MEMPHIS, Tenn. — WREG investigates how a former inmate went from death row to freedom.
In 1996, a mother, her son and his friend were kidnapped, robbed and buried alive in a cemetery.
Two men were convicted and sentenced to death, but WREG Investigator Stephanie Scurlock found out the victim’s family had no idea one of them is a free man and the other is hoping for his freedom.
Relatives of the three victims thought Tony Carruthers and James Montgomery would die behind bars.
They never thought these two would see anything beyond prison walls again.
They weren’t happy when they found out one of these killers is free and the other is knocking on freedom’s door.
“They can’t live at all. They didn’t get a second chance. They don’t have a second chance so why should he? He actually took their life,” said Randy Harris, a relative.
The Tennessee Department of Corrections opened the doors and let Montgomery walk out of prison three days before Christmas last year.
He escaped death row when an appeals court ruled he should have been given a separate trial from co-defendant Carruthers. Montgomery plead guilty to a lighter sentence of three counts of second-degree murder.
He was released this past December with time served.
The family of Delois and Marcellos Anderson believe they should have been notified immediately.
“In my eyes, that’s negligence,” said Harris.
Montgomery and Carruthers killed drug dealer Marcellos Anderson, Anderson’s mother, Delois, and his teenage friend Fred Tucker in 1994.
They were kidnapped,tortured and buried alive in a pit beneath a grave dug for someone else.
Harris said, “They smothered. You can imagine the psychological torment they went through knowing they were actually being buried alive, how horrible that was.”
Montgomery filed a motion saying new DNA evidence points the finger at two new suspects.
Carruthers then called WREG from death row. He accused the courts of intentionally delaying his hearing.
Carruthers said, “All of my appeals are over and I really need to try to reopen my post and re-litigate some claims that I was denied on my first post.”
The judge denied Carruther’s a hearing, but those who process court documents don’t expect him to stop trying especially since the man who accompanied him in those brutal crimes found his way out of prison.
“I didn’t have any idea that he was going to be free. How many people during our time do we know that actually be facing 3, possibly 4 murder charges and get released,” said Harris.
Harris said he wants to know why no one was notified about Montgomery’s release.
District Attorney Amy Weirich’s office told WREG it’s not its responsibility to notify families.
We then turned to the Department of Corrections for answers.
A spokesperson emailed us, “Victim parties must be registered with TDOC in order to receive notifications. This is to ensure only those who wish to receive information about an offender are contacted.”
T-DOC said one victim registered and a notification letter about Montgomery’s pending release was sent on October 13, 2015.
“For security reasons. This is a man that is supposedly a threat to our family and anybody that comes in association with him is a threat to our family,” said Harris.
Harris said the person notified about the release was not from his family.
“As a family, we’re in limbo. We don’t know whether to open the door and who is going to be outside the door, you understand what I mean,” said Harris.
He added, “That’s negligence on the state’s behalf not to contact the family.”
WREG tried to find out Montgomery’s whereabouts and we were told by the Department of Corrections it doesn’t know. Montgomery is free to go anywhere because he was released with no parole and no probation.
WREG talked to the chief prosecutor who tried the case against Carruthers and Montgomery.
He has since retired and said he is not surprised at their release since they had nothing but time to sit behind bars and figure out a way to get released.
The state of Tennessee does allow for notification of releases but you must request it. You can do so here.