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Rebecca “Becky” Turpin had big dreams. Strangely for this Southern belle, her dream was to be a member of the Italian-American Mafia.
Becky was born in the late 1930s and grew up in Athens, Georgia. In high school, Becky began dating Joseph Ronald "Ronnie" Akins. During Becky’s senior year of high school, she became pregnant with Ronnie’s child and they were married soon after. They would have three daughters together and settle in Macon, Georgia.
Ronnie worked for Southern Natural Gas as a repairman and engineer and was on call around the clock.
“He worked a lot but when he was home, he was with us, and he was doing something with us,” daughter Valerie Akins told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen. “My dad was probably one of the best fathers you could have.”
In contrast, Becky was allegedly physically and mentally abusive. In the true crime book "Pure Evil: The Machetti Murders of Macon, Georgia," Valerie described being manipulated, threatened, and beaten by her mother, according to a 2020 report from Macon’s Telegraph newspaper.
Ronnie and Becky’s marriage deteriorated to the point where they were barely speaking by the time their daughters became teenagers. The Akinses divorced in 1973, and Becky took the girls and moved to Miami, Florida. There, Becky met John Eldon Smith, a New Jersey native and insurance salesman. They were married in July 1974 after dating for two months.
Back in Macon, meanwhile, Ronnie began dating schoolteacher Juanita Knight. “My dad hit the jackpot with Juanita. The way she looked at him, she absolutely adored him,” Valerie told "Snapped." They were married in August 1974. Their happiness was short-lived, though.
While flying over Macon on Aug. 31, 1974, a local pilot spotted a car with a body beside it. He called it in and officers with the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office rushed to the scene. When they arrived they found two dead bodies, a man and a woman.
“It was a shotgun blast to the chest of the male and to the head of the male. Inside the vehicle, with her legs sticking out, was a woman and she had been shot in the head,” prosecutor Tim Sceviour told producers.
One of the officers recognized the victims as Ronnie and Juanita Akins. The hood of their car was still warm, which meant the crime had recently occurred. A latent palm print was found on the driver’s side door.
“The investigators found a note with directions to the scene in the male victim’s pocket. That indicates that the victim was lured out there under some pretense to the crime scene. It wasn’t some happenstance. It was planned,” former Bibb County Deputy Sheriff Glen Sharpe told “Snapped.”
The bodies were found at a new housing development that was under construction. Residents who lived nearby reported hearing gunshots and seeing two cars in the area: the Akins’ vehicle and two white men in a green AMC Gremlin.
Authorities contacted Becky, who was in Miami at the time of the murder. She claimed to have restaurant receipts that confirmed her whereabouts, and said her husband was on a fishing trip with a friend named John Maree.
Becky also told investigators her ex-husband was not the dedicated father and friend his loved ones made him out to be. She claimed Ronnie was a drug dealer and an addict. She said he suffered an overdose in 1973, resulting in a hospital stay and a visit to the mental ward and that she divorced him soon after.
“I never heard anything supporting that at all. There was absolutely nothing said from a credible source to back that up,” Sharpe told producers.
In Macon, investigators interviewed Alan Barfield. Barfield had gone to Miami the weekend of the murder to seek Smith’s blessing to marry Valerie Akins. When he arrived, he was informed Smith was away on his fishing trip. However, when Smith and Maree returned, there were no signs such a thing occurred.
“They came in and there was no fish, there was no fishing poles, there was nothing. It just ... something was weird,” Barfield told “Snapped.”
Detectives in North Miami brought John Eldon Smith and John Maree in for questioning. Smith said he now went by Anthony Isalldo “Tony” Machetti, a name change that came at the insistence of his new wife, who was now known as Becky Machetti.
“Becky decided she wanted to make her family look like they were in the Mafia and they were Italians. It was just her image that she wanted to put out there,” Barfield said.
Smith told detectives that at the time of the murder he and Maree were fishing as well as scouting locations to potentially build a hotel.
Maree, meanwhile, told detectives he met Becky at a local bar soon after she moved to Florida. The two had a brief affair before she met Smith but remained close, and Maree was intimately involved with her family. She liked that he gambled and thought it was glamorous, investigators told producers.
“When my mother decided she was going to marry John Eldon Smith, who later became Tony Machetti, she still wanted for some reason John Maree in the picture so she pushed John Maree into a relationship with my 17-year-old sister,” Akins said.
Both Smith and Maree were fingerprinted and let go after their interviews.
Back in Macon, investigators learned that Ronnie had a $53,000 life insurance policy through his work. His daughters were beneficiaries for half that amount, but as minors the money would be controlled by Becky.
In the meantime, the test results from the latent palm print found on the Akins car came back. It belonged to Maree. Witnesses also placed Maree inside the green car seen near the crime scene.
The only thing linking John Eldon Smith and John Maree to Ronnie Akins and Juanita Akins was Becky Machetti.
On October 16, 1974, authorities obtained arrest warrants for John Eldon Smith, John Maree, and Becky Machetti. They were taken into custody in Florida and transported back to Macon. After several weeks behind bars, Maree made a full confession.
Maree said Becky was infatuated with the Mafia, and in John Eldon Smith, she found a willing partner in playing out her dark fantasies.
“John Maree then told the investigators that one of the motives behind this was that Anthony Machetti [John Eldon Smith] was going to become a Mafia hitman,” Sceviour told producers.
Becky told Smith he could make thousands of dollars as a hit man. Killing Akins was a way for Smith to “make his bones,” in Mafia parlance, to prove he was able to kill at will. The life insurance payout sweetened the deal.
Maree was paid $1,000 to drive Smith to Macon and back, according to court documents. Akins was lured to the crime scene under the ruse of installing television antennas and brought his new wife along for the ride.
“Anthony Machetti got his shotgun and he grabbed it out of the vehicle and he shot both of these individuals,” Sceviour explained.
John Eldon Smith was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. He was executed in Georgia’s electric chair at the age of 53 in December 1983, according to The New York Times.
John Maree testified at both Smith and Becky Machetti’s murder trials and was sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1987 after 13 years.
In February 1975, Rebecca Akins Machetti was convicted on two counts of murder and sentenced to death, according to court documents. However, she won an appeal in 1983 and was granted a new trial.
At Machetti’s retrial, daughters Vicky and Valerie Akins testified against her. They said that their father’s 1973 drug overdose was actually attempted murder, carried out by their mother.
“Rebecca had provided a milkshake to him which contained a mildew remover or some type of bleach cleaner along with the ice cream,” Sceviour told producers.
After Ronnie passed out, Becky tried to smother him and forced her daughters to help.
“That was probably the worst memory of my life because we didn’t want to do it but she’s screaming at us, ‘Hold him! Hold him,’ and we did and Dad was fighting and we didn’t know what to do,” Valerie claimed.
Machetti was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and was sentenced to two consecutive life terms. In 2010, at the age of 71, she was granted parole, according to the Savannah Morning News. She died of complications caused by COVID-19 in September 2020, reported The Macon Telegraph. She was 81 years old.
For more on this case and others like it, watch “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
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