UPDATE: Charges have officially been filed against Harris including two counts of murder. Harris was ordered to be held without bond. Murder is punishable by 45 to 65 years in prison.
MUNCIE, Ind. — A Muncie man is in custody, arrested on preliminary charges in connection with the murder of a man found shot to death along a popular walking trail.
Jason De’Andre Harris, 32, who was on probation at the time of the deadly shooting, is facing preliminary charges of murder, criminal confinement while armed with a deadly weapon, possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, intimidation with a deadly weapon and pointing a firearm.
On Feb. 7, police were called to a home in the 2000 block of South Clark Street after a man called to tell police that his roommate, Erik Sparks, 28, was missing. Officers quickly learned that they were dealing with something more serious than just a missing persons report.
“We didn’t know the circumstances until we really got down there and started to take a look at it, so it went from missing person, again, to obviously an active homicide investigation,” said Deputy Chief Chris Deegan with the Muncie Police Department.
According to a probable cause affidavit, the man told police he went to a party with Harris the night before and the two had a verbal altercation upon returning home. The man said Harris pulled a gun on him and threatened his life. Sparks, who owned the home, allegedly wanted Harris to leave, but when the man woke up, he said Harris was there, and Sparks was gone.
The affidavit shows Harris provided investigators with several different stories after he was transported to City Hall to be interviewed.
During his initial interview after being arrested, police said Harris admitted he and Sparks left the home together and stopped at the Cardinal Greenway trail near a Red Lobster to go to urinate outside. Harris said while on the trail, someone who he could not identify, put both of them on their knees and shot Sparks in the head. Harris claimed he was worried officers would not believe his story so he dragged Sparks into the woods and covered him with snow, the affidavit alleges.
“There were interviews that have been conducted, which led them to the Cardinal Greenway on the north side of town, where they had discovered what appeared to be an area where there might of been an altercation of some sort, and then through further interviewing they were able to locate where a body was, not far from that,” said Deegan.
An affidavit showed that Harris led officers to the area where the crime allegedly happened and officers were able to locate Sparks, who was found dead, suffering from apparent gunshot wounds, not far from the trail.
“That’s how sometimes investigations go, one thing leads to another, and we have a very good detective team, and they were able to put a lot of things together very quickly and get to where we needed to be on this,” said Deegan.
It was after officers located Sparks’ body that the probable cause affidavit shows Harris changed his story again, admitting that he had an argument with Sparks in the car, made him stop, walked him down the trail at gunpoint and allegedly ordered him to his knees before shooting him.
Police said there is no ongoing threat to the public and the area where this happened, located nearby businesses, homes and the popular Cardinal Greenway walking trail, is often much busier during the warmer months, so during those times it’s possible someone may have heard something even sooner.
“It’s open for people to walk and generally we see a lot of foot traffic spring, fall, summertime, just not as much right now because of the conditions we have in Indiana,” said Deegan.
The affidavit for arrest showed that Harris isn’t a stranger to Muncie police. Deegan confirmed he was known to officers prior to his arrest for his alleged connection to Sparks’ shooting death, but did not go into specifics.
“We are familiar with who the individual was, that was the suspect we ended up arresting,” he said.
Indiana court records show that Harris has been convicted in two distinct, prior aggravated battery cases, both level 3 felonies, including one from 2016 and one from 2018.
In 2016, court documents filed in Delaware County said Harris stabbed a family member after an argument became physical. In a separate case in 2018, Harris was said to have attacked a man, leaving him hospitalized with serious injuries.
A probable cause affidavit, also filed in Delaware County, read, “The victim had told the initial arriving Officer that Harris had beaten him over the course of several hours… The victim had some of the worst injuries I have seen in a 9 year career on the left side of his head/face. The victim’s entire head/face was swollen.”
According to the affidavit, Harris claimed he attacked the victim, who was trying to approach him and grab him in an inappropriate manner. After getting angry, court documents said he became enraged and began to beat the victim.
At the time of Sparks murder, court records show Harris was on probation in relation to his 2018 conviction.
Court records also show Harris had a pre-charge initial hearing on February 9, 2022 for his alleged role in Sparks’ death. Harris is being held on no bond at the Delaware County Jail.
The Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office tells FOX59 it expects charges to be formally filed in the case by Friday.
Police hope that people will be reminded to take a step back and remove yourself from the situation if you should find yourself in a conflict that begins to escalate.
“We’ve seen some violent trends increasing recently and I do believe that some of that is attributed to the fact that people are resorting to resolving conflicts with violence rather than with words,” said Deegan. “It’s always important to keep in mind if you’re involved in an altercation take a step back, remove yourself from the situation, if for whatever reason you can’t remove yourself from the situation, call the local authorities they can step in and help sort of act as conflict managers in that instance.”
He said Muncie police, and other agencies alike, are able to help provide resources to direct you towards and act as a means of communication, if needed.
“Once a life is lost, that’s not undone. That can’t be undone and we hate to see that. The other important part of that is, communication with the local authorities when that does happen, is key, it’s paramount to making sure that everything is handled correctly and appropriately and that we find those responsible for a tragic situation like that,” said Deegan.
Muncie Police said this remains an active, ongoing situation and anyone with additional information should call the Muncie Police Department Detective Division at (765) 747-4867.