DAWSONVILLE — An execution date has been set for Georgia death row inmate Tommy Lee Waldrip, who was convicted in the murder of a Forsyth County grocery store manager more than 20 years ago.
Waldrip, who has been on death row since 1994 for the 1991 beating and shooting death of 23-year-old Keith Lloyd Evans of Dawsonville, is scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m. July 10.
At 68, he is the oldest death row inmate in Georgia.
The date was set after the Superior Court of Dawson County filed an order setting the seven-day window for the execution between July 10-17.
Evans’ sister, Angela DeCoursey, said Monday the family plans to attend the execution.
“We will be there. This gives the family at least some closure,” she said. “We’ve been kept closely informed by the attorney general’s office. We’re just thankful that some progress was being made.”
Evans, who worked as the night manager of the Food Center on Hwy. 9 in Cumming, was an eyewitness to a robbery Waldrip's son, John Mark Waldrip, and his brother-in-law, Howard Kelly Livingston, were accused of committing at the grocery store two years earlier.
Evans was set to testify in court the Monday after his family reported him missing.
Decoursey said she didn’t remember Evans being nervous about testifying in the case.
“He was a very protective brother,” she said. “He wouldn’t talk to us about it. He was very protective over his family and would not discuss the court case or anything with us.”
Evans had called his mom moments before leaving work the night of April 13, 1991, saying he was on his way home to type a term paper for college. Just after midnight, a friend spotted his truck on fire.
The investigation revealed that Evans had been en route home when he was confronted by Tommy Lee Waldrip, John Mark Waldrip and Livingston.
After running his truck off the road, they fired at him through the windshield. He was hit in the neck and face with birdshot, but was still alive when they took over the vehicle, drove him to Hugh Stowers Road and beat him to death with a blackjack.
Tommy Lee Waldrip confessed to shooting and beating Evans and to burning his truck.
He then led authorities to the shotgun used in the crime and to Evans’ body, which was buried in a shallow grave in nearby Gilmer County, just 2.5 miles north of the Dawson County line.
In October 1994, a jury found Tommy Lee Waldrip guilty of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, kidnapping with bodily injury and aggravated battery.
He also was convicted of five counts of aggravated assault, theft by taking motor vehicle, arson in the second degree, including a witness and concealing a death.
In addition, he was found guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to death.
In separate trials, John Mark Waldrip and Livingston were sentenced to life in prison for their part in the slaying.
Tommy Lee Waldrip has exhausted his direct appeal proceedings, as well as his state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.
His last attempt to overturn the death sentence, orally argued before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2013, was denied in August. His request to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied May 27, according to court records.
DeCoursey said her family learned on Friday that the execution date has been set. Since then, there has been an outpouring of support from community members, many of whom knew Evans and have followed the legal process over the last 23 years.
“The community supported us. We attend Bethel Baptist Church. They were very supportive then and continue to be, just like the community now,” she said.
“The word’s got out. I’ve had an outpouring, I mean an overwhelming response from the community and his classmates. It’s just been amazing how much the community still remembers.”
Described as caring, intelligent and responsible, Evans was attending what was then Gainesville College with plans to pursue a career in accounting when he was murdered.
“We were all very proud of him. People are always telling us stories we didn’t even know anything about,” DeCoursey said.
“There was a lady he worked with and she was having a difficult time with some of her children and grandchildren. Keith was secretly — he never told us — he was buying the children clothes and shoes, and we did not know this until he passed away.”