When you’re the son of a legend, you have to find your own way. That’s what McCartney had to do. After all his father, Ches, was the ‘Goat Man’ – the fabled wanderer who traveled more than 100,000 miles up and down the east coast on a wagon pulled by goats.
“I remember him well. He walked a lot. I think he did little odd jobs for people from time to time: cutting grass or cleaning up, something to that nature. He earned a little bit of money. I never knew him to be out of the way with anybody,” Sheriff Darren Mitchum says.
Ches and Gene lived on an old school bus in Jeffersonville. Sheriff Mitchum says that’s not something unusual in the county.
“His father had lived there for so long as he did. I think it just become a customary thing that that’s where they lived,” says Mitchum.
After several years, Ches’ old age forced him to move to a retirement home in Macon — leaving Gene alone.
“The sheriff’s office here got a call from some acquaintances, some friends of his, that were worried about him because they hadn’t seen him in several days, 3 or 4 days, and that was unusual because he walked a lot. That’s how he got around,” Mitchum says.
Gene had become a fixture in town of his own right. Deputies went to check and see if everything was OK. No it was not.
“He was shot with a small caliber handgun. If I’m not mistaken I believe it was a .22 caliber handgun,” said Mitchum reviewing the case file.
But who would shoot and kill a man in his sixties? Sheriff Mitchum says McCartney on Highway 80 West, about seven miles from here, on a school bus. When deputies got to the scene, they found his decomposed body along with shell casings on top of a pile of cans.
“It appeared that he had been shot three times,” says Mitchum.
He says he knew McCartney and didn’t think he had a problem with anybody. For years, deputies couldn’t find any clues linking to the murder.
Then someone confessed he pulled the trigger.
Could it be the killer?
“He had none of the right information all the way to he was claiming that he shot him with a different caliber handgun and they knew at the time that that wasn’t so,” says Mitchum.
Back to square one.
Mitchum still revisits this case and although McCartney didn’t have family in the area, the sheriff isn’t giving up his search for McCartney’s killer.
“Once I walked in the door it became my responsibility. It became my problem. So I take it very serious, I would really like to solve this case and the others that we have,” says Mitchum.
Gene’s father, the “Goat Man”, died six months at that nursing home in Macon. Sheriff’s investigators and the GBI still don’t have any answers in this case, if you know who killed Gene McCartney, call the Twiggs County Sheriff’s Office at 478-945-3357.