published Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Hearing set in murder case of James Williams Jr.

  • photo
    Deangelo Napoleon "Fookie" Justice stands in front of Judge Bob Moon during a preliminary hearing dealing with homicide charges in relation to a home invasion at 2305 E. 17th St., where two were shot, one being killed, on July 27.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A small crowd of supporters stood behind a shackled 22-year-old man charged with murder in Hamilton County General Sessions Court on Monday.

A gray-haired woman had a question for Judge Ronald Durby.

"Judge, can I hug my grandson?" Alma Murphy asked.

"You can hug your grandson if you want to," Durby said.

But standing a few paces away, Martha Moore wasn't happy to see this family embrace.

And her anger showed.

"My son's dead, I can't hug him," Martha Moore told the judge, her voice rising. "If the law's going to be right, it needs to be right across the board."

Assistant District Attorney Lyla Statham ushered Moore and her husband, Victor, to the side as the family of Deangelo "Fookie" Napoleon Justice exited the courtroom.

Durby had just scheduled a preliminary hearing on Aug. 30 for Justice to appear before Judge Bob Moon along with his two co-defendants -- Jerrico "Ri-Ri" Hawthorne, 24, and Laquela Bailey, 25.

Chattanooga police say Hawthorne and Justice shot James Williams Jr. as many as 14 times with two guns on July 27. Officers arrested Hawthorne and Bailey at the Motel 6 at 7707 Lee Highway on July 30 and Justice on Aug. 10 at a 1900 Burton St. apartment.

Hawthorne and Justice both face charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and three counts of especially aggravated robbery in connection with Williams' death.

The Aug. 30 hearing could determine whether there is enough evidence against Hawthorne, Justice and Bailey to send the case to the grand jury for a possible indictment.

Bailey was arrested on charges of accessory after the fact, meaning that police suspect she helped either Hawthorne, Justice or both men following the crime. She was released on a $10,000 bond two days after her arrest.

2305 East 17th Street
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On July 27, police went to the 2305 E. 17th St. home of Yetta Harris just before midnight to find Williams, 23, and Harris, 38, riddled with gunshot wounds, according to court documents.

Harris' sons -- Jeffrey Dunnigan, 18, and a 7-year-old boy -- were inside when the shooting happened. They weren't injured, but Harris, Williams' girlfriend, still is recovering from her injuries.

Two gunmen

Dunnigan told police he was walking into the home when two black males holding semiautomatic pistols rushed him and demanded money. One of the pair shocked him with a Taser-like device as each punched and kicked him, he told police.

Harris and Williams arrived home during the assault. Williams gave the attackers some money so they would leave. The men shot both Harris and Williams.

Harris and Dunnigan later identified Justice and Hawthorne as the two attackers in a photo lineup.

Moore said Williams and Hawthorne fought when they were teens but only fistfights. After Hawthorne went to prison for unrelated aggravated assault charges, Moore said her son didn't think about the fights after that.

Speaking after the hearing, Moore said she believes Hawthorne planned the attack as revenge for previous fights. She called local youth violence "senseless" and said she wanted offenders to think more about the effect such acts are having on their communities.

Previous case

Hawthorne was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault for firing a .357-caliber pistol into a crowd after his car window was broken in April 2006. The attempted-murder charges were dismissed and Hawthorne was sentenced to three years in state prison in January 2008 on aggravated assault charges.

Bill Speek, Justice's court-appointed attorney, said he first had spoken with his client Monday and Justice's relatives are "a little bit taken aback by the gravity of the situation but they are rallying behind their son."

He said he will not waive Justice's right to a preliminary hearing.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6347.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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