Police: Witness dated suspect in toilet seat slaying

A woman who witnessed a man beat another man to death in Northeast Athens this weekend was once romantically involved with the alleged killer, according to authorities.


The woman, who told police the man kidnapped and raped her after the murder, has been held without bail at the Clarke County Jail because there were unrelated warrants for her arrest, police said.

She is a convicted child molester who failed to register with the local sheriff's office after she relocated from Hull to Athens, and court documents show she failed to appear in court in connection with a February aggravated assault arrest.

Police have not publicly released the woman's name, and the Athens Banner-Herald is withholding her identity because she may be a rape victim.

Meanwhile, authorities in Clarke and Madison counties are trying to sort out what happened Sunday morning at Garden Apartments on Spring Court off North Avenue.

Athens-Clarke police say William Thomas Valentine Jr. of Colbert used a toilet seat lid to bludgeon to death 51-year-old Alfred Lorenzo Harris in the victim's apartment while the woman watched.

Police will not say if they know why Valentine killed Harris.

Neighbors said Harris referred to the woman as his girlfriend, but police said she was basically homeless and lived in various places.

Neighbors did not know Valentine, but they noticed him hanging out several days before Harris was killed, visiting the victim's apartment and walking around the complex with the woman who lived with Harris.

Neighbors said she recently returned to Harris' apartment after he kicked her out for stealing from him.

Evelyn Tarpkins, who lives three doors down from Harris, heard a commotion as she lay in bed early Sunday.

"All of a sudden, this woman was screaming, and I thought, 'Oh Lord, something is happening because she is screaming so bad.' "

No one called police about the noise, and Harris' body was found about noon Sunday, when a friend stopped by with food.

On Tuesday, tenants at Garden Apartments spoke kindly of their slain neighbor, who went by the nickname "Shorty," and recalled how he enjoyed riding his bicycle and walking his Chihuahua.

Harris does not have family in the area, neighbors said, and animal control officers took custody of his dog.

A woman who cleaned his apartment once a week approached his door Monday morning when Tarpkins broke the news to her.

"I said to her, 'Don't knock on that door, honey. Shorty's gone,' " Tarpkins said.

After the attack, police said Valentine forced the woman to go with him to Hull, then left her there while he went to a home in Colbert and burned his bloody clothes. Police arrested Valentine on Monday afternoon at his brother's home in Oglethorpe County and charged him with murder.

Investigators with the Madison County Sheriff's Office who are investigating the reported rape learned that the woman once was involved with the accused murderer.

"There was a previous sexual relationship between the (rape) victim and Valentine," said Lt. Jimmy Patton, chief investigator for the Madison County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators collected evidence from the woman and are waiting for test results from the State Crime Lab, he said. They interviewed Valentine and the woman, and will consider their previous relationship, Patton said.

"We have to take that factor into account," he said.

The woman also has a history of deceit; she's been arrested in Clarke County at least twice for giving police a fake name, according to court records.

She was released from state prison in 2002, after serving five years for child molestation, burglary and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

A Clarke County judge signed a bench warrant for her arrest in August, after she failed to show up in court to answer to charges she tried to stab a woman in Athens.

Valentine, 40, has a record of convictions in Clarke County dating to at least 2000, for crimes ranging from burglary and drugs to assault.

He served different prison terms, once for shooting at two men in Athens, according to the Department of Corrections.

Toilet lid used in Athens, Ga., slaying, police say


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