Long Road To Justice: The Ronald Gray Case

Ronald Gray, left, is escorted out of a military court at Fort Bragg in 1988. The court sentenced him to death for the premeditated murder of two women and the attempted murder of a third. FILE PHOTO

By Emily Weaver
Dunn Daily Record

Kimberly Bowman Ruggles was driving a taxi for Terminal City Cab Company in Fayetteville on Jan. 6, 1987, when she got a call for a pickup off of Sante Fe Drive. Army Specialist Ronald Adrin Gray, 21, requested her, personally.

Ruggles knew Gray from prior fares, but didn’t know the Fort Bragg cook-turned-serial-killer would be her last passenger — or, she, his last victim.

Gray was convicted of raping and killing four women, including Ruggles, and sexually abusing and attempting to murder several others between 1985 and Jan. 6, 1987. A military court sentenced him to death.

Thirty-five years later, Gray remains on death row and Ruggles’ father waits for justice.

“This has been going on way, way, way too long,” said Ruggles’ father, Edward Bowman.

Gray continues to appeal his death sentence and managed to dodge a presidential order for his execution in 2008.

Bowman, who is 72 now, recently returned from another hearing on one of Gray’s appeals at a federal courthouse in Kansas.

“They tried to say that he was incompetent and not able to aid in his defense,” Bowman said, of the latest court action.

He called it just another stall tactic to delay Gray’s execution.

“It doesn’t give any closure to any of the victims,” he said.

“What kind of justice is that when you don’t get any kind of justice at all?” Bowman asked. “This man had 15 victims. Eight that he raped, four that he killed and three that he thought he killed. All of them had family members. He started doing this in 1985. How many of them people have passed away since 1985 that never got to see the justice that they were entitled?”

Last call

Kimberly Bowman Ruggles is seen holding one of her three children before her death in 1987. DAILY RECORD FILE PHOTO

Kimberly Ann Bowman Ruggles was a 23-year-old wife and mother of three young children, living in Dunn, when she went out on her last taxi call on the night of Jan. 6.

She picked up Gray and radioed to tell the dispatcher she would be dropping him off at the Fayetteville Airport at 8 p.m. Dispatchers noted her radio was silent 30 minutes later. Multiple attempts to reach her left them with dead air.

Fort Bragg military police found Ruggles’ empty taxi on No Name Road near a woodline on the base at 2:30 the next morning. The police found her naked, lifeless body hours later in the woods about 50 yards away from the car. Her killer gagged her, raped her, beat her, sodomized her and stabbed her seven times.

Gray was arrested and accused of raping another woman months prior at 9:50 p.m. on the night of Ruggles’ death.

Other victims

Terror first struck the Fairlane Acres Mobile Home Park off of Santa Fe Drive in April 1986.

Linda Jean Coats, a Campbell University student, was living at the park on April 29 when a friend dropped by to see her and found her dead. Coats suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Her body was naked and showed signs of sexual abuse. April 29 was her 24th birthday.

Coats was set to graduate with a master’s degree on May 11 and was due to be commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps the week she died.

Months later, on Dec. 12, Fort Bragg Pvt. Troy Wilson returned to his Fairlane Acres home and realized his 18-year-old wife, Tammy, was missing. Her naked, lifeless body was found the next morning in woods behind the trailer park. An autopsy revealed she was sexually assaulted before she was shot in the head.

The grave of Kimberly Bowman Ruggles, who was raped and killed on Jan. 6, 1987. DAILY RECORD FILE PHOTO

Eighteen-year-old Laura Lee Vickery-Clay of Fairlane Acres vanished three days later. She was a newlywed and an Army private assigned to the 14th Data Processing Detachment at Fort Bragg when she disappeared.

Her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Anthony Clay, was on a three-day training exercise at Fort Bragg Dec. 16, 1986, when he was notified of a fire at their home. Officers granted him leave and Clay returned to find the house badly damaged and his wife missing.

Two men in search of a wounded deer found Vickery-Clay’s naked, lifeless, bullet-riddled body in the woods on base at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 17, 1987.

Gray joined the Army in 1983 and was assigned to serve as a cook in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in April 1986. He lived in Fairlane Acres with his wife at the time of the slayings.

Two other women in the mobile home park told law enforcement they were kidnapped and raped the year of the killings. They later came forward to identify Gray as their attacker.

Seeking an end

Bowman says he won’t rest until he sees his daughter’s killer executed.

Gray

“That was my firstborn child and for her to die like that was pitiful,” Bowman said. “He stabbed her seven times and she bled to death. She died in a ditch … on No Name Road.”

Bowman now lives in Waterloo, New York, but has taken several trips to Washington, D.C. to lobby legislators for a swifter end to a murder case that never dies.

Former President George W. Bush was the first commander in chief to sign an execution order for a member of the military since Dwight D. Eisenhower signed one in 1957. Eisenhower’s order was carried out in 1961 with the hanging of Army soldier John A. Bennett, convicted of the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl.

Bush’s order was signed in 2008, but the court spared Gray with a stay of execution. A federal judge lifted the stay order in 2016. Gray’s appeals continue.





1 COMMENT

  1. How long should loved ones wait for the source of their loss to find God? Evil must be dealt with. This sets a bad example for others who might have such vile urges.

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