Tom Durden, Georgia DA who ordered takeover of stalled Ahmaud Arbery investigation, dies at 66

Jul 28, 2023, 12:21 PM

District Attorney Tom Durden of Georgia's Atlantic Judicial Circuit speaks at a news conference, Ma...

District Attorney Tom Durden of Georgia's Atlantic Judicial Circuit speaks at a news conference, May 8, 2020, in Brunswick, Georgia, about the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Durden, the longtime prosecutor who won convictions in Georgia's infamous “tomato patch” killing and called in state investigators to build a case against the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery has died. Durden was 66. AP Photo/Russ Bynum)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Tom Durden, the Georgia district attorney who kick-started the prosecution of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing by calling in state investigators to take over the languishing case, has died at age 66.

The Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, which Durden led for 24 years before stepping down last year, confirmed Durden’s death in a Facebook post Friday. No cause of death was given.

During his career of nearly four decades, Durden served briefly as the second outside prosecutor overseeing the investigation into the February 2020 killing of Arbery. The 25-year-old Black man was fatally shot as he ran from white men in pickup trucks who chased him through their Georgia neighborhood. The shooter said he fired in self-defense.

The case stalled without charges for more than two months before Durden asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take over from local police. GBI agents rapidly made arrests that led to three murder convictions. Durden stepped aside soon after the arrests, saying the case needed a DA with a larger staff.

“He played a significant role, as we know the others before him did nothing,” said Thea Brooks, one of Arbery’s aunts. “No matter how long he had it on his desk, he did the right thing.”

Following Arbery’s killing outside the port city of Brunswick in 2020, the local district attorney recused herself and the first outside prosecutor assigned, George Barnhill, opposed bringing criminal charges before he stepped aside.

Georgia’s attorney general then appointed Durden, who had the case for roughly a month amid a growing outcry for arrests. Durden asked the GBI to get involved after cellphone video of the killing leaked online May 5, 2020.

Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael were arrested on murder charges the day after GBI agents arrived in Brunswick. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, was charged soon after.

“The fact that he sent it to the GBI was a positive turn in the case for us, and I think he deserves credit for it,” said the Rev. John Perry, who led Brunswick’s NAACP chapter at the time Arbery was killed.

The job of prosecuting the McMichaels and Bryan was passed to the district attorney for Cobb County in metro Atlanta. All three men were ultimately convicted of murder in 2021 and sentenced to life in prison.

Durden joined the district attorney’s office as an assistant prosecutor in 1984, two years after earning his law degree from Mercer University. He was elected DA after his predecessor retired in 1998.

Durden prosecuted hundreds of criminal cases in the Atlantic Circuit, which covers six southeast Georgia counties outside Savannah.

“Mr. Durden was a true public servant to the State of Georgia for close to 40 years,” Pete Skandalakis, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, said in a statement. “My sincerest condolences to Tom’s family.”

In 1998, Durden successfully prosecuted four family members and a friend in the killing of Thurmon Martin, a case that would become known as Georgia’s infamous “tomato patch” murder.

Martin, 64, was shot while sleeping in May 1997 and buried behind his home in rural Ludowici. The case gained notoriety for the tomato plants growing atop Martin’s grave, as well as the defendants’ harrowing courtroom accounts of being abused by the slain man.

United States News

Associated Press

Group of homeless people sues Portland, Oregon, over new daytime camping ban

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A group of homeless people in Portland, Oregon, filed a class action lawsuit on Friday challenging new restrictions the city placed on daytime camping in an attempt to address safety issues stemming from a crisis of people living on the streets. The lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court alleges the […]

15 minutes ago

Associated Press

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — ABC’s “This Week” — Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget; Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y.; Chris Christie, a Republican presidential candidate. __ NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Preempted by coverage of golf’s Ryder Cup. __ CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

An ex-investigative journalist is sentenced to 6 years in a child sexual abuse materials case

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former investigative journalist for ABC News was sentenced Friday to six years in federal prison for possessing and transporting child sexual abuse images. James Gordon Meek, of Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty in July, admitting in a plea agreement that he used an iPhone to exchange illicit materials during a chat […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Dad who won appeal in college admissions bribery case gets 6 months home confinement for tax offense

BOSTON (AP) — A former Staples Inc. executive whose fraud and bribery convictions in the sprawling college admissions cheating scandal were thrown out by an appeals court was sentenced on Friday to six months of home confinement for a tax offense. John Wilson, 64, of Lynnfield, Massachusetts, was sentenced in Boston’s federal appeals court months […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Court orders Subway franchise owners to pay workers nearly $1M – and to sell or close their stores

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal court ordered the owners of 14 Subway locations north of San Francisco to pay employees nearly $1 million in damages and back pay — and also to sell or shut their businesses, with any sale proceeds going to the Department of Labor. Federal investigators said franchise owners John and […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

2 Indianapolis officers indicted for shooting Black man who was sleeping in his car, prosecutor says

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A grand jury has indicted two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers for shooting a Black man who was sleeping in a car parked outside his grandmother’s house, a prosecutor said Friday. Officers Carl Chandler and Alexander Gregory were indicted on battery and criminal recklessness charges in connection with the Dec. 31 predawn […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Ignite Digital

How to unlock the power of digital marketing for Phoenix businesses

All businesses around the Valley hopes to maximize their ROI with current customers and secure a greater market share in the digital sphere.



At Ability360, every day is Independence Day

With 100 different programs and services, more than 1,500 non-medically based home care staff, a world-renowned Sports & Fitness Center and over 15,000 people with disabilities served annually, across all ages and demographics, Ability360 is a nationwide leader in the disability community.



Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]

Tom Durden, Georgia DA who ordered takeover of stalled Ahmaud Arbery investigation, dies at 66