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Man pleads in slayings
Admits shooting couple

A Dawson County man will spend the rest of his life in prison after admitting Monday he killed his 22-year-old stepdaughter and her husband late last year.

Northeastern Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Andrew Fuller sentenced Jessie James Kilgore, 40, to life without parole.

Kilgore is the second man to plead guilty in the deaths of Jennifer and Paul Budrawich, whose bodies were pulled from the Amicalola River over two days last December.

His nephew, Benjamin Kelly Mullinax, pleaded guilty April 5 to his role in the slayings.

Mullinax, 28, admitted he helped Kilgore arrange a meeting with the Budrawiches, who had traveled from Effingham County to visit their children, and was present when the shootings occurred Dec. 19

In a negotiated plea, he received two consecutive life sentence with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

Sitting in the courtroom Monday afternoon, with just his court-appointed attorneys by his side, Kilgore answered only "yes" and "yeah" when Fuller asked if he committed the crimes.

The victims' families wiped away tears, while Paul Budrawich's mother held a photo album of her 35-year-old son and his family close to her chest.

In a statement read by Katie Strayhorn, a victim's advocate with the Dawson County District Attorney's Office, Mary Budrawich told Kilgore how much she misses her son.

"I wanted my son to come home the last time he visited the boys, but he didn't make it back home alive," she wrote.

Joy Gaddis, Jennifer Budrawich's cousin who now has custody of the couple's two children, also asked Strayhorn to read her statement out of fear that Gaddis would not be able to control her "actions" or her "anger."

"You are such an evil, ignorant and selfish person that I don't think you even realize the devastation you have caused and more importantly what you have done to the lives of these little boys you brought into the middle of this nightmare," Gaddis said.

Standing before the court, Debbie Harris looked toward Kilgore as she told him the lives of her brother and his wife mattered.

"What right did you have to say Jennifer and Paul should die? God was with them every step of the way. I know that because you are in custody," she said.

Kilgore could have faced the death penalty had the case been tried.

"I do not wish you to get the death penalty," Harris told Kilgore. "I do not wish for you to get killed in prison. I do wish that you feel every ounce of pain that you made Jennifer feel till it keeps you awake at night.

"I wish you to keep her last words to ever be spoken. May god have mercy on your soul."

According to court testimony, Kilgore, who fathered Jennifer Budrawich's oldest son and is married to her mother, shot the couple over an ongoing child custody dispute.

Authorities found their bodies a day apart after receiving a 911 call from a woman saying she was going to be shot.

The call was from Jennifer Budrawich.

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

A man’s voice replied, “I’m going to kill both of you.”

Kilgore also pleaded guilty on Monday to a May 2009 burglary case. He was out on bond for the burglary arrest when he was arrested for the slayings.

Kilgore did not make any statement.

Public defender Brad Morris said he believed the sentence to be adequate.

District Attorney Lee Darragh said the timely closing of the murder case is a reflection of hours of hard work by local and state authorities.