A package wrapped in brown paper, mailed from the downtown post office in Newnan in 1989, was the first step in a crime which is to end April 19 with the execution of Walter Leroy Moody Jr.
The Alabama Attorney General’s office announced Moody’s scheduled execution, according to The Associated Press. Moody was convicted of capital murder for killing U.S. 11th Circuit Judge Robert Vance with a package bomb, mailed from Newnan and delivered to Vance’s home in Mountain Brook, Ala., in 1989.
The judge died when he opened the package in his kitchen. His wife, Helen, was seriously injured.
Moody, who living in his hometown of Rex in Clayton County at the time, is thought to have carried out a wave of mail bombings across the South in 1989, according to the AP. He was also convicted of sending a mail bomb that killed Robert Robinson, an alderman in Savannah.
At 82, Moody is the oldest inmate on Alabama's death row. He has been on death row since Feb. 3, 1997 and is serving his sentence at Holman Prison in Atmore. Atmore is in south Alabama, on the Florida state line.
It is believed Moody will be the oldest person executed for a crime in the United States since the Furman decision in 1972.
News accounts at the time of the crimes indicated bombs sent to Vance, Robinson, a federal court office in Atlanta and an NAACP office in Jacksonville, Fla., were all mailed from Georgia cities. The bomb mailed to Robinson was sent from Warner Robins and the NAACP package from either Warner Robins or Macon.
The Atlanta package was mailed in Atlanta.
The bombs were packed in nails with a mechanism set to explode when the package was opened. Each was in a box wrapped with brown paper with a red-and-white return address label. Each package measured 12 by 9 by 4 inches.
It initially appeared that there was a racial element to the case. Robinson was African-American and Vance, appointed to the federal judiciary by Jimmy Carter, had earlier earned a reputation as a civil rights attorney.
However, in Moody’s 1996 state court trial, prosecutors alleged that Moody sent the bombs to Vance and Robinson because of frustration and hatred over being unable to overturn his 1972 conviction for possessing a pipe bomb, according to The Washington Post.
Moody had attended law school in Atlanta, but the conviction prevented him from becoming a lawyer.
“He was obsessed with getting the 1972 conviction overturned,” prosecutor Bob Morrow said, according to The Washington Post.
Vance had been a lecturer at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law, and had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Carter appointed Vance to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1977.
The federal courthouse in Birmingham was named for Vance in 1990, and the Atlanta chapter of the Federal Bar Association now holds an annual Robert S. Vance Forum on the Bill of Rights.
Ray Jenkins, an attorney and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who is a Georgia native, wrote “Blind Vengeance: The Roy Moody Mail Bomb Murders,” which was published in 1997 and reissued in 2012.