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Trial date set for suspect in shooting death of Lowndes County sheriff

After his arrest, William Chase Johnson was taken into custody and booked into the Elmore...
After his arrest, William Chase Johnson was taken into custody and booked into the Elmore County Jail. (Source: Elmore County Jail/WSFA/Gray News)
Published: May. 9, 2022 at 3:56 PM CDT
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LOWNDES COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - A judge has set a trial date for the man accused of killing Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams in late 2019.

Lowndes County Circuit Court Judge Bert W. Rice set trial for William Chase Johnson to begin on Oct. 11. The judge made the decision after becoming aware that the county would only have one criminal jury term for the rest of 2022 and no terms in 2023 until the month of April.

Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams.
Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams.(Source: Lowndes County Sheriff's Office)

The trial will take place in the county courthouse in Hayneville that now bears the name of the slain sheriff. The courthouse is located not far from the gas station when Williams was shot to death.

Johnson was indicted in early 2021 on a capital murder charge. He later pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

The shooting happened on the night of Nov. 23, 2019 after the sheriff responded to a Hayneville gas station, identified himself, and asked for the loud music coming from Johnson’s vehicle to be turned down, according to court records.

Johnson’s attorneys have argued Williams didn’t identify himself, he wasn’t wearing clothes identifying himself as law enforcement and his blue lights weren’t on when he was attempting to clear the gas station parking lot, prior to the incident involving Johnson.

Johnson continues to be held in the Elmore County Jail while awaiting trial.

Rice said prior to the jury term, the court will set a pretrial conference at which time any pending motions will be addressed.

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