New details emerge in Sept. 12 Rock Hill killing

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comSeptember 23, 2013 

Family members released this photo of Johnny Lee Ellison

— Nine people — most of them teenagers — never charged were considered suspects in a Sept. 12 homicide hours after police found Rock Hill’s Johnny Lee Ellison with a bullet in his head, according to police documents released Friday.

Police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the 34-year-old Ellison’s death. Authorities discovered him lying in the front yard of 839 Green St., suffering from stab wounds and a gunshot wound to the head, arrest warrants show.

Police had been called to the area after receiving notice of shots fired. Ellison, of 432 Oates St., was taken to Piedmont Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead in the emergency room, said York County Coroner Sabrina Gast. Preliminary autopsy results show that he died from a gunshot wound.

Police arrested two brothers, David and Jarris Williams, 32 and 29, in connection with Ellison’s death after finding them walking away from the murder scene. Jarris Williams struggled with police before he and his brother were both arrested.

Several witnesses pointed to them in connection with the shooting before police charged them both with murder, criminal conspiracy and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. They are held at the York County Detention Center without bond.

Police say the brothers became angry after Ellison won money in a card game. Police are unsure of how much money Ellison won last week and are not sure if they will ever find out, said Rock Hill Police Capt. Steven Thompson.

Many witnesses police have spoken with have been cooperative, Thompson said. Others don’t want to be involved.

“Some of the information we get is limited,” he said.

The day after Ellison’s death, police swamped Green Street, searching through a patch of woods for the murder weapons.

Police still not have found the gun or knife used to shoot and stab Ellison. They did find a fully-loaded revolver and a folding knife inside a Nissan Sentra parked outside a Whitner Street home, where an anonymous tipster told police people involved with the murder could be found.

The doors to the car, parked outside a Whitner Street home, were open and the music blaring, the report states. Nine people police subdued in front of the home were handcuffed and seated on the ground as police administered gunshot residue tests on them.

The suspects were in “investigative detention,” Thompson said, and were never arrested or charged.

None of the suspects, whose ages range from 14 to 20, claimed ownership of the gun, which police learned had not been stolen or used, police reported.

He said police do not believe they were involved in Ellison’s death, but the gunshot residue samples were sent to the State Law Enforcement Division, Thompson said. They have not returned.

Thompson said police do not plan to make any more arrests.

Family members and friends last week remembered Ellison as a hard worker and dedicated father to a 10-year-old son. For about 15 years, he worked at the former Thursday’s Too restaurant on Herlong Avenue, where he started as a dishwasher before he was promoted to a kitchen supervisor.

Within the last three years, he went to work as a chef at Southern Salads & Sandwich Co. near the Food Lion on Ebenezer Road, where he rode his bicycle to work six days a week.

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