Bud Runion, 69, and his wife, June, 66, disappeared Thursday after the pair had posted an ad on Craigslist seeking to buy a vintage 1966 Ford Mustang convertible. Relatives said the Mustang was the couple’s dream car, one they’d wanted to buy since they were married decades ago, according to The Guardian.
The suspect, Ronnie “Jay” Towns, 28, responded to the ad, leading them to drive 3 hours away from their suburban Atlanta, Georgia home to buy the classic car, which he did not actually have.
The Runions’ daughters reported them missing after they didn’t show up to babysit their grandchildren. They told WSB-TV their parents left home with their cellphones and chargers, but no one had heard from them since 3:30pm on Thursday.
Authorities and volunteers searched for days in rural Telfair County, leading them to eventually find the couple’s SUV in a lake a few miles outside the tiny city of McRae on Monday. Shortly after, they discovered the two bodies with head bullet wounds nearby.
The suspect, Ronnie “Jay” Towns, 28, the owner of the phone that last communicated with the Runions’ phone, turned himself in the same day, accompanied by family members, and was charged with malice murder and armed robbery. Towns was initially charged with giving false statements and criminal attempt to commit theft by deception.
The arrest stunned Towns’s family. He grew up on a farm beside a long dirt road where his father grew soybeans, cotton and peanuts, not far from where the bodies were found. Towns lived in the nearby Wheeler County with his wife and a young daughter he supported by doing construction work for a local homebuilder, said his uncle, Buddy Towns. Towns had little or no criminal history, and he has so far pleaded not guilty in court.
“He’s a good kid, and very smart,” said the uncle. “It just doesn’t make any sense why this would even go down. It’s hard for his parents. They’re not understanding.”
KTLA reported that Josh Patterson, the deceased couple’s son-in-law, said, “Bud is a veteran. He and June are great people; they give so much, they are selfless.”
Craigslist has gained nationwide attention over the years for robberies, kidnappings, beatings, and murders, where customers were usually tricked or lured to a location and sometimes sellers have also been targeted.
Police are trying to change the safety measures of Craigslist since they feel that while Craigslist makes hundreds of millions each year, they don’t do nearly enough to ensure the safety of transactions.
Several police departments across the country are encouraging citizens to conduct transactions initiated through the web at police stations, according to CBS. It also highly advisable that potential buyers and sellers should meet in a public location.