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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Thomas J. Lee Mass Murder Case

     Thomas Jesse Lee, 26, resided with his 33-year-old wife Christie, her 16-year-old daughter Bailey, Christie's parents, and an 18-year-old friend of the family, Liaona Green. The clan lived in a suburban home outside of La Grange, Georgia, a town 80 miles southwest of Atlanta.

     On Saturday January 31, 2015, after 69-year-old William Burton, Thomas Lee's father-in-law, didn't show up for work for three days, and didn't answer his phone, his employer asked the Troup County Sheriff's Office to check on the family.

    Deputies went to the Burton home but didn't get a response when they knocked on the door. Because the dwelling was locked, the officers obtained a warrant to enter the dwelling. Once inside, the deputies encountered a murder scene comprised of five bodies.

     Deputies found Mr. Burton in the kitchen. He had been severely beaten then shot to death. Shelia Burton, his 67-year-old wife, lay dead in the master bedroom. She had been shot in the head. Thomas J. Lee's wife Christie had been shot to death to death in their bedroom. The teenage girls, Bailey and Liaona, had been murdered in their room. Liaona had been shot, Bailey strangled to death.

     The authorities immediately suspected that Thomas J. Lee had committed the mass murder. A local judge issued a warrant for the arrest of the six-foot-three, 190 pound fugitive. He had been last seen driving an olive green Mazda Tribute.

     On Monday afternoon February 2, 2015, Thomas J. Lee walked into a church in Corinth, Mississippi 250 miles from the scene of the murders. He told the pastor he had car trouble and needed a lift to Opelika, Alabama. The minister gave Lee money for a bus ticket and a member of the church drove him to the bus station in Tupelo, Mississippi.

     A few hours later, the pastor saw a news report about the Georgia murders on television. The reportage included a photograph of Lee. Realizing he had just helped a fugitive in a mass murder case, the pastor called the police.

     At five that Monday afternoon, police officers took Thomas J. Lee into custody at the Tupelo bus station where he was still waiting for his bus. The next day he was back in Georgia where he was booked into the Troup County Jail on five counts of malice murder. The judge denied him bond.

    On August 12, 2015, Thomas J. Lee pleaded guilty in Troup County Superior Court to five counts of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced the mass murderer to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

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