Numerous indictments keep Washington County grand jury busy this week

Becky Campbell • Jan 11, 2012 at 10:03 PM

A Washington County grand jury indicted numerous defendants this week, including a man charged with murder, another charged with killing the family pet and three men involved in a robbery.

Justin Allen “Puff” Stratton, 31, 1500 Bell Ridge Road, was indicted in three separate cases on charges of first-degree murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, two counts of burglary and two counts of forgery.

Stratton is accused of gunning down Gary Couch Jr., 25, on Quarry Road after Stratton followed two women who had given Couch a ride from a downtown Johnson City bar.

Stratton was driving a stolen vehicle that night that police said he took from Reliable Imports. Stratton also is accused of stealing another vehicle from the car lot.

In the third set of charges, two counts of forgery, Stratton is accused of stealing checks from a woman who hired him to work around her house. Police said Stratton wrote the checks to himself and cashed them. The two checks totaled $2,950.

Dustin Ricky Harrell, 22, was indicted on a charge of aggravated animal cruelty after investigators said he tortured and killed his family’s pet dog, a four-pound Yorkshire terrier named Honey.

Harrell reportedly told a Washington County sheriff’s investigator that he threw Honey down a flight of stairs, held her head under water and put her in a dryer for four minutes before she died in his arms.

Harrell said he spent four hours injuring and then comforting Honey before she died.

Billy Joe Anderson, 23, was indicted on charges of attempted-first degree murder, especially aggravated burglary and theft under $500.

The incident, a shooting, happened June 13 on Myrtle Avenue. Stephen Letcher, 57, told police Anderson shot him after demanding Letcher give him pills. Police said Anderson stole Letcher’s wallet and prescription medications.

Keyshun Montavious Backstrom, 28, Johnson City, was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault by strangulation.

The incident happened Nov. 25 at 1009 Buffalo St. where the victim, Taylor France, told police her ex-boyfriend strangled her.

Backstrom and France were in a bedroom at her mother’s house when Backstrom allegedly climbed on top of the woman and began strangling her. Police said France had marks on her neck consistent with her account.

France said she passed out during the incident and woke up screaming. That’s when Backstrom got a shotgun, pointed at her and told her to shut up, according to court documents.

Backstrom denied the incident and told police France was just angry with him because he took France’s mother’s side when the women were arguing.

In another case, Dominique Marsalis Fleming, 19, and Delton E. Barber, 35, were indicted on three counts of aggravated robbery stemming from an incident at 143 Garden Drive.

Fleming also was indicted on a charge of aggravated criminal trespassing because he was banned from the housing authority property where the robbery occurred.

According to police, Fleming and Barber went to the address on Garden Drive with a gun and took three cell phones and a set of car keys from the victims.

Fleming also fired the gun at one victim, Wakeem Simpson, and the shot went through Simpson’s shirt, struck the wall and fell to the floor. Simpson was not injured.

In an older case, the grand jury re-indicted a Johnson City man who is accused of allowing his 2-year-old son to gain access to a handgun. The boy fired the weapon and died.

Christopher Mitchell, 28, was already facing felony murder, tampering with evidence and identity theft charges, but officials have now added a charge of aggravated child endangerment or neglect.

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