He was 26, she was just 15. Together, they were a match made in hell.
Alvin Howard was madly in love with Judith Ann Neelley, the troubled daughter of a large family from Tennessee. No stranger to trouble himself, Alvin had been committing petty crimes and stealing cars throughout his young adult life. Soon after meeting Judith, Alvin left his wife and three children; he married Judith in the summer of 1980.
The two began a life of crime together, committing armed robberies as they traveled across the South. A botched robbery at a Georgia mall briefly put the pair behind bars. While incarcerated, Judith, who was pregnant, gave birth to twins. Upon their release, Alvin and Judith reunited—and their criminal actions took a turn for the sinister.
On September 25, 1982, Judith spotted 13-year-old Lisa Millican at Riverbend Mall in Rome, Georgia. She convinced the young girl to join her and Alvin at a motel in nearby Scottsboro, Alabama. Upon arrival, Judith and Alvin seized upon Lisa. Over the following days, they raped and tortured their victim, before eventually murdering her.
On October 4, 1982, Judith targeted a young engaged couple named Janice Chatman and John Hancock. She claimed to be taking them to a party. In reality, Judith led the couple into the woods where Alvin was waiting. After shooting John Hancock and leaving him for dead, Judith and Alvin kidnapped Janice and brought her back to their Alabama motel room. They again tortured and murdered their captive. Despite being shot, however, John Hancock had survived his attack. He was was able to report the crime to authorities.
On October 9, 1982, Judith Neelley was arrested. Alvin was apprehended a few days later. Though both were sent to prison, Judith Neelley was presented as the mastermind behind the killings. Alvin avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to murder and aggravated assault. Judith was not so lucky. She was convicted of the murder of Lisa Millican and sentenced to death in 1983. The conviction made Judith the youngest woman to be sentenced to death in the United States.
After a lengthy appeals process, Judith Neelley’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. She continues to spend her life in jail. Alvin lived out the rest of his days behind bars, dying in November of 2005.