Everett's Music Barn in Suwanee has a rich history, but it has roots in a grim chapter of Gwinnett County police corruption.
"Judas Deputy," a new true-crime book written by former Atlanta Police officer Mackie Carson, probes the April 1964 slayings of officers Jerry Everett, Jessie Gravitt, and Ralph Davis in a case that turned out to be the work of corruption inside the Gwinnett department.
Carson held a book signing Saturday (December 8) at Everett's Music Barn. Jerry Everett's brothers, Randall and Roger Everett, began the barn and musical legacy in the wake of the slayings.
-- Do you recall the Gwinnett Police slayings of 1964? Share your memories in the comments below.
It's Carson's first book, and he said he wrote it because he was a rookie police officer in Atlanta when the slayings occurred. "It always stayed with me," the Newnan resident recalled. "It was a project I always wanted to do."
The officers were killed late at night, near the end of their shifts, when they responded to a dispatch call in a remote area off Beaver Ruin Road. They were shackled with their own handcuffs and slain with their own guns.
Eventually, fellow officer Alex Evans -- the "Judas Deputy" -- was convicted and still is serving a life sentence. Co-conspirator Venson Williams served 25 years and was paroled. Wade Truett was given immunity for testimony. Carson said Truett was the only one of the criminals who did not fire any shots into the slain men.
Tommy Everett, Jerry Everett's nephew, recalled that after the slayings, the family home on Stonecypher Road was swamped with family and friends who also were shocked and in mourning.
"It was like the JFK shooting -- it froze time," Tommy Everett said.
Randall and Roger Everett had just begun their bluegrass playing then, and some of the well-wishers kept returning for impromptu jams as a type of therapy. Eventually, the performances outgrew the main house, and the people built the barn, which still holds regular Saturday performances.
"That was the reason the whole thing got built -- there were so many people to pick from," Tommy Everett said.
The book notes that the slain officers had encroached upon an auto-theft ring. Criminals would buy a car from a salvage yard, then steal a similar car and strip the stolen car of its parts. The parts then would be put into the salvaged car -- which had no "hot" vehicle ID number.
"It was commonplace back then," Carson explained. "The number of vehicles stolen was astronomical. The state even set up an auto theft squad, it got so bad."
The "finder's fee" for stealing a car was $25, and rose to $100 if you took it out of the county.
The temptation was obvious. "There was no money back then," Tommy Everett recalled.
For research, Carson studied newspaper microfilm records, and also interviewed the only member of that Gwinnett Police force who still is alive -- Ray Sexton, 81, of Buford. The book also includes a complete transcript of the 1965 trial.
"I never knew how they got ambushed until I read the book," Tommy Everett said. "Now it makes sense."
Mackie Carson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.