Editor's note: This story was originally published in June 2017. It is part of our Year-In-Review section.
"My heart is still in my soles of my shoes today," Department of Corrections Commissioner Greg Dozier spoke about murdered correctional officers Christopher Monica and Curtis Billue. "They are family."
The two officers were transporting inmates in a bus along Hwy. 16 in Putnam County when prisoners Ricky Dubose and Doonnie Rowe allegedly got through the front gate, shot the guards, and escaped. A massive manhunt was launched as their families began to mourn.
Christopher Monica was a family man.
Milledgeville neighbors describe seeing him playing with his two daughters, and later his two grandchildren. He was the kind of neighbor who would help anyone who needed it.
One neighbor, who didn't want to use her name, said she's known Monica for 11 years. "He loved his family and wanted to spend time with them," she said. He was kind, hardworking, a "wonderful person."
The prison guard was described as "so sweet."
Monica had been with the Department of Corrections since 2009. On Wednesday night, 11Alive learned that the officer had begun taking on extra shifts at work to help his family, specifically so his wife wouldn't have to work with her health declining. A GoFundMe page has been established for the family of Monica. Click here for information on how to donate.
Billue was hired by the DOC in 2007. "They were both tenured officers," Dozier said. "They both had families."
Billue leaves behind seven siblings, two sons, and a slew of nieces and nephews.
Jim Green, an attorney speaking for Billue's family, said, "Officer Billue's family asks for prayers for all of those who are now placing their own lives at risk to bring these men to justice."
A family member told 11Alive news Billue was "always smiling". She said those smiles were especially bright on his visits home while serving in the military. He served in the Army for more than a decade and received multiple awards for his service.
"They are part of our family. The DOC family runs deep. I feel for them. We feel for the officers that work with them on a daily basis. It hit each one of us very hard and we are still struggling with them," Dozier said.
The double murder is the first time a DOC officer was killed in the line of duty in five years. In 2012, a guard at the Telfair State Prison was stabbed by an inmate. Larry Stell died from his injuries.
The Associated Press reported that Billue's family attorney, Jim Green, issued a statement saying,
"Officer Billue's family asks for prayers for all of those who are now placing their own lives at risk to bring these men to justice."
He says the family also asks anyone who has information that may assist in apprehending these perpetrators to please contact law enforcement.
On Wednesday, Monica and Billue's bodies were led away from the GBI headquarters by a procession of Georgia State Patrol motorcycles as employees paid their respects.
Funeral arrangements have been planned for both officers. Services for officer Curtis Billue are scheduled to take place Saturday, June 17, at 11 a.m. in the Wilkinson County High School Auditorium in McIntyre.
Monica's services are being handled by Williams Funeral Home in Milledgeville. His visitation is Monday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Williams Funeral Home & Crematory, 1670 N. Jefferson St. His service is 2 p.m. Tuesday at First United Methodist Church of Milledgeville at 366 Log Cabin Drive.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report