The Union Recorder

August 1, 2013

Oxygen's 'Killer Couples' series revisiting story

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — A 1998 death penalty case tried in Baldwin County was re-visited once in 2009 through the Investigation Discovery Network “Wicked Attraction” program. The Oxygen Channel is working on its depiction of the John Anthony Esposito murder spree this week.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Fred Bright, who was lead prosecutor on the Georgia murder trial, said Jupiter Entertainment's executive producer is shooting for the program “Snapped: Killer Couples” through Friday.

The show features couples whose passion drives them to commit terrible criminal acts. The series profiles couples incarcerated for serious crimes, as well as the relationship dynamic that led to such violence.

Esposito awaits execution on Georgia's death row after years of endless appeals and his girlfriend accomplice, Alicia Woodward, is serving a life sentence in Atlanta. Esposito murdered three elderly people over a two-week period in 1996, aided by Woodward who served as the bait.

The production team will interview Chief Investigator Mark Robinson, who was also involved with Esposito's prosecution in 1998, and Bright at the Baldwin Courthouse Friday.

On Oct. 2, 1998, after a nine-day trial, a jury of eight men and four women took only two hours to convict Esposito for the 1996 bludgeoning death of 90-year-old Lola Davis of Lumberton, N.C.

The Esposito case was tried in Baldwin County after an accepted change of venue from the Morgan County location where Davis' body was discovered outside Madison in September 1996.

“We picked the jury here, and we tried the case here,” Bright said. “It was a two-week, knock-down-drag-out jury trial.” 

All of the evidence rests in the Superior Court Clerk's office as well.

Esposito and Woodward abducted Davis from a grocery store parking lot on Sept. 19, 1996, after Woodward persuaded Davis to give her a ride from the store to a location behind a nearby movie theater.

“Alicia was the bait,” Bright said.

Esposito then jumped into the car while Woodward took over as driver, kidnapping Davis.

The two then drove six hours to Madison where, in a hayfield only a few miles outside of town, Davis was ordered out of the car and then bludgeoned to death with a tree limb by Esposito, according to Bright.

Esposito and Woodward drove Davis' car to Alabama, disposing of the car and Davis' purse. 

“They used her money to stay in hotels and took a Greyhound bus to Oklahoma City, Okla.,” the DA said.

The car was later found to have fingerprints, palm prints and footprints matching Esposito's, while Esposito's DNA was discovered on a discarded cigarette in the car.

The couple later abducted and murdered Lawrence Merrill Snider and Marguarite Bertha Snider from Oklahoma City.

Lawrence was killed less than two weeks before his 91st birthday. Marguarite was 86 at the time of her death. 

Information surrounding the circumstances of the murder of the husband and wife couple was later used in the penalty phase of Esposito's murder trial.

The bodies of the Sniders were discovered in Texas on Oct. 3, 1996. Both had been beaten to death with a tire iron from the trunk of their car.

“The big case stretched across the entire country and involved law enforcement from North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. We literally went to every single crime scene and talked to every witness. This case would be to me the epitome of an awesome investigation which required the complete cooperation of all those law enforcement agencies involved,” Bright said back in 2009.

Esposito, when captured in Colorado, showed no remorse for his killing stating 'I don't have a conscience.' Bright said they were “still looking for another couple to rob and kill” saying they preyed on elderly people who couldn't run away.

The piece should air within six to eight months on Oxygen.

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