June 17, 2017
Office of the Sheriff
Putnam County, Georgia
Eatonton, Georgia 31024-3637
On the morning of Tuesday, June 13, 2017, Sgt. Curtis Billue and Sgt. Christopher Monica, Correctional Officers with the Georgia Department of Corrections, were transporting a group of prisoners on a state corrections bus through Putnam County when they were murdered by two escaping convicted prisoners. The two prisoners who perpetrated these crimes were Donnie Rowe and Ricky Dubose.
The aforementioned crimes resulted in one of the most intensive manhunts in the history of the State of Georgia. This manhunt was conducted by a joint effort of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshals Service, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, the U. S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the Georgia Department of Public Safety, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, along with an untold number of Georgia Sheriffs, their deputies, and local city police from all over this state and others.
During the course of this investigation, agencies, corporations, and individuals pledged money as a reward for information that would lead to the arrest of the escapees. The total amount pledged was approximately 130,000 dollars at last count. I made mention of the reward and the total amount that continued to grow during manhunt at every news conference.
On the evening of Thursday, June 15, 2017, we received information that Rowe and Dubose had been arrested in Rutherford County, Tennessee. It was several hours after we first received this notice before we conducted a press release. The delay before making a public statement was necessitated by our need to have absolute confirmation that the individuals in custody were in fact Rowe and Dubose and to learn as much as possible regarding the circumstances of their arrests. In addition to confirming their identity, we received information from Tennessee law enforcement officers that Rowe and Dubose had surrendered to deputies upon the conclusion of a high speed chase in Rutherford County.
After assimilating the information garnered from Tennessee we decided to make a press release to inform the public that the fugitives had been arrested. When reporters asked what would become of the reward during the interview, I responded that since the fugitives surrendered to law enforcement, the reward would not be paid. I made that statement because of the information that had been provided to me by authorities in Tennessee. I also informed the media of the fact that law enforcement officers are prohibited by law from receiving awards. Around midnight, some two hours after the news conference, I learned that Rowe and Dubose had NOT simply surrendered to deputies in Tennessee. At that point in time, virtually all representatives of the various media outlets had left the command post.
On the morning of Friday, June 16, 2017, I personally emailed a plethora of news media outlets and told them that I had learned that there was apparently some civilian involvement in the apprehension of Rowe and Dubose and that my previous announcement about the reward money not being paid to anyone was INCORRECT. During the day, I was interviewed by virtually every television station in Atlanta and Macon and several local newspapers. I was also interviewed by various national media outlets including, but not limited to, the New York Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Macon Telegraph, and Public Radio and Television. During each and every interview with these media entities, I clearly informed them that my statements the previous night about the reward not being paid were NOT correct. I further told each reporter that we were investigating and assessing the situation and if there were people who were in fact responsible for providing information which resulted in the arrests of the fugitives, THERE WOULD BE PAYMENTS MADE ACCORDINGLY. I have no idea whether or not the media ever broadcast or published my statements, as I have yet taken the time to watch any television news or read any newspaper accounts about anything regarding the murders, escapes, or apprehension.
Although I was informed by various news media outlets that a man in Rutherford County, Tennessee had held the escapees at gunpoint until deputies arrived, that, too, was apparently erroneous as my wife showed me a YouTube video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rz-Wd6KYdQ ) of a press conference where that gentleman very clearly explained the actual account of his actions when he had contact with the criminals.
We are presently looking into the facts about who or whom may be entitled to the reward and will make an announcement when those matters are decided. I am confident from what I know at this time that there will be payments made.
There has apparently be a great outcry from the public regarding the misinformation about the reward monies. I, and I alone, take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for any confusion regarding this issue, but I have tried to be as open and informative as I could possibly be without jeopardizing our criminal case and have done so to the best of my abilities. For those who are not satisfied with my explanations related to this matter, I would only ask that you direct all of your displeasure to ME personally. You may continue to complain, spew venom, and denigrate me to your heart’s content for this is one old war horse who can take it.
Howard R. Sills, Sheriff