Nikia Gilbreath Murder: Where is Jamie Ray Ward Now? – The body of the 23-year-old mother, Nikia Gilbreath, was found in August 1989, shocking the Georgian town of Villanow. She had been abducted from her house, murdered, and thrown into an unauthorised landfill while she was five months pregnant.
In Walker County, Jamie Ray Ward, 41, was given a death sentence in July 1991 for the murder of a pregnant 23-year-old. Investigators think Jamie Ward was a serial rapist whose offences turned violent when he kidnapped Nikia Gilbreath from her home on August 17, 1989.
“On the Case With Paula Zahn: The Depths of Evil,” an episode on Investigation Discovery, painstakingly recounts the tragic story of Nikia Gilbreath’s death and explains the various facets of the investigation involved. We can give you more information about Nikia Gilbreath’s murder, her killer, and where her killer is now. So let’s get started.
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Who Was Nikia Gilbreath and How Did She Die?
Nikia Kay Tucker Gilbreath was the child of Linda (Anderson) Tucker and Gary Tucker. She was born on July 12, 1966. As her friends and family used to refer to her, Niki, she was a kind and sympathetic person. She was trustworthy, and that had a lot to do, I’m sure, (with what occurred),” Linda said of her daughter. Nikia loved dancing, making pottery, painting, and gymnastics while she was a high school student. She graduated from Northwest High School in 1985. She and her husband, Joe Gilbreath, were a happy couple. Amber was the name of Nikia and Joe’s lovely kid.
Nikia, who was five months pregnant with their second child at the time of the event, had planned to travel to Florida with Linda and Amber, who was then almost two years old, so that her daughter could experience the beach for the first time. Thus, on August 17, 1989, it was unexpected when Joe departed for work at about 6 a.m. and returned in the evening to discover Amber by herself at their home in Villanow, Georgia, and Nikia missing. She was supposed to sign Amber up for dance or fitness courses, but she missed the appointment. The family sensed trouble because her automobile was also missing.
Later that day, after Linda spoke with Joe B. Tucker, the judge of the Walker County Superior Court at the time, the police showed up. At first, it appeared that only the 23-year-old mother and her car were missing, but later, the police learned that a sizable portion of Nikia’s underwear, as well as a baby blanket, a quilted bedspread, and a portion of Amber’s swimming suit, had been taken from her drawer. Additionally, the wall jack’s plug appeared to have been taken against its will, leaving the telephone cord behind.
Later that evening, Walker County Sheriff Al Millard visited the crime scene, and a search for the missing Nikia was organized with the aid of helicopters fitted with infrared sensors, covering a 50-mile radius. But the following day, the young mother’s car was discovered on an unpaved logging road. On the route to LaFayette, several kilometres away in the woods, a ragpicker who was searching for cans came uncovered Nikia’s body a few days after she vanished.
According to the autopsy report, Nikia had three broken ribs, ligature marks around her wrists and ankles that indicated she had been tied, and numerous bruises all over her body. According to sources, Nikia asphyxiated after putting a wad of paper towels in her pharynx. The specialists determined that because the foetus was only partially delivered, Nikia’s death also killed the couple’s unborn son, Garrett, who was due any day.
Who Killed Nikia Gilbreath and Why?
The family was unable to provide any credible explanation for the gruesome murder, so the investigators were left without any potential suspects for several months. However, the missing clothing—which the alleged murderer kept as trophies—pointed the authorities to the crime. One of the officers recognised the bedspread when looking into another offender in the Georgian city of Rome since Linda had ensured that the investigators had images of all the stolen clothing.
According to reports, James “Jamie” Ray Ward was found guilty of robbing a different woman of her belongings while she slept on December 18, 1989, in Gordon County. According to court records, James drove her to an abandoned warehouse, made her wear underwear he had brought along, and repeatedly raped her. The woman apparently did not resist and was permitted to make it home safely, when she discovered that some of her undergarments had also vanished.
James had been taken into custody by the Gordon County police from his incomplete home, which had no electricity or a water source outside of the bedroom. There were hundreds of boxes full of stolen lingerie and pornographic magazines. These well-kept notebooks meticulously indexed and labelled the magazines, lingerie catalogues, and scraps of paper with tag numbers and physical descriptions of women, their home addresses, and directions, as well as various newspaper clippings covering rape and murder cases, along with stolen insurance cards and driver’s licenses of many women.
Nikia’s home address was written across in one of the notebooks along with the words “fine looking.” The detectives also discovered the quilted bedspread tucked into James’ truck along with the bathing suit bottom and other unaccounted-for clothing. They also discovered six newspaper clippings about Nikia’s disappearance, concealed beneath a mound of wood. Nikia reportedly met James in 1989 while the latter was labouring on the 40 acres of farmland owned by the Gilbreath family with other hard-working individuals. According to reports, she even informed her family that James might stop by later to inspect the well.
James admitted to the police that he knew Nikia and had communicated with her on January 18, 1990. James said to the police, “I don’t know if I (have) done anything to the girl or not. I could have done it. I (have) been a liar all my life. I need some help. If I (have) done it, I didn’t mean for it to happen and I am sorry.” James has at least five prior arrests on his record for stalking, violence, and luring other women into private spaces.
What Happened to Jamie Ray Ward and Where Is He Now?
In July 1991, a Walker County jury gave James a death sentence after being found guilty of feticide, murder, and kidnapping with bodily harm. His plea for reconsideration was rejected in July 1992 after the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the convictions and the sentence in June 1992. James spent nearly 20 years on death row due to the repeated denials of his numerous applications and habeas corpus motions. Because of a misunderstanding between the bailiff and the jury, three judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his death sentence in January 2010.
However, the Court upheld the convictions for feticide, kidnapping, and murder accusations. Linda was obviously upset as she said, “If that does not call for the death penalty, no case I’ve ever heard of does. He needs to stay on death row.”
James Ward was given a life sentence without the possibility of release in November 2011. According to government documents, he is being detained at the Macon State Prison in Macon County, Georgia.