Suspect Arrested in Tallassee Murder

By Cody Holyoke - bio | email

Tallassee, Al. (WSFA) -- For the small town of a little more than 5,000 people, the murder of Donald Joe Harris, 33, comes as a complete shock.

Police say Harris and his nephew, William Johnston, 20, of Tallassee, got into a fight inside Johnston's house on James Street Friday night.

The dispute started, police say, because Harris was acting dangerously around a baby.

The argument escalated, and authorities say Johnston cut his uncle's throat.

"[The wound] caused him to bleed out at the scene, and he ended up succumbing to his injuries," explained Chief Jimmy Rodgers of the Tallassee Police Department.

Soon after authorities arrived, officers caught up with Johnston, who they say later confessed.

"I think that alcohol played a part in it, and one thing led to another, and unfortunately it ended the way it did," Rodgers said.

Neighbors say they saw the whole thing play out.

"It looked like [people] were trying to get [Harris] to leave, but he wouldn't leave.  They got into an argument, and I saw [Johnston] come running out of the house," said neighbor Kevin Tyler.

Even though police say it's an open and shut case, this is Tallassee's first murder in five years--a shocking crime for this quiet town.

"It's something you don't really expect.  It has been quiet and peaceful, and for something like that to happen, it's mind blowing," Tyler said.

Now, a family will have to bury one member while another sits behind bars.

Johnston is currently at the City Jail in Tallassee, charged with murder. Authorities say he'll be transferred to Elmore County to face a bond hearing.