Sullivan County murder suspect’s case bound over to grand jury

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities man who sparked a more than 48-hour manhunt following a fatal Sullivan County shooting appeared before a judge Friday. Now a grand jury will hear his case.

Johnny Royston Jr. is charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of Rowdy Yates.

Sullivan County deputies captured Royston last month after he spent three days on the run. U.S. Marshalls and local investigators received the tip they needed to track him down, after Royston knocked on a homeowner’s door asking for directions.

Several of Rowdy Yates’ family members were also in the courtroom Friday as the man accused of murdering him, Johnny Royston Jr., faced a judge.

Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office detective Mark Christian took the witness stand revealing details we’ve never heard before: what Royston told investigators after his arrest.

“Johnny realizes his stuff is missing out of his pocket… I want my stuff back,” Christian said. “And then someone makes a comment to Rowdy and says you need to man up and give him his stuff back.”

After that, according to Christian’s testimony, Royston confronted Yates.

“The statement basically that Johnny Royston was up at the scene and arguing with Rowdy Yates, the victim, and while they were arguing he fired a gun once to warn Rowdy Yates and then a second warning, and then a shot was fired that eventually killed Rowdy Yates,” said Assistant District Attorney Mike Filetti.

The evidence, Filetti says, was the proof the judge needed – binding the case over to a grand jury.

Royston is scheduled to return to court October 6th.

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