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Two held in slayings

Couple’s bodies pulled from river

POSTED: December 23, 2009 4:00 a.m.
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Benjamin Kelly Mullinax

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Authorities are trying to determine what led to a fatal family confrontation over the weekend on the Amicalola River.

  

Monday afternoon, Dawson County Magistrate Judge Tony Tarnacki denied bond for a Dawsonville man and his nephew, who have been charged in the slaying of the elder man’s stepdaughter and her husband from southeast Georgia.

  

Jesse James Kilgore, 40, and Benjamin Kelly Mullinax, 27, each face two counts of murder and two counts of tampering with evidence in the shooting deaths of Jennifer and Paul Budrawich.

  

A preliminary hearing for the suspects, who were arrested Sunday, has been set for 10 a.m. Jan. 19 in Dawson County Superior Court.

  

Jennifer Budrawich, 22, was found dead Sunday afternoon in the Amicalola River, a day after authorities received a frantic 911 call from a woman saying she was going to be shot.

  

The body of Paul Budrawich, 35, was pulled from the river Monday morning.

The couple, who had traveled from Effingham County, was last heard from early Saturday.

  

Dawson County Sheriff’s Lt. Tony Wooten said the couple was killed with a small caliber handgun near Amicalola Church Road in western Dawson.

Kilgore is Jennifer Budrawich’s stepfather and also the father of one of her three children.

  

The children, ages 4, 2 and 9 months, live with relatives in Dawson and Pickens counties. Wooten said they are safe.

  

Authorities said Kilgore is currently married to Jennifer Budrawich’s mother, whose name has not been released.

  

The timeline of Kilgore’s relationship with the women is not clear.

  

Budrawich’s mother spoke to investigators Sunday and Monday, Wooten said, noting the families of the slain couple do not want to talk to the media.

  

The 911 call came in about 9:30 a.m. Saturday, launching the investigation.

  

On the recording, a woman’s voice can be heard asking, “Why are you shooting us? Why did you bring me down here to the river?”

  

Authorities say Kilgore shot Jennifer and Paul Budrawich and dragged their bodies into the river Saturday after they arranged to meet them at the Six Mile canoe put-in.

  

Mullinax, who is Kilgore’s nephew, was present at the time of the shootings, authorities said.

  

Mullinax was first charged with tampering with evidence. The charges were upgraded to murder Monday.

  

Both Mullinax and Kilgore said in court Monday that they had spoken with representatives from the Dawson County Public Defender’s office.

  

Kilgore said he was represented by Senior Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill.

  

As of Tuesday, McNeill had not returned phone calls seeking comment.

  

The couple left their southeast Georgia home about 5:30 a.m. Friday en route to Dawsonville to see Jennifer Budrawich’s son and then to Jasper to visit the other two children.

  

Jennifer Budrawich’s most recent post on an online social networking page states she was thinking “about my babies. I miss them so much.”

  

According to Effingham County Sheriff’s reports, Paul Budrawich’s family received a text message from his phone over the weekend and saw photos online that showed the couple with the children.

  

The relatives, however, have told Effingham investigators the photos appear to have been fabricated.

  

The report also states that Jennifer Budrawich’s mother received a phone call at 8 a.m. Saturday that the couple was about five minutes away from the scheduled meeting.

  

They did not show up.

  

Their vehicle was found about 11 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of a grocery store in neighboring Pickens County.

  

Evidence found in the vehicle and a truck in Dawson County, as well as video surveillance from the grocery store, led investigators to Kilgore.

  

Kilgore, who has spent time in prison on a felony theft conviction, is no stranger to local authorities.

  

He was one of three Dawsonville men arrested in June when authorities recovered thousands of dollars of stolen goods taken earlier in the year from two local homes.

  

Kilgore, his 19-year-old son, Jessie Archie Kilgore, and James Adam Rogers, 30, are accused of taking household fixtures, appliances and furniture to furnish a home the elder Kilgore was building in western Dawson.

  

All three were indicted in September on numerous theft charges.

  

Patrick Donahue from The Effingham Herald contributed to this story.

 

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