Crime & Courts

SC brothers sentenced in killing of relative over gambling dispute

David Williams (left) and Jaris Williams (right)
David Williams (left) and Jaris Williams (right) The Herald

Two Rock Hill brothers – including one with 12 children – were sentenced to prison time Tuesday for killing a cousin after a gambling dispute.

Johnny Lee Ellison, 34, a longtime worker at Southern Salads, was shot and stabbed on Green Street in Rock Hill in September 2013 after a night of drinking and gambling. Ellison and his cousins, David and Jaris Williams, argued at some point after which Ellison was shot and then stabbed by the brothers.

David Williams, 34, who said in court he has 12 children “from 16 to 2,” pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 14 years in prison by visiting Judge DeAndrea Benjamin. David Williams currently is on federal probation for other crimes.

Jaris Williams, 31, with a prior conviction for selling crack cocaine and other charges, pleaded guilty to assault and battery and two drug crimes and was sentenced to 12 years.

Prosecutors offered plea deals down from murder because Ellison, who left a son, was legally drunk at the time he was killed with a .19 blood alcohol content that is more than double the legal limit. A witness to the crime also died since Ellison was killed.

Police from Rock Hill’s street crimes unit arrested both brothers shortly after the killing just south of downtown Rock Hill.

David Williams originally claimed that police were harassing him and fought with officers and was charged with disorderly conduct before being charged with murder.

Jaris Williams, who had only been out of prison for four months after a 9-year stretch for drugs, weapons and other crimes, ran from officers and had to be caught when officers found crack cocaine in his pockets.

DNA and blood from Ellison was found on the clothing of both brothers after they were arrested, said Jenny Desch, 16th Circuit assistant solicitor.

Jaris Williams, while in jail, flushed gunshot residue testing bags down a jail toilet to avoid testing.

The argument that led to the shooting, and the brothers jumping on Ellison after he was stabbed, stemmed from an argument where all three men and others had been playing cards and gambling.

Arthur Ellison, the victim’s brother, told the Williams brothers in court that because they are cousins he still loved them, but wanted to know “why you killed my brother?”

The victim’s mother, Francine McCoy, also demanded answers in court, asking “why?” But the Williams brothers offered no explanations.