By Christina Maxouris, Faith Karimi and Jamiel Lynch, CNN

(CNN) — Elrey “Bud” Runion was looking for a 1966 Ford Mustang similar to one he had owned years earlier after returning from the Vietnam War. He placed an ad on Craigslist, hoping to buy a sentimental connection to his past.

A potential seller said he had the car in the south Georgia town of McRae. Runion got into his champagne-colored GMC Envoy with his wife, June, and drove the nearly 180 miles from their home in suburban Atlanta to meet the man.

That was in January 2015, the last time anyone saw the US Army veteran, 69, and his 65-year-old wife alive. Their bodies were discovered days later in some woods off a rural road in Telfair County, and their SUV was found submerged in a nearby lake. The victims were shot in the head, police said.

Ronnie “Jay” Adrian Towns, the man they’d communicated with on Craigslist and a resident of the county, was arrested and charged with the couple’s murders.

The case against Towns has had numerous delays, and nine years later he has yet to be tried. But investigators in the case just got a surprise.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announced this week that someone dredged up “new evidence” earlier this month from a creek not far from Towns’ home, including a rifle and a bag containing items belonging to the couple.

Investigators found additional evidence in a nearby home

The unidentified person pulled the items from Horse Creek while magnet fishing, a hobby in which people use strong magnets to locate and retrieve submerged metal objects from rivers, lakes and other bodies of water. A .22-caliber rifle was found on April 14, the GBI said. Two days later, the person who found the gun returned to the same spot and located a bag that held a cell phone, credit cards and driver’s licenses belonging to the couple.

Authorities then obtained a search warrant for a home in Telfair County, where they obtained additional evidence, the GBI said in a statement. Investigators did not specify whose home it was. “The evidence will be submitted to the crime lab for further analysis,” the GBI said.

In an email to CNN, the GBI declined to provide additional details, including what items were found in the home or whether the rifle was similar to the gun used to kill the couple.

Towns, who was 28 when the killings occurred, was charged with murder and armed robbery in January 2015. The suspect had the “last known communications” with Bud Runion, then-Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson said at the time. The murder weapon was never found.

Authorities believe the rifle recovered in the creek may be connected to the suspect, Oconee District Attorney Tim Vaughn told CNN. The creek is near his home and close to where the victims were discovered, the district attorney said.

Towns pleaded not guilty after the original indictment, according to local news station 13WMAZ. CNN has reached out to his attorneys for comment, but has not heard back.

CNN has not been able to locate any information about a plea following his re-indictment in 2020.

A man lured them to their deaths by pretending to own a classic car

June and Bud Runion were reported missing after they did not show up to babysit their grandchildren the next day, alarming family members.

Investigators determined that the last person they communicated with was Towns, who allegedly responded to the Craigslist ad for the classic car. Towns saw the couple’s ad and called them to set up a deal even though he didn’t own the vintage car, authorities said.

“The entire communication he had with Mr. Runion was deceptive,” Telfair County Sheriff Chris Steverson said at the time.

Telfair County deputies launched air and water searches for the couple, and contacted land owners in the area to ask if they’d seen anything suspicious.

The Runions were known in their suburban Atlanta community for their service to others. The driveway of their home was filled with bikes that Runion repaired to give away to kids who needed them. Every Christmas, the couple loaded up their SUV and drove through poor areas of the Appalachians to hand out presents to children, said Pastor Mark Walker, the leader of their church in Marietta, Georgia.

“The most generous, giving, loving people anyone could ever meet,” Walker said. “Their last anniversary, I’m not exactly sure when that was, Bud went out and pressure-washed in his driveway a big heart. And inside, he spelled “Bud and June.” And he brought her out there and showed her that.”

The couple’s disappearance made nationwide headlines for weeks.

Before the suspect was arrested, his father, Ronnie Towns Sr., went into the woods where he was hiding and helped convince him to surrender to authorities, CNN reported at the time. The elder Towns said his son had told him he was innocent.

“He said, ‘Daddy, I ain’t had nothing to do with this,’ ” Ronnie Towns Sr. said at the time. “It ain’t Jay,” he added. “I don’t believe he did it.”

Towns’ trial is tentatively set for August, the GBI said. The district attorney told CNN he will seek the death penalty.

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CNN’s Amanda Musa contributed to this report.