A paraplegic man died an unspeakably cruel death after his ex-girlfriend abandoned him in the cold at a remote Georgia hunting camp, the local sheriff said.
Troymaine Johnson, 33, had been in the woods “a good two nights and part of one morning.” before the ex-girlfriend’s disturbing statements sent deputies on a search, said Upson County Sheriff Dan Kilgore.
“I can’t imagine the desperation he must have felt while lying in the middle of a cold, dark forest, waiting on death to take him,” Kilgore told The Huffington Post.
Johnson’s ex-girlfriend, 27-year-old Ruby Kate “Katie” Coursey, of Fort Valley, admitted abandoning Johnson, authorities said, and has been charged with felony murder and felony neglect of a disabled adult. She was held at Upson County Jail. It wasn’t clear whether she has an attorney.
Deputies on March 17 found Johnson’s body in a heavily wooded area some 70 miles south of Atlanta. The search began after the sheriff received a call from relatives of Coursey, who said she’d admitted leaving Johnson in the woods.
“I did a bad thing,” Coursey allegedly said, according to police. “I hurt Troymaine. I took him out of the car and left him in the woods.”
Coursey told deputies she couldn’t remember exactly where she’d left Johnson. Nevertheless, investigators began scouring back roads in southeast Upson County. It was about 1:20 a.m. on March 17 ― more than two days after Johnson had been last seen ― that deputies on a remote road came upon a driveway with a damaged entry gate.
“The gate had been pushed in ― hit so hard the concrete posts had pulled up,” Kilgore said. “They drove down in, some 150 to 200 yards off the road, and located his body on the ground near a hunting camp.”
Because there was no obvious trauma to Johnson’s body, authorities didn’t immediately charge Coursey in Johnson’s death. However, they jailed her on an unrelated probation violation.
The investigation determined Coursey had borrowed a friend’s vehicle on March 14, authorities said. The vehicle had front-end damage, consistent with hitting a gate, and paint from the vehicle matched paint found on the damaged hunting camp gate, police said.
Johnson had very limited mobility and only partial use of one arm, his grandmother told investigators. He was 11 years old, his grandmother told police, when a friend playing with a handgun accidentally shot him. From that point on, Johnson was dependent on a wheelchair and the care of those around him, the sheriff said.
Johnson’s grandmother told police she’d last saw Johnson at their Thomaston home on the evening of March 14.
Johnson and Coursey “had a previous relationship, which had deteriorated,” Kilgore said. “That evening, she went to his home and picked him up. [His grandmother] assumed, since they didn’t take his wheelchair or anything else he needed, that they were just going to ride around. They were last seen near there around 8:30 that night.”
Coursey, according to police, has refused to speak since providing investigators the vague details on Johnson’s whereabouts.
Johnson’s funeral was held March 24.
“His father’s dead his mother’s dead ... so he’s leaving his earthly family to go on and be with his heavenly family,” his aunt, Sharon Rumph, told Macon’s WMAZ-TV.
Johnson’s cousin, Sade Owens, described him as someone who was easy to like.
“You didn’t even have to know him, but you just loved him because he was himself and that’s probably what we’re going to miss the most,” Owens told WMAZ-TV.
Autopsy results showed Johnson died from hypothermia due to exposure, Kilgore said. It was unclear just how long Johnson, who Kilgore described as “completely defenseless,” had suffered.
“It’s very hard to prove how long he lived after she cruelly left him out in that,” the sheriff said “One would hope it wasn’t long. It was uncharacteristically cold here that week. Temperatures got down into 20s.”
Motive also remains unclear.
“I cannot imagine what would cause anybody to do something like that,” Kilgore said.