Couple Turn Selves in on Slayings
Aug. 30, 2002
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RUTLEDGE, Ala. (AP) _ An unemployed man and the 16-year-old mother of his child were questioned after they turned themselves in to authorities in the massacre of six members of the girl's family, whose bullet-riddled bodies were found at their isolated farm.
Westley Devone Harris, 22, and his girlfriend, Janice Denise Ball, turned themselves in at the Crenshaw County jail about 5:30 p.m. Thursday and were transferred to nearby Lowndes County jail, said Lowndes County Sheriff Willie Vaughner.
It was unclear why they were transferred.
The couple's 1 1/2-year-old baby was being cared for by Harris' aunt at the facility, Vaughner said.
Harris, a suspect in the murders, and Ball were both being questioned late Thursday night. Neither had been charged with the murders, Vaughner said.
The questioning was ``going to continue for a while'' and it was not clear when or if either would be charged with a crime, Vaughner said.
The couple's photos had been displayed on ``Wanted For Questioning'' posters around the south Alabama crossroads community where the six bodies were found.
Vaugner identified Harris as a suspect Thursday after earlier saying he and Ball were wanted for questioning as potential witnesses.
The poster made no mention of the missing daughter. State investigators said a nationwide alert was put out for a red Pontiac Grand Am in which Harris and Ball were believed to be traveling.
The car belonged to Ball's father, Willie Hasley, 40, whose body was found near a hog pen after deputies were summoned to the rural homestead Tuesday night, according to relatives.
Law enforcement officers on Thursday were at the home of Harris' mother, with traffic at one point blocked on a road that passes by her rural residence. Coleman Ball, whose mother and sister were among those killed, said someone talked with Harris on Wednesday ``but they did not pinpoint where he was.''
Harris, a high school dropout who associates said has not held a steady job in months, has a marijuana possession charge pending against him.
Gail Perdue, a store clerk who attended Luverne High School with Harris before he quit, described him as ``strange.''
``He could snap on a dime,'' she said.
Timothy Foster, who lives across the road from Harris' mother, saw Harris differently.
``He was cool. He was laid back. Ain't nobody ever had any problem with him,'' said Foster.
Dorothy Maye Hasley, sister of the slain Willie Hasley, said Harris once worked at a bakery in nearby Luverne but had not been employed lately.
The crime, one of the worst multiple-victim homicides on record in the state, shattered the tranquility of this farm community about 40 miles south of Montgomery after the first bodies were discovered Tuesday night.
Relatives of the dead said the family matriarch, Mila Ruth Ball, 62, was found with a grandson in the tin-roofed wood home where she lived. Her daughter, Joann Ball, 35, and another grandson were found in the closet of a nearby mobile home on the property. A third grandson was found in the trunk of a car, and Willie Hasley, the common-law husband of Joann Ball, was found near the hog pen.
The three slain grandsons _ Jerry Ball, 18, Tony Ball, 16, and John Ball, 14 _ were the children of Joann Ball and Hasley.
``It just annihilated this family,'' said Maj. Ken Hallford, chief of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.