A Kansas man accused of decapitating a man with a guitar string and keeping his head for the purposes of a Voodoo ritual has pleaded not guilty to premeditated first degree murder.
James Paul Harris, 29, allegedly told Bobbie Williams, an ex-girlfriend, that he used a guitar string to cut off 49-year-old James Gerety’s head in 2011 and that he kept the victim’s head in a canvas bag so he could talk to it, according to the Christian Post.
A police officer also reportedly testified that the man wanted the head for a voodoo ritual.
Williams reportedly told authorities that Harris admitted to shooting Gerety in the stomach and torturing him for two days before cutting off his head.
Police believe he buried and reburied parts of the body near his father’s home, though all of Gerety’s remains have not been recovered.
Despite these allegations, Harris says he’s not guilty and James Campbell, his attorney, told the Associated Press Tuesday that his client “is innocent until the government shows sufficient proof that he is guilty.”
Gerety’s head was first discovered on March 24, 2012, when Shirley Johnson, a woman who lives with Harris’ father, found a piece of the skull outside the family home.
Johnson took what she thought was a “ball” (the top of Gerety’s head) inside to show Harris’ dad, who subsequently phoned police, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Gerety’s attorney responsible for handling the man’s Social Security payments testified last month that he first reported Gerety missing in April 2011 after he didn’t show up to pick up payments. While it is unclear the depth of Gerety’s relationship with Harris, the two were planning to live together, the attorney said.
Harris reportedly also had a voodoo doll made of cloth, which hung from the ceiling of an apartment he shared with Williams, according to the Capital-Journal.
His trial is expected to start June 23.
(H/T: Christian Post)
Featured image via Osage County Police