An Effingham County couple whose bodies were found in the Amicalola River in Dawson County were supposed to be visiting their three children over the weekend, and it was supposed to be their last visit before reclaiming custody, according to a family member.
The bodies of Paul and Jennifer Budrawich were found Sunday and Monday several hundred yards apart in the river by law enforcement authorities.
The Dawson County Sheriff’s Department has charged Jennifer Budrawich’s stepfather, Jesse James Kilgore, 40, of Dawsonville with murder in the deaths of the couple.
Kilgore’s nephew, Benjamin Kelly Mullinax, 27, also of Dawsonville, was arrested and charged with murder. Both men also are charged with two counts of tampering with evidence.
Bond was denied for Kilgore and Mullinax on Monday afternoon.
Paul and Jennifer Budrawich left their McCall Road home on Friday on their way to Dawsonville and Jasper to visit their three children.
Kilgore is the father one of Jennifer Budrawich’s sons, and the Budrawiches have two sons.
“They were good people,” said Debra Harris, Paul Budrawich’s sister. “They made a mistake, but they loved their children and were getting them back. The children don’t understand; they’re very young.”
The deaths have been especially hard on the family. Harris said her mother is very upset and that her uncle had to be taken to the hospital after suffering a heart attack caused by the stress of the tragedy.
“The children were their life,” Harris said. “They fought for the life of their children, even in their last moments, because that’s how much they loved each other. We were the only family she had here.
“The family is having a hard time; they really need to find peace. I want everyone to remember my brother and his wife for who they were. Every breath they took was for their children. They were so excited to be getting those kids back.”
Funeral arrangements for Paul and Jennifer Budrawich are still pending, and the family is asking for donations for the funeral and for their children. The Budrawiches did not have insurance.
Harris said they were in the process of setting up a fund at BB&T Bank and that donations could be directed either there or to Riggs Funeral Home in Guyton.
Authorities found the couple’s bodies a day after receiving a frantic 911 call from a woman, assumed to be Jennifer Budrawich. On the call, a woman’s voice could be heard asking someone, “Why are you shooting us? Why did you bring me down here to the river?”
“I just thank God the 911 call was made,” Harris said. “At least they can go home.”
Kilgore and Mullinax are scheduled to appear before a Dawson County Superior Court judge for a preliminary hearing at 10 a.m. Jan. 19.
Rick Lott is a reporter for the Effingham Herald in Rincon.