ELIZABETHTON — Timothy Jason Pate and Whitney Kristina Harris had their initial appearances in Carter County Sessions Court on Monday on charges stemming from the death of Lonnie Townsend, 78. Their cases were continued to June 26.
Harris, 21, stood before Judge John Walton around 10 a.m. She is charged with accessory after the fact of first degree murder, accessory after the fact of first degree murder during a felony and tampering with evidence. She was dressed in standard issue green and white striped jail uniform. Walton appointed a public defender for her.
Pate’s appearance came about 30 minutes later. He was dressed in a blue quilted uniform and was barefoot. His arms and legs were shackled and two corrections officers and a bailiff stood by his side when he stood before Walton.
Pate, 43, is charged with first degree murder, first degree murder during a felony and tampering with evidence. James Lonon will represent Pate during the upcoming hearings.
Pate and Harris, both of 214 Rockhouse Road, Lot 37, Johnson City, were charged following an investigation by the Johnson City Police Department into the disappearance of Townsend around April 17. A witness told police that he saw Pate driving Townsend’s truck following the disappearance. Townsend was known to have been friends with Harris and Pate and visited their home. He was also known to carry cash with him.
Police obtained a search warrant for Pate and Harris’ residence. The couple was not home, but investigators found a large section of carpet in a rear bedroom had been cut out and was missing.
A break in the case came when the couple was brought in for questioning at the Johnson City Police Department. Investigators said that during the interrogation they learned that Townsend had visited the home on April 17, when Pate allegedly planned to kill him for his money.
While Townsend was sitting on a couch, Pate allegedly killed him by hitting him in the head several times with a claw hammer. The body was then taken into the bedroom, where the carpet was cut and used to wrap Townsend’s body.
The body was then taken to Unicoi County where it was left at 713 Little Ball Creek Road, Erwin.
Following the interrogation, Harris led investigators to the location, where skeletal remains wrapped in a carpet were found. The carpet was reportedly similar to the carpet found at the home of Harris and Pate.