New information delays 2012 murder case

Published 8:18 am Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A trial for a Carter County man accused of murder has been postponed after the state said new information has come to light in the case.
Timothy Jason Pate, 46, of Elizabethton, was scheduled to start his trial on charges of first degree murder, felony murder and tampering with evidence on Monday, but his trial has been rescheduled until April at the request of the District Attorney’s office.
Pate and his co-defendant, 24-year-old Whitney Kristina Harris, are charged in connection with the 2012 murder of 78-year-old Lonnie Townsend. Harris is also charged with first degree murder, felony murder and tampering with evidence in connection with the death of Townsend.
Pate and Harris, who were dating at the time of Townsend’s death, are alleged to have murdered Townsend in order to rob him. Police said the two then dumped the man’s body in a remote area of Unicoi County before fleeing to Florida.
According to police, Townsend knew Pate and Harris and he would visit their home on Rockhouse Road, which is where police say Townsend was killed.
On Jan. 23, the District Attorney’s office filed a motion asking for a continuance in the case, saying “during the past 10 days new information has been provided to the state which could have a material bearing on the trial.”
The motion, filed by Assistant DA Janet Hardin, said the new information was uncorroborated at the time, but the state felt “it is in the best interest of both defendants in this case that these new facts and circumstances be investigated.”
The request for a continuance was granted last week and a new trial date for Pate was set for April 27.
Though Pate and Harris were originally indicted together as co-defendants in the case, the cases were severed by order of the court in February 2014 at the request of Harris’ attorney.
In the motion requesting the cases be severed and tried separately, Harris’ attorney Gene Scott said following the pair’s arrest, Pate made statements implicating Harris in the crime. Scott argued in his motion that trying both defendants at the same time would hinder Harris’ defense.
Following the severing of the cases, the State filed notice with the court saying it intended to put Pate on trial first in the case.
Harris is scheduled to appear in Criminal Court on Friday. With the state’s intent to try Pate first, it is expected that Harris’ case will be postponed until after the April trial date.

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