UPDATE: Bodies found in search identified as Runion couple

UPDATE, Jan. 26, 6:30 p.m. Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson said two bodies were found Monday in the search for Bud and June Runion, the missing Marietta couple.

Investigators also found the couple's SUV submerged in a shallow body of water, Steverson said.

Steverson said autopsies are being done before a positive identification is announced.

Ronnie Adrian "Jay" Towns, 28, of McRae turned himself in to authorities Monday morning.

He was wanted on charges of making false statements to investigators and attempting to commit criminal theft by deception.

The sheriff said Towns's father persuaded Jay to turn himself in.

Investigators said the last communication with the Runions came from a cell phone traced to Jay Towns.

The bodies were found in an area near the Towns family's property in woods along Webb Cemetery Road in McRae.

Towns has not been charged with murder so far. But Steverson said: "I'm confident that Mr. Towns is involved" in the deaths.

When asked if others might be involved, the sheriff said "for now, he is the only suspect we are seeking; however, that could change."

"Obviously the investigation isn't closed, we're still pursuing leads, we're still pursuing information as we develop it," the sheriff said.

"This is not the outcome we had hoped for," Steverson said, "but obviously it's the one we have to deal with."

"My heart goes out to the Runion family. We've done everything we could possibly do."

The Runions headed to McRae last Thursday to buy a vintage car, a 1966 Mustang, from someone who contacted them after they placed a want ad on Craigslist.

That was the last time they were heard from.

The sheriff said there's no evidence that Towns owned such a car and it appeared he lured the Runions to McRae to defraud them of their money.

---------------------------------------------------------

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson says suspect Ronnie Adrian "Jay" Towns has no criminal record and comes from a "good family."

Ronnie Adrian "Jay" Towns, 28, of McRae turned himself in to authorities Monday morning. He was wanted in connection with the disappearance of a Marietta couple.

Bud and June Runion were headed to McRae last Thursday to buy a vintage car from someone they contacted on Craigslist.

The sheriff says he's confident that the last phone conversation with Bud Runion was using a phone belonging to Towns.

Steverson says arrest warrants allege Towns made false statements to investigators and attempted to commit criminal theft by deception. Steverson emphasized these were the only charges against Towns.

Sheriff says they arranged a location with the suspect's father to meet up Monday morning. His father brought Towns to the location.

Sheriff says Towns comes from a good family and had no criminal background.

Steverson said, "We pulled out all the stops and reached out to every agency that we could for help. Today, we had three helicopters fling over head, an enormous amount of volunteers. We're gonna search Telfair County. If they are here, we're going to find them."

A reporter asked Steverson about reports that the Runions' car was found in a pond.

The sheriff would not comment on that,saying they're follow up on a lead in the case.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

UPDATE, Jan. 26, 11 a.m.: The Telfair County Sheriff told 13WMAZ's Elise Brown that they have Ronnie Adrian "Jay" Towns in custody.

He turned himself in, according to Sheriff Chris Steverson.

UPDATE, 1/26/15, 10:45 a.m.

Searches resumed in Telfair County Monday for a missing Marietta couple, Bud and June Runion, and for the man wanted in connection with the investigation.

Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson says arrest warrants were issued for Ronnie Adrian "Jay" Towns, age 28, of McRae. The warrants allege Towns made false statements to investigators and attempted to commit criminal theft by deception.

The Runions were headed to McRae last Thursday to buy a vintage car from someone they contacted on Craigslist.

"We were interested in who last had phone contact with the Runions, and this individual did," says Steverson. "We interviewed Mr. Towns early on in the investigation and the info he provided did not corroborate with our investigation."

Steverson emphasized these were the only charges against Towns.

Steverson said of Towns: "I suspect that he knows that we're trying to locate him and he hasn't made himself available to us."

Towns was described as 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighing 210 pounds, with blue eyes.

Multiple agencies along with volunteers continued their search for the Runions. The search is centered in woods about 20 miles south of McRae.

Steverson said the search would shift once investigators finished sweeping the area.

Craig Bishop, a son-in-law of the Runions, watched investigators and said: "We just want them back safe."

One of the couple's daughters, Brittany Peterson, said her parents have always been cautious and would have called by now if they were OK.

"They've always taught us things to be wary of in certain situations, safety. My dad, you know, he told me if I was to go do something, to go in numbers, to meet people in well-lit places. He would have called, and he hasn't," says Peterson.

Sheriff Chris Steverson discusses day 2 of search:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

EARLIER:

The GBI and Georgia State Patrol have joined deputies from Telfair, Wheeler and Jeff Davis counties in the search for a Marietta couple who are missing since Thursday after going to McRae to buy a car from someone through Craigslist.

Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson said the Georgia State Patrol's aviation unit has joined local officials searching Telfair and Wheeler counties for Elrey "Bud" Runion and his wife June.

Bud Runion is 69 years old; June Runion is 66.

The couple drove to McRae on Thursday to meet someone who responded to an ad Bud Runion placed on Craigslist seeking a 1966 Mustang.

Relatives became concerned when the couple did not return for a family function and did not answer their cell phone.

Son-in-law Craig Bishop tells 13WMAZ that classic cars are Runion's passion.

"I believe one of [Bud's] first cars, if not his first car, was a '66 Mustang," Bishop said. "It's surreal. Moment to moment, I'm just thinking, we're going to hear something."

Cobb County detectives believe the couple was riding in a pewter- or champagne colored 2003 GMC Envoy with Georgia tag BWU 7349.

They say Bud Runion is white, 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs 165 pounds. He is balding with gray hair and blue eyes. June Runion is white, 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 135 pounds, with brown hair and green eyes.

Police say the phone number the Runions called traces back to a disposable cell phone.

Searchers set up a staging area in a hunting camp on Highway 117 near Jacksonville.

The Telfair sheriff asked anyone with information to call his office at 229-868-6621.

Watch 13WMAZ's full interview with Sheriff Chris Steverson:


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment