LEESBURG, Ga. -- William LeMatty, serving a life sentence in prison for his role in the 1996 murders of Timothy and Maria Giles of Lee County, has issued an apology to the families of the victims and the residents of Lee and Dougherty counties.
LeMatty, who was 20 at the time; Karen Eckman, then 15, both from Summerville, S.C., and Jeremy Brown, then 17, of Dorchester County, S.C., killed the couple on Dec. 1, 1996.
Brown killed himself when authorities caught up with the trio. Eckman and LeMatty were brought back to Georgia to stand trial. They were convicted of murdering the Gileses during a cross-country crime spree.
Today, LeMatty is serving his life-without-parole prison sentence in Macon State Prison. Americus attorney Tim Lewis, who was appointed about two years ago to handle LeMatty's appeals but has since withdrawn as his appeals attorney, was authorized by LeMatty to offer the apology.
In the apology, LeMatty takes ownership for his role in the murders, but says he was not the triggerman in the slayings. In addition to apologizing to the victims' families, he apologizes to his young accomplice.
"My name is William J. LeMatty," the statement reads. "I am a prisoner for crimes committed in Georgia. For injuries by those crimes, I apologize to all Counties involved, including but not limited to Lee and Dougherty Counties. I apologize to all victims, including but not limited to the Giles' family, Mr. Mosely, Mr. Randall, Nikki Larymore with her family, Karen Eckman with her family, and especially to my only daughter Kaila for not being there for her over the years of my imprisonment.
"The cause for my apology is a result of self-reflection spanning years directed by God through Jesus Christ and Christians while imprisoned. II Corinthians 13:5; James 5:16.
"I left South Carolina in 1996 as an attempt and temporal (sic) two week resolve of family challenges and a friendly debt. Although I did not plan, encourage, nor pull any triggers to murder anyone, I am at the least guilty of the criminal consequences from stupid decisions that were secular and poorly guided at nineteen and twenty years old. That does not change the culpability which later occurred from my circumstantial involvement; and, if I could change things or reverse them for the better I would. For my guilt, and for troubles caused by my involvement, I am genuinely sorry."
Some of the people most impacted by LeMatty's crimes were not in a forgiving spirit after hearing of his jailhouse apology Friday.
Mario and Addise Capuzzi, whose daughter Maria Capuzzi Giles was one of the victims, were not impressed with LaMatty's words.
"That doesn't mean anything to me," Addise Capuzzi said through tears of anguish. "It doesn't mean anything; our lives were ruined forever.
This doesn't mean they're thinking of letting him out of jail does it? I want him in jail the rest of his life."
Lewis, in an interview earlier Friday, said the apology, which was filed Wednesday in Lee County Superior Court, has very likely ended LeMatty's only remaining hope of ever getting out of prison -- having his life sentence without parole reduced to a life sentence with the possibility of parole.
"It's kind of amazing that he gave up his only shot (at ever getting out of prison)," the lawyer said. "... He wrote the statement himself. He has signed what you see before you."
The Capuzzis are registered to receive any news of a change in both LeMatty's and Eckman's corrections circumstances, and Addise Capuzzi said she's written letters to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to let them know how her family members' lives have been impacted by LeMatty's and Eckman's crimes.
"I think she'll be eligible for parole in 2016, but she played a big part in this," Addise Capuzzi said of Eckman. "We found out later she came and knocked on the door at (Timothy and Maria Giles's) house and told them she had a flat tire.
"They went out to help what they thought was an innocent girl."
Lt. Col. Dennis Parker with the Lee County Sheriff's Office was part of the crime scene investigation team that gathered evidence at Timothy and Maria Giles's home after the murders. He called that scene "one of the most horrific I've ever worked" Friday.
"I was an investigator with the Dougherty County Police Department, so I've worked some bad cases before," Parker, a 35-year law enforcement veteran, said. "That was one of the most horrific and senseless crimes I've ever seen. It's something that, as a law enforcement officer, you just don't see every day, and when you do you hope you never see it again.
"I don't understand how one human being could ever do that to another human being."
Parker was one of the officers responsible for LeMatty's safety while he was incarcerated at the Lee County Jail. The officer said he never talked with the convicted murderer about the case.
"He was just this very small, meek-looking kid," Parker said. "You can't tell by looking at a person what he's capable of, but I often wished in a case like this that LeMatty had looked like some kind of monster. It would have made it a little easier to deal with what he did."
As for LeMatty's apology, Parker has his own thoughts.
"I don't know what's in another man's heart, but I don't know how anyone could ever forgive somebody for something like that, especially after what I saw that morning," he said. "It's hard to find any sympathy in my heart; this was just cold, callous murder.
"I don't know if the families of those two young people will accept this apology, but if I were in their place, I couldn't. These families were devastated, and they're still paying an incredible price every day."
Lewis said LeMatty "has found religion and he's, in fact, very religious now." LeMatty is involved in a leadership role in a prison ministry at the Macon facility. When the time neared for LeMatty to make decisions on appeals, Lewis said, the inmate prayed, sometimes as long as two weeks, about what to do.
Eventually, Lewis said, LeMatty found himself pondering two choices -- continuing with appeals that had little chance of succeeding or following a path that LeMatty felt God had chosen for him -- to minister in prison and "give the most positive benefit to other prisoners."
"For all intents and purposes, he's a remorseful man, who does not admit to pulling the trigger, who feels that his actions led up to the deaths of the Gileses," the attorney said.
Maria Giles's family, however, questions LeMatty's sincerity. Mario Capuzzi said he thinks LeMatty is "just trying to get out of jail."
"I don't know what he's trying to pull," the victim's father said, "but I find it hard to believe anything this man says."
Addise Capuzzi, meanwhile, said the letter from her daughter's killer only intensifies her struggles.
"I hope you don't think I'm cruel," she says. Her sobs are heart-wrenching. "I know I have to forgive so I can go to heaven, but I don't want them to be free. I want them to have to stay right where they are."