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Nearly 26 years later, suspect charged in North Georgia homicide

By Shaddi Abusaid, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Authorities have made an arrest in a North Georgia homicide that went unsolved for more than a quarter-century.

The body of James Richard Harris, 54, was discovered the morning of Dec. 22, 1994, near his pickup truck outside his Chickamauga home. The father of two, who worked for Miller Industries in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was robbed and murdered in his driveway as he left that morning, authorities said.

Harris was known to carry large amounts of cash, and investigators believe he was ambushed at the gate to his property on the way to work.

“The gentleman would leave for work very early in the morning,” Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson told AJC.com on Saturday. “We believe he was surprised as he was unlocking his gate.”

Harris’ revolver was recovered at the scene and had been fired twice, but investigators were unable to determine when, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

His former co-worker, 50-year-old Robert Allen Mowry, was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, on Friday evening and charged with one count of malice murder in the case, Wilson said.

Wilson, who worked for the department’s drug task force when Harris was killed, said the case was Walker County’s longest active unsolved murder investigation.

“We tried to put this case out there every year on the anniversary of his death to try to get new information from the community,” the sheriff said. “Over the years, we would have conversations with his family members and we would assure them that we hadn’t forgotten this case.”

In the nearly 26 years since Harris’ death, authorities have not said how he was killed.

The GBI said investigators received a tip linking Mowry to the case in 2009, but didn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest at the time. This year, police developed new leads following a series of interviews and surveillance operations conducted by the GBI, Walker County deputies and several agencies in Tennessee, authorities said

“This new evidence led to a match to evidence from the original crime scene,” the GBI said, though investigators have not said exactly what led to the break in the case.

Mowry, who is being held in Davidson County, Tennessee, will be extradited back to Georgia to face charges here.

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