If anyone saw Douglas Bruce Benton any time between June 3rd-6th, 2000 or has any information relating to this crime that would help in proving the innocence of Tracy Fortson please contact us.
Tracy and Doug met in September 1999. It was practically love at first sight and they became inseparable. They did everything together and they had so much in common. They were the perfect couple, best friends. Both were into weightlifting and staying physically fit. Both loved to ride motorcycles, so much so that Doug bought a second Harley so they each would have one to ride; and ride they did, whenever they got a chance. The first time Doug met Tracy's parents he told them his version of how he had come to meet Tracy- "I prayed and asked God to send someone I could love and who would love me, then two days later I met Tracy." Within just a couple of months Doug and Tracy were talking marriage. They were looking for some land where they could build a home together, a place to make a brand new start. They had so many plans. For the first time in their lives they had finally found the right person! Doug and Tracy not only shared common interest, but they also shared disappointment in past relationships. Both had been divorced twice and had never found true happiness until they met each other.
In the early part of their relationship Doug had shared with Tracy about his past. Some of the things he shared with her were things he was not proud of. The one thing he was proud of was that he had gotten away from the lifestyle he had been living and with the help of one of his best friends he had gotten saved. Doug's past lifestyle had played a large role in his life and he struggled daily with it, trying to keep it in the past, but it always seemed to come back and haunt him. (Alcohol, drugs, fighting and money) Doug had always liked the finer things in life. He always had to have the best and the fastest of everything. He owned a jet boat, Jet Ski, two Harley Davidson motorcycles, and a new truck. Everyone always asked where Doug got the money to buy all those things, but Doug was a certified welder with a $50.00 an hour rate. He could make good money.
At one time Doug had become addicted to steroid use, he wanted to be the biggest and best. He had won numerous power-lifting competitions, but when Doug met Tracy he had stopped using steroids. Doug had decided that he wanted a wife and family and he wanted to settle down and do the right thing. Doug told Tracy everything about his past including the fact that after he quit the drugs and alcohol he turned informant, assisting in the prosecution of a former drug dealer that he had worked for, resulting in threats to his life, but Doug didn't care, because it was the right thing to do.
As time went on Doug became increasingly worried about Tracy's safety. She was a sheriff's Deputy, a job that put her life in danger daily. To alleviate some of Doug's worries Tracy changed shifts. She went from working the most dangerous shift(the night shift) to working the day shift, where there would be more back-up available and most of her day at work would consist of serving civil papers rather than arrest warrants. Tracy loved her job and the people she worked with were like family to her. She was doing what she had always wanted to do, but that came to an abrupt end in the early months of 2000. Tracy made the mistake of telling Doug about some inappropriate comments that the Sheriff and Chief Deputy had made to her. Doug saw an opportunity, and he had a plan. Doug told Tracy that she was sitting on a gold mine and all she had to do to cash in was listen to him and do exactly what he said. Doug purchased a micro-cassette recorder and gave it to Tracy in order to record any comments made by the Sheriff or any other male employees at the Sheriff's office. It wasn't long before Tracy had not just one tape, but several. Then he drove Tracy to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of Atlanta to file a complaint, after he had her turn in her letter of resignation to the Sheriff's office. Then he told Tracy to file for unemployment, which she did. In May of 2000 Doug called the local newspaper and anonymously reported the sexual harassment complaint. It was printed on May 11, 2000.
When Tracy resigned from the Sheriff's office in March Doug decided he would teach her to weld while she collected unemployment then they could work together and make more money with two welders on a job. It was also in March when Doug got another idea. He wanted to raise exotic birds! He had another plan. Doug bought 22 pairs of exotic birds in which he sank approximately $20,000. He put both Harleys and the Jet Ski on the bank note, but he knew he could pay it off quick when he had his first batch of baby birds to sell. What he failed to realize is it doesn't happen like that. As the weeks passed Doug was sinking more and more money into his birds and getting no return. He decided he needed to sell something to pay his bank note. The first to go was the Jet Ski, then came the Harleys. Things had gotten tight, Doug realized that the birds were a mistake. He decided to sell them too, but no one was buying. In the meantime Tracy was trying to do everything she could to help Doug. She advertised the birds on the Internet, and she placed ads in the cycle trader for the bikes. It was then that one of the bikes sold. Now if the other one would sell that would be great!
Tracy continued to collect unemployment as the EEOC was conducting their investigation into her complaint. Until the Sheriff contested the unemployment benefits and a hearing was scheduled at the unemployment office and both sides were to be present. Doug told Tracy to take the tapes with her as evidence, which she did. It was an uncomfortable situation that Tracy had never wanted to be in, but she never had to actually play the tapes, just having them was enough. The judge ruled in her favor, she would continue to receive unemployment benefits due to the evidence of sexual harassment and the lack of denial by the Sheriff's office. Doug insisted that she would win her case with EEOC and proceeded to hire an attorney to represent Tracy against the Sheriff's Department.
Then the month of June came and everything changed...
On Saturday June 3rd Tracy and Doug spent the day at Cycle World's open house. They had taken the remaining Harley in hopes that it would sell. Later that evening they took the bike to a car club "cruisin" where local car and bike enthusiasts gathered to show off their hot rods and bikes. Upon arriving back at Doug's where he had to care for his birds, Tracy left for home to take her daughter something to eat. When Tracy returned to Doug's he seemed a bit irritated, but it had been a long day. They planned to watch a movie together at his house, "An Officer and a Gentleman" a movie they both liked a lot. At some point during the movie a comment was made that sparked a disagreement between Doug and Tracy, nothing serious just one of the lines in the movie. Doug became angry to the point of being irate. He began yelling and saying that women had caused him enough trouble in his life and that he didn't need anymore trouble in his life. Tracy decided to leave, maybe he just needed some time to himself. Maybe he was going through something that she didn't know about. Surely an argument over a movie wouldn't cause this. So, Tracy went home for about an hour or so before going back to Doug's. Upon arriving back at Doug's house she noticed he had calmed down some but he was still angry and he didn't want to talk no matter how much she coaxed him. Finally, she went to bed and left him to sleep on the sofa, a place that he normally slept with the TV on.
On Sunday morning Tracy awoke around 6am and drove home, leaving Doug asleep on the sofa. Upon arriving home she went back to bed and then awoke again around 10am. At that time she and her daughter dressed and left for the mall. Elise wanted to meet friends there so Tracy dropped her off agreeing on a time to pick her up at 3pm Tracy left and went to Southern States a farm and garden store just down the road from the mall. At Southern States Tracy talked with the employees about buying enough Sakrete to pour a 6x6 concrete pad for her dog pen. The cashier called Home Depot where she was told it would take approximately 10 bags of Sakrete (80 lbs each) to pour a pad that size. Tracy purchased the suggested amount of Sakrete and a galvanized water trough for her horse. She left Southern States at approximately 1:45-2:00pm and drove home where she had to back up to her carport in order to unload the heavy bags by herself. While sliding the bags across the tailgate of the truck one of the bags tore open. After unloading the truck she quickly rinsed it with the water hose to get the powder off that had covered the back of the truck. Tracy then left and went back to the mall to pick up her daughter at 3:00pm, then went across town to Walmart where she bought several items then arrived back home at approximately 4:15pm. While at home she tried to call Doug, but got no answer. She left to go to his house arriving between 5:30 and 6pm. This was the feeding time for the birds and Tracy normally assisted with that. When Tracy arrived Doug was not talking to her, he seemed irritated and didn't want her help. Eventually, Tracy left and returned home. Doug was not acting normal. He seemed preoccupied as if he had something on his mind. He definitely couldn't be mad at Tracy over a movie.
On Monday Tracy had to be in court to prosecute some pending cases from her work at the Sheriff's Office. Normally Doug would have accompanied her but when she called him he said he wasn't going. Tracy was in court from 9am until approximately 2:30pm. She then stopped by the Sheriff's Office to return some reports at which time the secretary pulled her aside and asked "Tracy, why are you doing this?" Tracy replied, "It's something I feel that I have to do."
When Tracy arrived home at approximately 3:00pm she noticed that the Sakrete and trough were missing from her carport, but when she opened the storage room door to get her house key (Tracy always kept her house key on a nail inside the storage room) she saw her clothes, chaps and riding boots that she had left at Doug's house. Thats when she realized that Doug had been there. It was normal for Doug to bring Tracy's belongings to her house whenever he was mad at her and then he would take whatever belongings he had at her house. She just assumed Doug had taken the supplies from the carport. That was typical of Doug. He would eventually bring it back because he was supposed to help her pour the concrete pad.
That evening, around 6:00pm Tracy went back to Doug's to help him feed the birds. Doug had not answered the telephone all day when she had tried to call, but she knew he would most likely be there at 6:00, and he was, but he was still angry and told her he didn't need any help. So she left.
The following morning, Tuesday June 6th, Doug left an angry message on Tracy's voicemail. He told her not to call him anymore, don't come over to his house anymore. He said, "Don't call me and I won't call you. Leave me alone and I'll leave you alone. I don't need no woman. All you women do is cost me money. Don't come over here anymore!" So she didn't go over there and she didn't call him.
Then, on Saturday June 17th, Tracy was visited by one of Oglethorpe County's deputies, one of her former co-workers, who told her that Madison County Sheriff's Department was trying to get in touch with her. So Tracy called them, wondering why they would need to get in touch with her. She soon found out. According to the deputy she spoke with, Doug's neighbors had reported him missing. Doug had not been seen in almost two weeks, his birds were dying and no one had a clue as to what had happened. Tracy told the deputy everything she cold think of that might be important, she gave them his mother's name and phone number in Michigan, she gave them Doug's friends names and phone numbers, anyone that might know where Doug could be. She also asked if she could be of any help, if she was needed to care for the birds, but she was told "No." She told them to contact her as soon as they found out anything concerning Doug's whereabouts.
Tracy was worried about Doug. He had not been himself and it wasn't like him to leave and not tell anyone and it was even more unlike him to leave those birds uncared for. Tracy called the one friend she knew of that might know where Doug would be. The friend that helped Doug overcome his past. So Tracy called but got his wife instead. His wife said that they hadn't seen Doug, but that Doug had left his truck at their house about two weeks prior with a note saying that he had to leave and wanted Jerry to take care of his truck. They had not called the police. Then, Tracy called Doug's family.
The following day Tracy was asked to come to the Madison County Sheriff's Department for an interview. During the interview Tracy told the investigators everything she could think of including the last weekend she and Doug had spent together and the last time she saw him and talked to him. She gave them the names of his friends as well as any possible enemies he may have had. She told them about the drug dealer and how the had threatened to kill Doug when he got out of prison. Tracy was upset, it wasn't like Doug to just disappear, something just wasn't right.
On Monday, June 19th Tracy called Madison County Sheriff's Department and spoke to Chief Deputy Bill Strickland. She asked if there was any news of Doug. Chief Strickland told her no, but that they were working on something. Later that evening while Tracy was at her mother's home she received a call from her best friend, it was terrible news. Doug's body had been found in Oglethorpe County on a farm where Tracy often hunted and Tracy was considered a suspect in his death. Her world had just been turned upside down.
On Tuesday, June 20th Madison and Oglethorpe County deputies turned Tracy's home upside down searching for any possible evidence to link her to the crime, at the same time Chief Deputy Strickland confiscated Tracy's Ford F150 truck from her mother's home.
Something had gone terribly wrong. How could this be happening? The media was saying that Doug had died on Sunday, June 4th. It was all over the newspaper and television, but that wasn't true. Tracy had seen Doug on Monday, he left a message on Tuesday!
On Wednesday, June 24th Tracy's attorney called and said that a warrant had been issued for her arrest. She was asked to meet him at the Sheriff's Office at 6:00pm. When Tracy said goodbye to her 15 year old daughter that evening she had a bad feeling that she would never return, and she didn't. She never had a chance.
Tracy was the focus of the investigation from the very beginning. There were other suspects but investigators never pursued those leads.
Tracy was arrested for a crime she did not commit.
The murder weapon was never found, although the prosecution entered a weapon into evidence, a .22 rifle, their own expert of ballistics said that the bullet that killed Doug "could" have been fired from this weapon, but she could not say for sure. The expert also said that the bullet could have been fired from a pistol. Doug's neighbors, who reported him missing, said they saw a truck that looked like Tracy's truck at Doug's home on Sunday June 4th, 2000, from 2:30pm until 5:30pm, but a Walmart receipt showed that Tracy was checking out at Walmart at 3:51pm. There is no way that she could have been in two places at once.
The same neighbor told GBI Agents, in September of 2000, three months later, that she had heard a gunshot on Sunday June 4th, 2000 between 2:30 and 5:30pm, but that she thought nothing of it because people were always shooting around the neighborhood.
Investigators claim that Doug was shot inside the home then placed inside a metal trough, covered with concrete, then transported to a farm in Oglethorpe County where Tracy happened to frequent during hunting seasons throughout the year. All of which occurred without anyone noticing. Doug weighed over 220 lbs, the concrete would have weighed at least 800 lbs, plus the trough and the water, which would have been a combined weight of over 1100 lbs. To get all of this into a vehicle without being seen would be impossible for a woman to do! Then, how would it be gotten out of the vehicle?
According to investigators someone backed, what they believe to be a truck with the container on the back, into some trees on the farm, then connected a cable of some kind to the container and the trees and then drove away dragging the 1100 lb metal container from the back of the vehicle.
Tracy's truck did not have a bed liner in it therefore if this container had been dragged across the bed of her truck there would have been some paint transferred from the truck to the container, but there was no paint transfer.
Investigators claimed that the marks left on the trees where the container was located matched measurements taken from Tracy's truck and one such mark on a tree matched up with a "crack" in her truck's taillight. But upon inspection of photos taken when the container was found compared to a video taken after the container had been moved (with a tractor and speared with a hay spear) the mark was found to have been made by the tractor.
Other expert tests were also conducted concerning measurements of Tracy's truck. GBI Crime Scene Investigators wanted to see how far the truck would drop with weight in the back so the investigator asked "2 or 3 police officers" to stand in the back of the truck to simulate 800 lbs.
It was actually two days after Doug's body had been found and moved from the scene before the GBI's Crime Scene Investigator actually went to the scene. It had been left unsecured for those two days.
Prior to the transport of the container to the GBI Crime Lab in Atlanta, Sheriff's deputies and EMS personnel attempted to open the container. Using a hammer and screwdriver they punched holes in the bottom of the container because they could not break through the concrete from the top. Several attempts had been made to break it open by using the spear on the tractor to spear the container, lift it into the air and then drop it on the ground. The only way the container could be moved at all was by using the tractor. Several men at the scene had tried, but were unable to budge it. According to police reports: "after punching holes around the bottom of the container, using a hammer and screwdriver, EMS personnel were able to pull the bottom back like a lid."
The pathologist at the GBI Crime Lab who conducted the autopsy, said that he was unaware that Doug's body had been removed at the scene in this manner, therefore, he assumed that punctures to Doug's right side, hip and leg were stab wounds. This assumption, like many others, were proved wrong.
Prosecutors at trial made a big issue of the note that was left on Doug's truck at the time of his disappearance. The truck had been left in a friend's yard for approximately two weeks, as for the note, it had been removed from the truck and kept in an upstairs office. The state's expert claimed that Tracy "probably" wrote the note, but in one of many police reports Doug's own friend admitted that he and Doug wrote alike. The note was said to have been taped to the windshield with fingerprint tape and that Tracy had been issued fingerprint tape by the Sheriff's Department. When in fact, Tracy had never been issued fingerprint tape, and fingerprint tape was never found in her home or in her possession.
Tracy Fortson has never received a fair trial! It's time that she did! Tracy has proclaimed her innocence since the beginning.Since June 2000she hasfought for her freedom. She has lost everything she owns, sold her home and vehicle to pay attorney fees. She is separated from her loved ones, her daughter that she loves dearly, all for a crime she did not commit.
The entire case against Tracy Fortson was built on circumstantial evidence. There was not solid evidence to convict her. There was no motive. There was nothing other than someone pointing a finger at Tracy saying, "she much have done it."
The state's own crime scene specialist claimed that the crime appeared to have been staged. Did it ever occur to anyone that it was staged to frame Tracy Fortson?
Copyright 2011 Tracy Fortson Defense Fund. All rights reserved.