The Murders of the Alday Family
The Second Worst Massacre in Georgia History, Leading to the Longest Serving Death Row Inmate in the United States
May 14, 1973
Donalsonville, Georgia is a tiny hamlet in the southwestern corner of the state, 20 minutes north of Lake Seminole, 62 miles south of Albany and 36 miles east of Dothan, Alabama. Named for John Ernest Donalson, who built the first lumber mill in the area, kicking off the city’s growth, its economy was mostly agriculture, and home to 13 churches in the city’s roughly four square miles of land and the immediate surrounding area. The city has two schools (an elementary plus a middle/high school) and one public library. Two NFL players called Donalsonville home at one time and the two Anglin brothers who escaped from Alcatraz in 1962 came from a Donalsonville family. In all, it was an unlikely scene for what would become the second worst mass murder in Georgia history.
On May 5, 1973, the events which would culminate in the massacre of the Alday family began to form at the Poplar Hill Correctional Institute outside of Baltimore, Maryland.
Nineteen-year-old Carl Isaacs had been a truant and runaway that was diagnosed with depression, poor self-image and an inability to handle his angry emotions, with particular hostility toward women. He had prostituted himself out to a pedophile in exchange for room and board during one of his escapes from foster homes and the juvenile system and periods on the street. By 1970, when he was sixteen, he was regularly stealing cars and burglarizing homes, the same year he was arrested for the first time. A second arrest, for car theft and breaking and entering in Maryland quickly followed, and he was sentenced to the Maryland State Penitentiary, arriving there on March 27, 1973. Two days later, a riot broke out and the young and small Carl was raped by fellow inmates for over eight hours. Ten days later, he was transferred to the Maryland Correction Camp and then on April 25, he was transferred to the minimum-security Poplar Hill.
Carl’s half-brother, Wayne Coleman, was 26 years old and had been in and out of institutions his entire life. Like Carl, he had been arrested for car theft and burglary and had already been at Poplar Hill…