Murder case delayed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 12, 2002

According to an Associated Press report, the capital murder charges against 22-year-old Westley Devone Harris, accused of killing six members of his girlfriend's family in the Crenshaw County community of Rutledge, will not go to grand jury in October, therefore delaying a review until at least spring. There will be a delay apparently because forensic tests will not be complete.

The alleged murders apparently occurred on the night of August 26, with

Harris accused of murdering member of the family of his girlfriend, 16-year-old Janice Ball.

Killed were Mila Ruth Ball, 62, JoAnn Ball, 35, Willie Hasley, 40, and brothers Jerry Ball, 19, Tony Ball, 17 and John Ball, 14.

The next session of the Crenshaw County grand jury is scheduled to begin Oct. 29 but Crenshaw County District Attorney John Andrews said the forensic results will not be completed in time to present the case to the grand jury.

Like many rural counties, Crenshaw County conducts two grand jury sessions, one in the spring and one in the fall. Andrews said he hopes the case will be ready for the spring.

An investigator with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation has said investigators apparently have a good case against Harris, but are still trying to determine a motive in the slayings.

The victims were found on the night of August 27, but relatives of the family have said they believe the family members were slain the previous night.

Apparently on the night of the murders, Harris, his girlfriend and her daughter fled in a car belonging to Janice Ball's father and fled to the Andalusia residence of one of Harris's friends.

Andalusia Police Chief Wilbur Williams Jr. has reported that from information his department received, Harris, and the two others spent time with a friend of Harris who lives in a house near the Church Street Elementary School.

Investigators reported recovering four guns, three of which were allegedly sold by Harris while he was in Andalusia and also another one recovered from a creek in Luverne.

The case has been called the deadliest shooting spree in modern Alabama history, and Harris's attorney is considering asking that the trial be moved out of Crenshaw County due to the extensive coverage by the media.