area of hemorrhage near the second, left rib, that had no associated surface bruising, which was consistent with force having been applied by an object such as a fist or a foot. He observed a number of areas of subgaleal hemorrhage on the inside of the scalp. However, there was no evidence of brain hemorrhage. Examination of the lungs indicated that Joy had been dead when she was placed in the water. Tillman concluded that the cause of death was asphyxiation from strangulation.

Establishing a time of death proved difficult. Tillman's original estimate, based on the state of decomposition of the body, was that Joy had been dead 3 to 5 days, or possibly longer--the immersion of the body in the water complicated the determination. After receiving information regarding air temperature, and reviewing other case histories involving bodies immersed in water, Tillman concluded that Joy had been dead at least three to five days, and that she could have been dead for two weeks.

On February 4, 1982, Joy's body was exhumed. Sections of tissue were taken from bruised areas on her body. Dr. James Whitaker, medical examiner for Houston County, microscopically examined these tissue samples to ascertain the extent of "margination." Dr. Whitaker concluded that the bruises had been inflicted within 4 to 6 hours prior to death.

On February 16, 1982, a hunter found Joy's purse on the north side of Highway 96, near the Houston-Twiggs county line, 3 to 4 miles west of the intersection of Highway 96 and the Cochran short route. Besides her driver's license and college I.D., the purse contained a "Mickey Mouse" pendant which Joy habitually wore on a chain necklace. The necklace itself was never found.

Between December 8, 1981, and March 29, 1982, Felker's house and car were searched several times. Hairs and fibers were collected and microscopically compared with hairs and fibers found on the body. Fibers found on the victim's coat were consistent with fibers present in a yellow and orange blanket first observed in Felker's home and later retrieved by police from his parents. Fibers similar to those [252 Ga. 355] of the victim's coat material were found in the hatchback area of Felker's automobile. Hairs were found on the victim's clothes, including her underclothes, and on her body, that were similar to Felker's head and beard hair. Hairs adhering to two handkerchiefs in the victim's pocketbook were similar to Felker's head hair....

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