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Execution planned for Feb. 23

COVINGTON -- The Georgia Department of Corrections has announced that the execution of Melbert Ray Ford Jr. is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 23.

Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson signed an order last week setting a 7-day window for the execution beginning at noon Feb. 23.

"Ford can always apply for relief with the State Board of Pardons and Parole to have the sentence commuted from death to life. I'm sure he will follow that avenue," Newton County District Attorney Ken Wynne said in an earlier interview with the Citizen.

Ford was convicted in 1986 of killing his former girlfriend, Martha Chapman Matich, and Lisa Chapman, her 11-year-old niece, in a robbery at Chapman's Grocery store on Ga. Highway 81.

He is on Georgia's Death Row at Jackson Diagnostic and Classification Prison where he has been for 23 years. If executed, he will be the 24th inmate put to death by lethal injection in Georgia.

There are currently 104 inmates, including one woman, on Death Row in Georgia. Fifty-four are white and 50 are black. One hundred three were convicted of murder; one was convicted of kidnapping.

Other Newton County inmates also awaiting execution are William David Riley Sr. and Bryan Keith Terrell.