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Three-time killer avoids death penalty

Frederick Lee Gude’s own daughter thinks he deserved the death penalty — which he escaped Monday after sitting in the Fulton County jail for nine years awaiting trial.

“There are some people who shouldn’t walk amongst us,” said Marine Lt. Col. Tayrn Gude, 47. “This is his third killing. This is the third one that we know of.”

Her dad, she said, is just mean.

A Fulton County jury convicted Gude Monday of murdering 54-year-old Jacqueline Nash by stabbing her 40 times with an ice pick on Jan. 20, 2004 and Superior Court Judge Constance Russell sentenced him to life without parole, citing a previous murder conviction and manslaughter conviction

If he had gone to trial last February, he would have faced the death-penalty — one of the reasons his case took so long to get into court. District Attorney Paul Howard, who said Gude’s age persuaded him to drop the death penalty request after Gude turned 69 in July, contended that the lengthy wait not only undermined the case, but also cheated the victim’s family and taxpayers. Two key eye witnesses died while awaiting the trial. By the calculation used by the sheriff’s office, housing Gude cost more than a quarter of a million dollars.

“They have a legitimate question to ask Fulton County about why are you taking so long to dispense justice,” Howard said. “This will make the third person he has killed in our county and he is allowed to sit in jail for nine years. It is unconscionable.”

Gude’s lawyer Tom West said Howard could have saved taxpayer the money if he had just indicted the case as a straight murder in the first place. “If it had not been a capital case, it would have gone to trial in a year or two,” he said.

West said he feared the crime scene photos could have inflamed the jury in a death penalty case. “Fulton County has gotten more amenable to the death penalty,” he said. “I’m not sure this would be one but it did have some ‘visual’ issues.”

Howard noted the case was first assigned to Judge Rowland Barnes in 2004, who was murdered in 2005 in the courthouse shooting by Brian Nichols. The case went to then-Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore, who never set a trial date before she retired in 2009. She complained prosecutors had accused her of “being less than diligent” in not setting a trial date and once explained she feared overburdening the court system if Gude came to trial at the same time as the high-profile Nichols’ capital case— which took three years to get to trial.

West objected to the next judge, a former senior prosecutor, and prosecutor’s objected to a now retired judge who they contended was biased against the death penalty. About two years ago, Russell picked up the case.

By the time it got to court last week, Tayrn Gude was the only witness still alive who could actually incriminate Gude. Her father, she said, had called her to say he killed Nash because she didn’t return the $500, she was “holding” for him.

The daughter said she sent her father the money to buy a car after he finished a five-year manslaughter sentence the previous September. When her father called he claimed he only “stuck her a few times,” said Gude, who called police and began to try to help locate Nash’s body.

Police found Nash in a southeast Atlanta home where she had moved several months before to take care of her 94-year-old aunt, Nanny Collins, who Gude had locked in a bathroom. When police found her, she was suffering from hypothermia. She died about two years later.

In February 1969, Gude and two co-workers were fired from their jobs at Georgia Flush Door Sales in southeast Atlanta. They returned to work and threatened employees. Gude got into a fight with an employee, who fired shots at him. Gude returned fire, killing the salesman.

Gude was sentenced to life in prison. In October 1977, he was released on parole. In 1998, Gude shot and killed an alleged drug dealer after the men exchanged gunfire, according to the state parole board.

Tayrn Gude said she knew her father as a child – when he wasn’t in prison – but her mother quickly left him behind after he was released from prison the first time. He used to beat her mother and he stabbed at least one relative. Violence, she said, was her father’s defining characteristic.

“Some people kill in the heat of moment,” the Marine said. “For him, every moment is the heat of the moment, if you say something he doesn’t like.”

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