ATLANTA, GA – Attorney General Chris Carr offers the following information in the case against Willie James Pye, who is currently scheduled to be executed on March 20, 2024, at 7:00 p.m. for the 1993 kidnapping, robbery, rape, and murder of Alicia Lynn Yarbrough. 

Scheduled Execution

On Feb. 29, 2024, the Superior Court of Spalding County filed an order setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Willie James Pye may occur, to begin at noon on March 20, 2024, and ending seven days later at noon on March 27, 2024. Pye has concluded his direct appeal proceedings and his state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.

Pye’s Crimes (1993)

The Georgia Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:

The evidence presented at trial authorized the jury to find the following: Pye had been in a sporadic romantic relationship with the victim, Alicia Lynn Yarbrough, but, at the time of her murder, Ms. Yarbrough was living with another man, Charles Puckett. Pye and two companions, Chester Adams and Anthony Freeman, planned to rob Puckett because Pye had heard that Puckett had just collected money from the settlement of a lawsuit. Pye was also angry because Puckett had signed the birth certificate of a child whom Pye claimed as his own.

The three men drove to Griffin in Adams’ car and, in a street transaction, Pye bought a large, distinctive .22 pistol. They then went to a party where a witness observed Pye in possession of the large .22. Just before midnight, the three left the party and drove toward Puckett’s house. As they were leaving, a witness heard Pye say, "it’s time, let’s do it." All of the men put on the ski masks which Pye had brought with him, and Pye and Adams also put on gloves.

They approached Puckett’s house on foot and observed that only Ms. Yarbrough and her baby were home. Pye tried to open a window and Ms. Yarbrough saw him and screamed. Pye ran around to the front door, kicked it in, and held Ms. Yarbrough at gunpoint. After determining that there was no money in the house, they took a ring and a necklace from Ms. Yarbrough and abducted her, leaving the infant in the house. The men drove to a nearby motel where Pye rented a room using an alias. In the motel room, the three men took turns raping Ms. Yarbrough at gunpoint. Pye was angry with Ms. Yarbrough and said, “You let Puckett sign my baby’s birth certificate.”

After attempting to eliminate their fingerprints from the motel room, the three men and Ms. Yarbrough left in Adams’ car. Pye whispered in Adams’ ear and Adams turned off onto a dirt road. Pye then ordered Ms. Yarbrough out of the car, made her lie face down, and shot her three times, killing her. As they were driving away, Pye tossed the gloves, masks, and the large .22 from the car. The police later recovered these items and found the victim’s body only a few hours after she was killed. A hair found on one of the masks was consistent with the victim’s hair, and a ballistics expert determined that there was a 90 percent probability that a bullet found in the victim’s body had been fired by the .22. Semen was found in the victim’s body and DNA taken from the semen matched Pye’s DNA. When Pye talked to the police later that day, he stated that he had not seen the victim in at least two weeks. However, Freeman confessed and later testified for the State.

Pye v. State, 269 Ga. 779, 782-83, 505 S.E.2d 4, 9 (1998).

Trial (1994-1997)

On Feb. 7, 1994, Pye was indicted by a Spalding County grand jury for malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping with bodily injury, armed robbery, burglary, rape, and aggravated sodomy. Pye’s trial began on May 28, 1996, and on June 6, 1996, the jury found him guilty on all counts of the indictment except felony murder and aggravated sodomy. Following the sentencing phase of trial, on June 7, 1996, the jury recommended a death sentence for the malice murder, finding as four separate statutory aggravating circumstances that Pye had committed the murder while engaged in the commission of the offenses of kidnapping with bodily injury, rape, armed robbery, and burglary. The trial court ordered the death sentence for the malice murder. For the remaining counts, the trial court imposed three additional life sentences plus twenty years all to be served consecutively. On July 3, 1996, Pye filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied on Aug. 22, 1997.

Direct Appeal (1998-1999)

On Feb. 3, 1998, Pye appealed his convictions and sentences to the Georgia Supreme Court. On Sep. 21, 1998, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed all of Pye’s convictions and sentences. Pye v. State, 269 Ga. 779505 S.E.2d 41998). On May 17, 1999, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review. 

State Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2000-2013)

Pye filed his state habeas petition on Feb. 4, 2000. On Jan. 30, 2012, following an evidentiary hearing and post-hearing briefing, the state habeas court issued an order denying Pye habeas relief. The Georgia Supreme Court denied Pye’s appeal on April 15, 2013. 

Federal Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2013-2023)

Pye filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on July 24, 2013. On Jan. 22, 2018, the district court denied Pye’s federal habeas relief. A panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted relief and vacated Pye’s death sentence on April 27, 2021. The Eleventh Circuit granted the Warden’s request for full court review on Sep. 1, 2021. After vacating the panel opinion, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of habeas relief on Oct. 4, 2022. Pye v. Warden, Ga. Diagnostic Prison, 50 F.4th 1025 (11th Cir. 2022). The United States Supreme Court denied Pye’s request to appeal on Oct. 30, 2023. 


Communications Director Kara Richardson