LAGRANGE, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man who pleaded guilty to killing his wife, three of her family members and a family friend was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Thomas J. Lee pleaded guilty but mentally ill after reaching an agreement with prosecutors, the LaGrange Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/1JdjJ8W).
Lee was charged in the Jan. 28 deaths of his wife, Christie Lee, 39; her daughter, Bailey Burtron, 16; Christie Lee's parents, William and Shelia Burtron, 69 and 68, respectively; and family friend Iiaonna Green, 18. Authorities say the five were killed at a home in Troup County, near the Alabama border and about 65 miles southeast of Atlanta.
Lee was arrested several days later at a bus station in Tupelo, Mississippi, after he told a pastor he was having car trouble and needed to get to Opelika, Alabama.
Sheriff's deputies found the victims' bodies on the evening of Jan. 31 after William Burtron's employer reported him missing. Caldwell said the deputies smelled a strong odor and noticed that a back door had been forced as they approached the house.
Troup County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Caldwell told the court Christie Lee's parents had been increasingly unhappy with Lee in the months before the slayings. He was having financial trouble, couldn't hold a steady job and neglected responsibilities around the house.
Investigators said Lee told them he bought the gun to kill himself and was about to do that when Bailey Burtron walked in on him. He told investigators he doesn't remember what happened next because he blacked out. Investigators believe Lee strangled the teen before fatally shooting the four others.
Information from: LaGrange Daily News, http://www.lagrangenews.com