A local man admitted Monday to his role in the double homicide of a South Georgia couple along the Amicalola River in Dawson County in December.
Benjamin Kelly Mullinax, 28, told Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver he was guilty of all charges in relation to the deaths of Jennifer Budrawich, 22, and Paul Budrawich, 35.
The couple was in town Dec. 19 visiting their children when they were killed and their bodies dragged into the river.
Authorities say Mullinax was not the trigger man, but was involved in luring the couple to the river and concealing their bodies. In the negotiated plea, he received two consecutive life sentences. He will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
Authorities say Jesse James Kilgore, 40, who is the father of Jennifer Budrawich’s oldest son and married to her mother, shot the couple over an ongoing child custody dispute.
“If I’d known what was going to happen, I never would have gone there, and I never would have let (Kilgore) go there either,” Mullinax said Monday as he addressed the court.
Lee Parks, Mullinax’s court appointed attorney, called the slayings a tragic situation.
Mullinax said he hoped the victims’ families could forgive him.
Joy Gaddis, who now has custody of the deceased couple’s youngest boys, said it was a mixed blessing that they are too young to know what happened to their parents.
“This was a senseless and incomprehensible act,” Gaddis said. “We need to be able to grieve, heal and move on so we can give these innocent little boys a normal, secure life without the stress and trauma of a long trial and endless appeals.”
She said the oldest son still asks for his “mommy with the red hair.”
“You could just hear in her voice how proud she was to be their mother,” Gaddis said.
Mullinax has agreed to testify against Kilgore if his case goes to trial.
Though prosecutors say the case fits the criteria for the death penalty, no motions to seek the death penalty have been filed, District Attorney Lee Darragh said.
Paul and Jennifer Budrawich had traveled from Effingham County to visit their children the weekend they were killed.
Authorities found their bodies a day apart after receiving a frantic 911 call from a woman saying she was going to be shot.
The call was from Jennifer Budrawich.
A woman’s voice could be heard asking: “Why are you shooting us? Why did you bring me down here to the river?”
A man’s voice replied, “I’m going to kill both of you.”
A .380 caliber handgun believed to be the murder weapon was found last month a few miles from the scene of the crime.
Kilgore is represented by Rob McNeill from the Dawson County Public Defender’s Office.
At the time of his arrest in the murder investigation, Kilgore was out on $35,000 property bond for a May 2009 burglary charge.
A court date for Kilgore has not been set.