Newton County Superior Court Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr signed a warrant Friday for the execution of Melbert Ray Ford Jr who was convicted of killing his girlfriend and her niece in 1986.
Ford is scheduled to be executed during a seven-day widow beginning at 12 p.m. Feb. 23 and ending March 2. There is no specific time and date set as of yet. Ford is currently housed in the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson. Johnson signed the execution order after the United States Supreme Court denied Ford’s appeal of the Federal District Court’s decision to deny him habeas corpus relief on Jan. 25.
He was convicted in 1987 for the 1986 killing of former girlfriend Martha Chapman Matich and her 11-year-old niece Lisa Chapman during a robbery of Chapman’s Grocery Store which was located on Ga. Highway 81.
According to records from the court, Ford and Matich had a romantic relationship, and when it broke, up he allegedly began harassing her by phone. Ford spoke to several people about robbing the store she worked at and told at least one person that he intended to kill Matich, according to records.
"Finally, Ford met 19-year-old Roger Turner, who was out of a job and nearly out of money," reads the transcript. "By plying him with alcohol, and promising him that they could easily acquire $8,000, Ford persuaded Turner to help him. They drove in Turner’s car to Chapman’s Grocery, arriving just after closing time. Ford shot away the lower half of the locked and barred glass door and entered the store. Turner, waiting in the car, heard screams and gunshots. Then Ford ran from the store to the car, carrying a bag of money."
The store’s burglar alarm sounded at 10:20 p.m., according to the transcripts, and when the Newton County Sheriff’s deputy arrived at 10:27 p.m., he reportedly found Matich lying dead behind the counter shot three times. Chapman was found in the bathroom. She had been shot in the head but was still alive, sitting on a bucket, bleeding from the head and having convulsions. She died later — never able to answer questions about the incident.
Both Ford and Turner were arrested the next day, and Turner confessed first. Ford allegedly told investigators the shooting began after Matich pushed the alarm button. He also said at trial that he was "too drunk to know what was happening and that it was Turner who entered the store and killed the victims."
At his trial Ford was convicted of burglary, possession of a firearm during a crime, armed robbery and murder — for which he was sentenced to death.
He had been previously convicted in 1978 of terroristic threats and actions and criminal trespassing out of Cobb County.
Ford can still apply for relief through the state Board of Pardons and Parole to have his sentenced commuted from death to life in prison.