Charges against the suspect in the death of Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams’ are being upgraded to capital murder, the Lowndes County, Alabama, district attorney said Tuesday, Dec. 3.
According to WSFA-TV, District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer has confirmed that a capital murder warrant has been signed against the suspect, 18-year-old William Chase Johnson, of Montgomery, who is in the Elmore County Jail without bond. He was originally charged with felony murder.
The capital statute in Alabama law stated that it’s a capital offense to kill a law enforcement officer on duty, regardless of whether the defendant knew the victim was a peace officer at the time of the offense. According to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the state cannot seek the death penalty in this case if Johnson’s indicted because he is 18, WSFA-TV reported.
Johnson shot and killed sheriff Williams, who spent about four decades working in public safety, at a QV gas station in Hayneville, Alabama, on the night of Nov. 23. He was arrested at the same gas station hours afterward, according to law enforcement.
The suspect made his first court appearance last Monday morning, Nov. 25. Crenshaw County District Judge Tom Sport was appointed to preside over the case after Lowndes County District Judge Adrian Johnson recused because he was present at the crime scene, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
A gag order was issued in the case, preventing prosecutors and defense attorneys and others involved from making any public statements to the media, with limited exceptions.
Johnson is the son of a Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office deputy.