Nightrider and Lady Sundown: The Bonnie and Clyde of Georgia
The jury received the case on March 21, 1983, quite late in the afternoon. No one expected them to be ready with a verdict by midmorning the next day, but they were. They found Judith Ann Neelley guilty of the kidnap and murder of Lisa Millican. Yet they recommended that she be sentenced to life in prison rather than death. (Furio says they sentenced her to death.)
However, the sentence was up to Judge Cole, and he had written two opinions. Ultimately, he decided that while Judith had been young, she was also brazen and cruel. He thought the crime had been heinous and atrocious beyond that which is common to most capital cases, and sentenced her to death (Furio says to life, but her account is full of errors). Judith listened to this and began to cry. She was only eighteen years old.
Not wanting a second death sentence in another state, she pleaded guilty to the kidnap-murder of Janice Chatman in
It was the consensus of those who listened to the various witnesses that Judith was the brains behind the most serious of the couples offenses. It was she who had persuaded
Judith settled into the appeals process as an inmate at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka. She became the youngest woman to have been sentenced to death row. In a 1983 prison interview, quoted by Frasier and Cook, she reportedly said, I pray for strength. I dont ask God...for me not to be electrocuted. I just ask that if Im going to be electrocuted, to give me strength to go through it.