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Jarvis Hines motions for his father not to talk to the media as he is booked at the Athens City Jail after being extradited from Opelika on Friday morning.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Jarvis Hines motions for his father not to talk to the media as he is booked at the Athens City Jail after being extradited from Opelika on Friday morning.

Dad: No angel, but not a killer
Athens capital murder suspect in jail without bond; father says robbery was not the motive

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — He's no angel, but he's no killer.

That's how Merlin Hines of Tanner described his son, Jarvis Hines, who arrived in Athens on Friday courtesy of Athens police, who have charged him with capital murder.

"He was a good kid when he was young," said Merlin Hines, who along with his now ex-wife, Regina Hines of Decatur, adopted Jarvis Hines as a baby. "When he hit his teen years, I started having problems, and he got into drugs, but he's never been violent."

Lt. Floyd Johnson said Jarvis Hines, 20, of Tanner allegedly shot and killed Donnell McCullough, 64, of Athens on Dec. 14. Hines allegedly shot McCullough four times at McCullough's Houston Court Apartments home, Johnson said.

Hines had been on the run since the shooting until Opelika police arrested him Thursday for possession of a controlled substance, Johnson said.

Johnson and Capt. Tracy Harrison brought Jarvis Hines to Athens from Opelika on Friday. He said Hines "acted fine" and talked with him and Harrison about general topics.

Johnson said Hines has not asked for an attorney and that during interrogation he answered investigators' questions.

"But it would be premature to talk about what he is saying," Johnson said. "We have others we want to interview, and we may talk to him again, and I don't want to hurt the investigation."

Jarvis Hines is in the Limestone County Jail without bond set because of the capital murder charge.

Johnson said he won't yet release the motive for the shooting or the reason for the capital murder charge. For police to charge Jarvis Hines with capital murder, he allegedly had to commit the murder during the commission of another crime such as burglary, robbery or kidnapping.

"I spoke to Jarvis, and robbery was not the motive,"
Merlin Hines said. "I asked why he's charged with capital murder, and the investigator wouldn't tell me. One story I heard was Jarvis ran up into the house and gunned down the man because the man wouldn't buy drugs from him. Jarvis
didn't know the man. He told me it was the first time he had seen him. I don't know why he went there or what transpired in there, but Jarvis isn't a killer."

A neighbor of McCullough's who was in the apartment during the shooting told police that Hines and McCullough got into a discussion.

Police aren't releasing details about that discussion, Johnson said. The neighbor became afraid, police said, and went into a bathroom and later heard gunshots and called 911.

"Three people were in that apartment, and police had no statement from Jarvis until
today (Thursday), yet stories were being aired that my son is a killer," Merlin Hines said. "The statement from that neighbor, that witness, is not credible."

Merlin Hines said the witness, whom police are not naming, uses drugs.

Hoping for fairness

"I think this neighbor had something to do with it," Merlin Hines said. "I don't feel my son's been treated fair by the media. I wanted Jarvis to turn himself in, but I know he was scared. Well, now he's in custody and has given his statement. Let the court settle this now."

Johnson would not elaborate about the witness but said, "We can't pick and choose our victims and witnesses. We just do what we can for the citizens of the community. I'm not going to pre-judge anybody in this case, and we're continuing our investigation."

During the past week, Athens and Decatur police had searched for Jarvis Hines in Decatur because they found the van he drove from McCullough's apartment at his mother's Decatur home. Regina Hines said her son did not abandon the van as police reported but parked it there at her request. She owns the van. Regina Hines would not give further details about the meeting with her son.

There were reports that while on the run, Jarvis Hines might have been with a 16-year-old Belle Mina boy who went missing last week, but that proved untrue. Merlin Hines said TV reports made it sound as if Jarvis Hines had kidnapped the teen.

"A lot of things that have been aired are not true," Merlin Hines said. "The little boy that was supposed to be with Jarvis, was not even with him. Turns out he was up the street from me. People need to get their facts straight."

Merlin Hines said he did not know whether or not his son has been in Opelika for the past week, but said his son probab-
ly went to Opelika because he used to attend Auburn University and still has friends in the

Johnson said Jarvis Hines was with another man walking a few blocks from the Opelika Police Department when two officers saw them Thursday evening.

"The officers were talking to some other people and saw Hines and another guy and thought they looked suspicious," Johnson said. "They interviewed them and then found Hines in possession of drugs."

Johnson said Hines allegedly used an alias, but officers recognized him from a flier Athens police sent to authorities in that area.

When Opelika officers ran Hines' fingerprints, that confirmed his true identity, Johnson said.

"We're thankful to those officers," Johnson said. "They did an excellent job."

While police continue their investigation, Merlin Hines continues to fight for his son. He said he will get Jarvis Hines an attorney.

"Again, I'm not trying to portray him as an angel, but I want him to get fair treatment," Merlin Hines said.

Merlin Hines said his son played sports at Tanner High School and took basic courses
at Auburn, but peer pressure
led to him getting involved in drugs. Jarvis Hines wanted to go into physical therapy, his father said.

"He had the head to do it," Merlin Hines said. "But he wanted to fit in and got with the bad crowd and into drugs. I
told him he had too much going for himself, but he was teased about being a bookworm and geek. I would tell him, 'Let them call you a geek. It's the geeks who'll be the bosses.' But he wanted to be a part of their crowd.

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