Statement by District Attorney Pete Skandalakis on Thomas J. Lee’s guilty plea
The following is a press release from Peter J. Skandalakis, district attorney of the Coweta Judicial Circuit, regarding the guilty plea of Thomas J. Lee:
On Jan. 28, 2015, a tragedy of indescribable proportions struck our community. A close knit family was murdered in their home. Responding to a welfare check on Jan. 30, 2015, Troup County Sheriff’s Deputies discovered the bodies of five victims: William Burtron, Shelia Burtron, Christie Lee, Bailey Burtron and neighborhood friend Iionna Green in the Burtron home. The deputies immediately secured the area and began an investigation with the assistance of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The investigation led by Troup County Sheriff’s Investigator Capt. Mike Caldwell developed Thomas Jesse Lee as the prime suspect in the case. After an exhausting and incredibly thorough investigation by the Troup County Sheriff’s Office and the GBI, overwhelming evidence indicated Thomas Lee murdered all five victims and fled the state. Lee was eventually apprehended at a bus station in Tupelo, Mississippi, following a nationwide manhunt.
The District Attorney’s Office met with the family of the victims at the outset of the case and remained in contact with them throughout the continued investigation. While the case did qualify for the death penalty, based on the significant prior mental health issues of the defendant and the wishes of some of the members of the families, this office is taking a plea of guilty with a sentence of life without parole. This will ensure Thomas Lee will spend the rest of his life in a Georgia state prison.
I wish to thank Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff, and recognize Capt. Mike Caldwell and his team of investigators and deputies for the excellent manner in which this case was pursued and investigated. Without such an investigation, this matter could not have been concluded in a timely manner. I also wish to thank the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their assistance and professionalism.
Finally, it is my hope that by bringing this chapter to a close and avoiding years of litigation, the families of the victims, who have shown remarkable strength throughout the course of this investigation and during meetings with my office, will be able to remember their loved ones as they lived.
Peter J. Skandalakis