The Georgia Supreme Court has granted a stay of execution for a man convicted of strangling three elderly women with their own stockings hours before he was scheduled to be put to death.

In a 5-2 vote Wednesday, the court ordered the Muscogee County Superior Court to conduct a hearing on 59-year-old Carlton Gary's request for DNA testing. Gary was convicted in 1986 of three of seven slayings between 1977 and 1978 that terrified the west Georgia city of Columbus.

He was dubbed by the local media as the "Stocking Strangler" because the victims were brutally beaten and raped before they were strangled with their own underwear.

He was scheduled to be executed Wednesday night.

Gary's attorneys hope to stop his execution so DNA evidence from the four other slayings can be tested. No evidence in the strangling deaths had been subjected to DNA testing since it wasn't available when he was convicted.

A series of state and federal courts have so far dismissed the challenges.