Jury selection begins Monday for murder suspect Russell Tillis of Jacksonville’s House of Horrors – Action News Jax
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The murder trial of Russell Tillis, the man accused of murdering a woman and burying her dismembered body, will begin next week after years of delay.
Russell Tillis was arrested at his home on March 18, 2015, on two pending misdemeanor warrants. He forcibly resisted the arrest, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office, and was awaiting trial for grievous bodily harm and simple battery against a police officer in jail.
An inmate contacted detectives on February 5, 2016 and said Tillis confessed to killing a woman in his home, dismembering her body, and burying her in the courtyard.
The authorities received an arrest warrant and served it on February 10, 2016. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s office found human remains in his booby-trapped Southside home on Bowden Circle East after investigating the tip the next day.
Police later identified the body as Joni Gunter through DNA testing at the University of North Texas. The coroner said she died from a blunt violent trauma. Gunter was a transient known to visit the Southside area. She is believed to have died between February 2014 and May 2015, police said, and was around 30 years old.
In December 2016, Tillis was charged with murder.
HOUSE OF HORRORS AND THE SEARCH FOR POSSIBLE VICTIMS
Tillis’s neighbors called his Southside residence a “House of Secrets”.
“People were afraid of him. He would throw things at people, I heard. (He’s a) purely mean, bad person (who) should have been locked up a long time ago, ”neighbor Brenda Smith said at the time.
When officers initially tried to serve Tillis’ active warrants in his home, police said Tillis ran away from them and led them through an area where he had put up boards with 4-inch nails.
Following his arrest for murder, JSO announced that he had targeted vulnerable young women with a history of prostitution or drugs based on his history.
“We believe that it is very likely that other women have fallen victim to Tillis, including potentially other murders,” the deputy chief of JSO said during a press conference.
Investigators ransacked his home shortly after Gunter’s body was found for other bodies. None were found.
The selection of the jury starts on Monday 5th April. Tillis faces the following charges in connection with Gunter’s death:
- First degree murder
- human trafficking
- Abuse of a human body
- Evidence manipulation
Tillis represents himself in the case and the death penalty is imminent.
Action News Jax ‘Bridgette Matter and Robert Grant will be in the courthouse to cover the trial while Tillis questions potential jurors.
Check out the FOX30 and CBS47 for live updates on this case.