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“Fi­nally, Ford met 19year-old Roger Turner, who was out of a job and nearly out of money,” reads a tran­script from Ford’s trial. “By ply­ing him with al­co­hol and promis­ing him that they could eas­ily ac­quire $8,000, Ford per­suaded Turner to help him. They drove in Turner’s car to Chap­man’s Gro­cery, ar­riv­ing just af­ter clos­ing time. Ford shot away the lower half of the locked and barred glass door and en­tered the store. Turner, wait­ing in the car, heard screams and gun­shots. Then Ford ran from the store to the car, car­ry­ing a bag of money.”

The store’s bur­glar alarm sounded at 10:20 p.m., ac­cord­ing to the tran­scripts, and when the Newton County Sher­iff’s deputy ar­rived at 10:27 p.m., he re­port­edly found Martha ly­ing dead be­hind the counter. She had been shot three times with a .32 cal­iber pis­tol. Lisa Re­nee Chap­man, 11, was found in the bath­room. She had been shot in the head but was still alive, sit­ting on a bucket, bleed­ing from the head and con­vuls­ing. She died later — never able to an­swer ques­tions about the in­ci­dent.

Both Ford and Turner were ar­rested the next day, and Turner con­fessed first. Ford al­legedly told in­ves­ti­ga­tors the shoot­ing be­gan af­ter Martha pushed the alarm but­ton. He also said at his trial that he was, “too drunk to know what was hap­pen­ing and that it was Turner who en­tered the store and killed the vic­tims.”

Ford was con­victed of bur­glary, pos­ses­sion of a firearm dur­ing a crime, armed rob­bery and murder — for which he was sen­tenced to death on Oct. 23, 1986.

Cindy Chap­man-Grif­feth, the mother of Lisa, said in an in­ter­view Mon­day, “I feel like I have been at war, but in­stead of guns it has been a knife in my heart the whole time.

Af­ter the ex­e­cu­tion, as the sun was set­ting on the grounds of the prison, she said she felt clo­sure but wished that Ford had ad­mit­ted what he had done and asked her for­give­ness.

Chap­man-Grif­feth de­scribed her daugh­ter as a ten­der­hearted girl who loved an­i­mals, es­pe­cially horses, and peo­ple and was al­ways smil­ing and laugh­ing. She at­tended Liv­ingston Ele­men­tary School where stu­dents still stroll through a wing named in her honor. The young girl dreamed of be­com­ing a teacher one day.

“She liked to learn sign lan­guage and speak­ing to peo­ple who were im­paired,” said Chap­man-Grif­feth. “She loved uni­corns and walk­ing be­hind her daddy as he plowed the gar­den, push­ing the dirt be­tween her toes. She loved to help me cook and be­ing a big sis­ter. She was also saved the week be­fore she was mur­dered at a Bi­ble school at Prospect Methodist Church.”

Martha’s brother Paul de­scribed his sis­ter as a quiet, re­served girl who tended to be a fol­lower.

“She al­ways looked for the good in ev­ery in­di­vid­ual,” he said.

Paul said he met Ford only once, when he came to Ge­or­gia in 1985 for his mother’s fu­neral. He re­mem­bered notic­ing his con­trol­ling and ma­nip­u­la­tive be­hav­ior dur­ing a meal. Be­ing a Bap­tist min­is­ter, Paul was used to coun­sel­ing peo­ple.

“I took her aside and I told her that he was evil and she needed to put him aside,” said Paul. “She told me that she thought he would change. My sis­ter loved life and looked for the good in ev­ery­one. She tried to see the good in this man, or this mon­ster, and thought that maybe she could change him. But as we know, that didn’t take place.”

Martha’s fam­ily, who owned Chap­man’s Store where Martha and Lisa were killed, knew Ford was abu­sive through­out their roughly year-anda-half-long re­la­tion­ship. At one point, he tied her up in the trailer the two shared and burned and tor­tured her. Martha had to have a po­lice es­cort home ev­ery night af­ter work­ing at the store. Just be­fore her death she moved in with Chap­man-Grif­feth and her fam­ily.

The night of March 6, 1986, Martha and an­other woman were work­ing at the store, but the other woman went home sick. Lisa was at the store play­ing with the min­nows and crick­ets sold as bait and didn’t want to leave her aunt alone at the store.

Ac­cord­ing to the March 23, 1986, edi­tion of The Cov­ing­ton News, Turner con­fessed that, “Ford de­scribed killing Lisa Chap­man in the bath­room at the gro­cery. Turner said that Ford told him that she was crouched by the toi­let star­ing at him, so he felt he had to shoot her.

“She was beg­ging him not to do it in the bath­room where she went to hide,” said Chap­manGrif­feth Mon­day.

When asked what she would say to Ford if given the op­por­tu­nity, Chap­man-Grif­feth stum­bled.

“I don’t know what I would say to him,” she said. “I’m try­ing to find peace in my heart and I think this will help. I don’t think the man has any re­morse, and if he doesn’t, I hope he burns 70 times in Hell. He says he’s a changed man, but he’s never ad­mit­ted to do­ing it.

”Twenty-four years and 32 ap­peals and he’s never ad­mit­ted it.”

Paul said that he has for­given Ford be­cause that’s what God would want him to do.

“Some say the death penalty should not be car­ried out be­cause those were Old Tes­ta­ment laws, but I still be­lieve to this day that he should pay for what he’s done, and, there­fore, if he is put to death, he has re­ceived what he de­serves,” said Paul, adding that it would be eas­ier for him to for­give Ford if he ad­mit­ted to the mur­ders and apol­o­gized for com­mit­ting them.

Al­though the fam­i­lies of Ford’s vic­tims are in fa­vor of his ex­e­cu­tion, mem­bers of Ge­or­gians For Al­ter­na­tives to the Death Penalty or­ga­nized vig­ils protest­ing cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in cities across the state. About 15 pro­test­ers from the or­ga­ni­za­tion stood out­side of the prison dur­ing the ex­e­cu­tion.

“Ge­or­gians For Al­ter­na­tives to the Death Penalty de­nounces state killing in our names,” said Vice-Chair Kathryn Hamoudah in an e-mail. “We be­lieve that this ul­ti­mate pun­ish­ment is in­hu­mane, ar­bi­trary in ap­pli­ca­tion; per­pet­u­ates vi­o­lence and does noth­ing to keep our com­mu­ni­ties safer, nor does it ad­dress the needs of vic­tims’ fam­i­lies.”

The group is made up of “a coali­tion of in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions with a va­ri­ety of rep­re­sen­ta­tion, in­clud­ing those that min­is­ter to fam­i­lies of those on death row as well as murder vic­tim fam­ily mem­bers who op­pose the death penalty” ac- cord­ing to www.gfadp. org.

“We are here to keep vigil and stand against Ge­or­gia's ac­tions in tak­ing the life of Melbert Ray Ford tonight,” Hamoudah said. “We stand uni­fied as we re­mem­ber the loss of life that brings us to­gether and the vic­tims’ fam­ily.”

Katey Brown drove from Ma­con to the vigil, as she has for five other ex­e­cu­tions.

“I as a tax­payer and a voter am re­spon­si­ble and this is not what I con­sider an ap­pro­pri­ate way to pro­tect so­ci­ety,” Brown said.

Chap­man-Grif­feth, how­ever, feels dif­fer­ently.

“I think it should be done to him the same way he did it to my daugh­ter and my sis­ter-in-law,” she said of Ford’s ex­e­cu­tion. “I think lethal in­jec­tion is too good for him. That night I lost a part of my heart that will never be filled.”

Newton County Sher­iff Ezell Brown was a deputy at the time of Lisa and Martha’s murder and re­mem­bers vividly work­ing with other law en­force­ment of­fi­cers to bring their killer to jus­tice.

“I feel that the jus­tice sys­tem has car­ried out its re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­sur­ing that the vic­tims have jus­tice,” he said. “While their fam­i­lies still live with the hor­rific me­mory, at least they know that the per­pe­tra­tor has been brought to jus­tice. Twenty-four years ago other deputies and I had the re­spon­si­bil­ity of wit­ness­ing prob­a­bly the most grue­some crime of my en­tire 37 years in law en­force­ment. Im­me­di­ately we fo­cused our at­ten­tion on sus­pect Melbert Ray Ford and did not rest un­til we ar­rested Ford for his care­less acts. To­day our work is done.”

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