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Execution set for Dawson County man
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A Dawson County man is scheduled to be executed for the brutal beating and shooting death of a 1985 Dawson County High School graduate who was studying to be an accountant.

The office of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens yesterday issued a statement that Tommy Lee Waldrip, 68, is scheduled to be executedJuly 10 at 7 p.m.for the murder of Keith Lloyd Evans.

Waldrip is the oldest man on Georgias death row.

The execution will take place at Jackson State Prison in Jackson, Ga., according to Lauren Kane, communications director, at Olens office.

My brother, Keith Evans, was 23-years-old with a promising future ahead of him, Evans sister, Angela DeCoursey, said yesterday. He was attending Gainesville College and studying to be an accountant and working as a night manager at the Cumming Food Center.

Evans disappeared shortly after leaving work at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, 1991. Two hours later, his nearly new pickup truck was found on fire in a densely wooded area, off Highway 52, near the Dawson-Forsyth line.

Evans was the only eyewitness to an armed robbery of the Food Center by Waldrips son, John Mark Waldrip, 22, and Howard K. Livingston, Tommy Lees brother-in-law, in the summer of 1989.

Evans worked as a clerk in the store at the time of the armed robbery.

In 1990, Evans testified for the state against the younger Waldrip.

Although Waldrip was convicted, the trial court granted his motion for a new trial, and he was released on bond pending the retrial, according to documents in Waldrip vs. The State.

The retrial was set for Monday, April 15.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Saturday afternoon, two days before the retrial, John Mark and his fathers brother-in-law, Howard Livingston, drove to Cleveland, Ga., and bought a used station wagon for $150, which they returned a half-hour later because it was overheating, according to court records.

That evening, John Mark called and threatened Robert Garner, who was also scheduled to testify against him.

At approximately 9:30 p.m., father and son--Tommy Lee, then 44, and John Mark--left their Dawson County apartment in Linda Waldrips Ford Tempo.

Linda is Tommy Lees wife.

Sometime between 10:30 p.m.and midnight, the pair saw Evans on Highway 9, ran his truck off the road, and shot him in the face and neck with birdshot, records show.

Since Evans was still alive, the co-indictee drove his truck, with Evans in the passenger seat, to Hugh Stowers Road, where they beat him to death with a blackjack, according to Waldrip vs. The State.

A blackjack is a short leather-covered club typically filled with lead.

DeCoursey said her family is still suffering.

Its been 23 years since he was brutally beaten, shot, and buried in a shallow grave, she said. His death and the months following were extremely difficult for us.

The Waldrip family could not be reached for comment.

LAW ENFORCEMENT REMEMBERS

At the time of the murder in 1991, Randy Chester served as the Dawson County sheriff.

I still feel for the family, he said. I think its ridiculous hes been on death row as long as he has. Its time for justice to be served. I had never seen anything so brutal.

Keith was a fine young man, never in any trouble. He was just the witness to a crime, and they eliminated the witness.

House Rep. Kevin Tanner, then a Dawson County sheriffs deputy for just 13 months, said the community was devastated.

It was a case that rocked the community, he said. In all my years of law enforcement, I dont remember a more brutal killing. It is especially tragic since he was an innocent employee at a grocery store who witnessed a crime. He wasnt in any way connected or involved.

He was an innocent young man trying to do the right thing.

Tanner said law enforcement agencies, at the time, worked collectively to solve the case.

There was a task force made up of multiple counties, mostly Dawson and Forsyth, and district attorneys from both counties, who came together for daily briefings. ... We didnt know who would have jurisdiction. I havent seen since then the number of investigators and officers who worked collectively to solve this.

In 1991, Andrew Fuller and Raymond George served as Dawsons district attorneys. Lee Darragh was the chief assistant.

They did an outstanding job, Tanner said. This case has stood up, appeal after appeal, after all these years. Were where we are today because of their efforts.

WHAT NEXT?

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has scheduled a clemency hearing for July 9. It is closed to the public, according to Steven Hayes, public affairs officer, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Executions in Georgia are carried out by lethal injection.

Gov. Nathan Deal last year signed HB 122, which allows the identity of people or entities participating in the execution to be kept secret, including: any person or entity that manufacturers, supplies, compounds, or prescribes drugs, medical supplies or equipment.

Since the law passed last year, the information is classified as a confidential state secret.

Rep. Tanner sponsored the bill.

We have a duty to protect the safety of all individuals who carry out Georgia law, he said. Waldrip was found guilty by a jury of his peers.

The Superior Court of Dawson County filed the order Monday setting the time frame for Tommy Lee Waldrips execution.For their part, John Mark and Howard Livingston are serving life sentences, records show.

Earlier this month, Marcus A. Wellons, 41, was executed by lethal injection for the rape and murder of 15-year-old India Roberts in Cobb County. He was sentenced to death in June 1993.