17-year-old charged in deadly Dallas Co. home invasion

Published: May. 19, 2015 at 4:40 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 30, 2015 at 10:30 PM CDT
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Elijah Harris (Source: Dallas County District Attorney's Office)
Elijah Harris (Source: Dallas County District Attorney's Office)
Jesscilus Phillips' house. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Jesscilus Phillips' house. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

DALLAS CO., AL (WSFA) - A Selma teenager has been arrested several months after prosecutors say he broke into a Dallas County house to steal things and ended up killing the homeowner.

Elijah Harris, 17, is charged with capital murder and burglary in the death of Jesscilus Phillips, 39.

Sheriff's deputies were called to a residence on Laredo Court around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 19th on reports of a "subject down." When they arrived, they found Phillips lying face down in his driveway in a pool of blood. He died from at least one gunshot wound to the torso in his front yard.

The scene is just outside the Selma city limits at housing on the former Craig Air Force Base.

Chris Edmunds is left wondering why his father-in-law was targeted.

"He was loved. He was a loved individual. one thing that sparked his life was our kids. He just loved his grand babies. It's just sad that somebody had to do this because they don't have anything," Edmunds said. "It's just like somebody just really wanted him dead for no reason."

After the fatal incident, investigators revealed that at least one armed intruder smashed the back sliding glass door and made their way inside the house where Phillips was asleep upstairs. When they encountered each other, Phillips was shot.

"All indications is that he was actually awakened in his sleep. He was still in his nightwear. We believe he was in his bedroom at the time and we don't know if he heard a noise and actually tried to walk downstairs and confront the perpetrator or he heard a noise or he was going to investigate," said Captain Mike Granthum with the Dallas County Sheriff's Department. "We believe it may have been a burglary gone bad."

The home invasion occurred between 2-3 a.m. Phillips' body was discovered by a resident in the neighborhood hours later and they notified authorities. The victim's girlfriend was at work during that time.

"He was actually shot inside the residence and due to his strength and courage, he was able to make it outside. We don't know if he was trying to get help or if he was chasing the perpetrator but he did end up outside his home," Cpt. Granthum added.

The investigation spanned months, with the victim's family and authorities turning to the public for help in the search for information.

Elijah Harris was arrested Thursday but Dallas County District Attorney says warrants were issued in August after he was identified as the suspect.

Harris made his first court appearance in Dallas County Circuit Court Thursday and a judge ordered him held in jail without bond.

His preliminary hearing has been set for December 21, 2015 at 9 am.

"We just don't know why. Why him? He's been living here a long time. As a matter of fact, this is his mother's house. He's been living here over 30 something years and nobody ever messed with him," Edmunds said. "We're still not taking it in that he's gone. He didn't deserve that. You couldn't ask for a better granddad."

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