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19 years after murder, Jonesboro felon leads authorities to shallow grave

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

When the hazel-eyed man got out of the police car, it was the second time he had made the 2,120 mile round trip, a trip spanning the East Coast and connected by two murders.

Jerry W. Still, a 62-year-old Jonesboro felon, stood up, supported by a cane, and pointed to an abandoned well, near some woods on the west side of Coweta County. He pointed to a concrete slab, according to sheriff's deputies. He said the body was buried about 30 feet back in the woods.

The first time he was here, almost two decades ago, the body was in the trunk of a Cadillac Coup DeVille, wrapped in a motel blanket, riddled with 9 mm bullets, four days dead, and stinking.

This week, Still led police to a shallow grave, according to Coweta County Sheriff's Office Maj. James Yarbrough, where Charles W. Eagle was buried a few feet under ground, and under a pile of rocks.

Currently serving a life sentence for murder, in a Georgia penitentiary, Still could have been paroled in the autumn of his life. But Connecticut authorities extradited him, in April, to face charges related to a second murder, hoping to close a case and ensure the Jonesboro man would never go free. Still pled guilty, on Nov. 5, to manslaughter. He received a 15-year sentence from the Connecticut court, and agreed to show authorities where the body was buried. He fulfilled his end of a plea-bargain and closed a case that began in the fall of 1988

Still was released from the Clayton County Jail in September 1988, according to Clayton County court documents. Described as a "habitual violator," by county police, he had stark white hair, bulging hazel eyes, a history of drugs, a string of felony convictions and a fondness for firearms.

He told his family that he would never go to jail again. He was about to turn 43.

Still went to a nephew's house, in Forest Park, to collect a $4,000 debt and pick up the collection of guns he had left with the man, Charles Wright. The nephew later remembered they sat in the living room, watching TV and talking about guns. Wright showed his uncle his newest pistol, a .380, and Still picked it up and pointed it at Wright's wife, demanding money.

At that moment, according to Clayton County court records, 27-year-old Jewel Deree Wells opened the door. Still turned and shot her in the neck, killing her. As the young woman lay dying on the porch, Still said, "All I wanted was my money," and drove off in a black Pontiac Trans Am.

Still, then spent the next few days in hiding, authorities say, first with a married woman in Stockbridge and then, with his hair dyed brown and using an alias, in the Newnan Hotel in Coweta County. There, drinking at the bar, he met Eagle.

Eagle was an out-of-work, 47-year-old boilermaker, according to Connecticut court documents and Connecticut police. He was originally from California, but had last worked in Savannah, Ga., and had a wife in Chicamauga, Ga.

The two men, both rootless and looking for a change, decided to drive to Connecticut. Eagle said he had heard there was work there and Still, seeing an opportunity to put distance between himself and his murder, said he was looking to go north, too.

The two men drove Eagle's silver-colored Cadillac Coup DeVille north, one man drinking, the other driving, both talking about guns. When the pair got to Connecticut, however, they began fighting. Eagle started working, but Still couldn't get a union job as a boilermaker, and couldn't pay for his part of the rent-by-the-week room, according to an indictment passed down by a Connecticut grand jury. In November 1988, Eagle went to the front desk of the motel and told the clerk to cross Still's name off of the register.

It was, apparently, the last thing the 47-year-old ever said.

Three days later, a motel maid entered the room and found that the bed -- stripped of sheets and blankets -- had been shot-up with 9 mm bullets. Shell casings lay on the floor, and bloody hand and finger prints marked the motel room walls.

Still told his nephew, Charles Wright, that he shot Eagle while the man was sleeping, documents show. In the plea worked out in Connecticut, earlier this month, the felon maintained he had killed his roommate in self-defense. Wright reported, during a jury trial, that Still had put Eagle in the trunk of the Coup DeVille and driven around for four days, until the decaying smell filled the car. Still reportedly laughed, saying Eagle was so fat he was hard to fit in the trunk, and said Eagle's body "fell into a hole."

Opening up that hole, 19 years later, Coweta deputies found the body had, actually, been carefully buried in a shallow grave. In an area he knew through relatives, Still dug a hole, about two feet deep, buried Eagle, and covered the man's make-shift grave with rocks.

Authorities found bones wrapped in cloth, on Tuesday, in the rural, wooded area on the mostly undeveloped western side of Coweta County.

The 62-year-old man, who once ran more than 2,000 miles to avoid being held accountable for his murders, led authorities to the spot and pointed.

Finishing his second trip between the two murders, between Atlanta's south side and Connecticut, Still was then returned to the Georgia penitentiary.

The Associated Press contributed to this report