COVINGTON -- Newton County Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn has ordered that the execution for convicted murderer Melbert Ray Ford go forward between the dates of June 9 and June 16. The execution is now set to take place at 7 p.m. on June 9, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Ford, who has been on death row for 23 years, was previously set to be executed by lethal injection on Feb. 23 at Jackson Diagnostic Prison. He was, however, granted a 90-day stay in mid-February due to the fact that there was a vacancy on the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. A court had previously held that to go forward with an execution without a full five-member board is a violation of the Georgia Constitution.
Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed Albert Murray, former Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice commissioner, to replace Milton E. "Buddy" Nix, whose term expired Dec. 31. Murray's term began May 15, and expires Dec. 31, 2016. The appointment opened the way for a new execution date to be set.
Ford was convicted in 1987 of killing his former girlfriend, Martha Chapman Matich, and Lisa Chapman, her 11-year-old niece, in a 1986 robbery at Chapman's Grocery store on Ga. Highway 81.
According to court records, Ford had told a friend that he "was going to blow her ... brains out," and devised a plan to rob the store, saying he intended to kidnap Ms. Matich, take her into the woods, make her beg and then shoot her in the forehead.
"At 10:20 p.m. (on March 6, 1986), the store's burglar alarm sounded. A Newton County sheriff's deputy arrived at 10:27 p.m. Ms. Matich was lying dead behind the counter, shot three times. Lisa Chapman was discovered in the bathroom, shot in the head but still alive, sitting on a bucket, bleeding from the head and having convulsions. She could answer no questions. She died later," court records state.
Ford was convicted of two counts of murder, armed robbery, burglary and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to death on each of the murder convictions.
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, other Newton County inmates also awaiting execution are William David Riley Sr. and Bryan Keith Terrell. If executed, Ford will be the 24th inmate put to death by lethal injection in Georgia.
There are currently 104 inmates, including one woman, on death row.