Authorities still are trying to determine what led to a fatal family confrontation Dec. 19 on the Amicalola River.
Jesse James Kilgore, 40, and Benjamin Kelly Mullinax, 27, each face two counts of murder and two counts of tampering with evidence in the shooting deaths of Jennifer Budrawich, Kilgore’s stepdaughter, and her husband, Paul Budrawich. Kilgore and Mullinax are being held without bond.
A preliminary hearing for the suspects, who were arrested the day after the slayings, has been set for 10 a.m. Jan. 19 in Dawson County Superior Court.
Jennifer Budrawich, 22, was found dead Dec. 20 in the Amicalola River, a day after authorities received a frantic 911 call from a woman saying she was going to be shot. The body of Paul Budrawich, 35, was pulled from the river the following morning.
The couple, who had traveled from Effingham County, was last heard from Dec. 19.
Dawson County Sheriff’s Lt. Tony Wooten said the couple was killed with a small caliber handgun near Amicalola Church Road in western Dawson.
Kilgore is Jennifer Budrawich’s stepfather and also the father of one of her three children.
The children, ages 4, 2 and 9 months, live with relatives in Dawson and Pickens counties. Wooten said they are safe.
Authorities said Kilgore is currently married to Jennifer Budrawich’s mother, whose name has not been released.
The timeline of Kilgore’s relationship with the women is not clear.
Budrawich’s mother spoke to investigators last week, Wooten said, noting the families of the slain couple do not want to talk to the media.
The couple left their southeast Georgia home about 5:30 a.m. Friday en route to Dawsonville to see Jennifer Budrawich’s son and then planned to drive to Jasper to visit their other two children.
Jennifer Budrawich’s most recent post on an online social networking page states she was thinking “about my babies. I miss them so much.”
The weekend visit was to be the final one before the Budrawichs regained custody of the children, according to Debra Harris, Paul Budrawich’s sister.
“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.”
According to Effingham County Sheriff’s reports, Paul Budrawich’s family received a text message from his phone over the weekend and saw photos online that showed the couple with the children.
The relatives, however, have told Effingham investigators the photos appear to have been fabricated.
The report also states that Jennifer Budrawich’s mother received a phone call at 8 a.m. Saturday that the couple was about five minutes away from the scheduled meeting.
They did not show up.
Their vehicle was found about 11 p.m. Dec. 19 in the parking lot of a grocery store in neighboring Pickens County.
Evidence found in the vehicle and a truck in Dawson County, as well as video surveillance from the grocery store, led investigators to Kilgore.
The 911 call received about 9:30 a.m. Dec. 19 launched the investigation. On the recording, a woman’s voice can be heard asking, “Why are you shooting us? Why did you bring me down here to the river?”
Authorities say Kilgore shot Jennifer and Paul Budrawich and dragged their bodies into the river Dec. 19 after arranging to meet them at the Six Mile canoe put-in.
Mullinax, who is Kilgore’s nephew, was present at the time of the shootings, authorities said.
Funeral services for Paul Budrawich were held Monday in the Ben Wages Chapel of Riggs Funeral Home.
The Effingham Herald Editor Patrick Donahue contributed to this story.