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Dawson County murder suspects denied bond
Jesse James Kilgore
Jesse James Kilgore

DAWSONVILLE — Two Dawsonville men arrested Sunday in connection with the shooting deaths of an Effingham County couple have been charged with murder and are being held without bond.

Jesse James Kilgore, 40, and Benjamin Kelly Mullinax, 27, were denied bond by a Dawson County Magistrate judge Monday afternoon. Both men are charged with two counts of murder and two counts of tampering with evidence in the deaths of Paul and Jennifer Budrawich.

The couple’s bodies were pulled from the Amicalola River on Sunday and Monday after authorities say they were shot and dragged into the water.

Lt. Tony Wooten, a spokesman for the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed Monday afternoon that both Jennifer and Paul Budrawich were killed with a small caliber handgun near Amicalola Church Road in western Dawson County over the weekend.

The couple was last heard from early Saturday morning.

Kilgore is Jennifer Budrawich’s stepfather and the father of one of her three young children. Kilgore is now married to Jennifer Budrawich’s mother, authorities said.

Jennifer Budrawich, 22, was found dead Sunday afternoon in the Amicalola River, a day after authorities received a frantic 911 call from a woman saying she was going to be shot.

Paul Budrawich’s body was pulled from the river Monday morning. He was 35.

Authorities say Kilgore shot the couple and dragged their bodies into the river Saturday after he arranged a meeting with them at the Six Mile Creek canoe put-in off Amicalola Church Road.

Mullinax, who is Kilgore’s nephew, was present at the time of the shootings, according to authorities.

Mullinax originally was booked on charges he tampered with evidence. The charges against him were upgraded to murder Monday afternoon.

Both Mullinax and Kilgore said in court that they had spoken with representation from the Dawson County Public Defender’s office.

Kilgore said he was represented by Senior Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill.

Kilgore and Mullinax are scheduled to appear before a Dawson County Superior Court judge for a preliminary hearing at 10 a.m. Jan. 19.

The Budrawichs were in town for the holidays to visit her children, who live with relatives in Dawson and Pickens counties.

Jennifer Budrawich’s Dec. 15 post on the social networking site states she was thinking "about my babies. I miss them so much."

They were scheduled to see the children around 11 a.m. Saturday, but did not show for the visitation, according to Wooten, who added the children are safe and in the care of others.

The 911 call was received by authorities at around 9:30 a.m. Saturday, which launched an investigation into the disappearance of Budrawich and her husband.

A woman’s voice can be heard on the recording asking, "Why are you shooting us? Why did you bring me down here to the river?"

The couple’s car was found in the parking lot of the IGA grocery store in neighboring Pickens County around 11 p.m. Saturday.

Evidence obtained from the car and a truck in Dawson County, as well as video surveillance from the grocery store, led investigators to Kilgore.

Both Kilgore and Mullinax were taken into custody Sunday.

Kilgore, who spent time in prison on a felony theft conviction, is no stranger to Dawson County authorities.

He was one of three Dawsonville men arrested in June when authorities recovered thousands of dollars of stolen goods taken earlier in the year from two homes in Dawson County.

Kilgore, his son, Jessie Archie Kilgore, 19, and James Adam Rogers, 30, are accused of taking household fixtures, appliances and furniture to furnish a home the elder Kilgore was building in western Dawson County.

All three were indicted in September on numerous theft charges.