Family wants answers after man found dead at abandoned Atlanta apartment

James Harris Jr. (left) was found dead Nov. 20 at an abandoned apartment on Vine Street, police said. His sisters (from left), Andreea Ayers, Jaimee Harris and Jada Harris, said James was always there for them growing up.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

James Harris Jr. (left) was found dead Nov. 20 at an abandoned apartment on Vine Street, police said. His sisters (from left), Andreea Ayers, Jaimee Harris and Jada Harris, said James was always there for them growing up.

It was Alisa Harris’ first Thanksgiving without her son.

Typically, he would have devoured the dressing and saved plenty of leftovers for later. But just three days before the whole family filled her Snellville home, she received news that every mother dreads: James Harris Jr. had been found dead.

“We’re just angry that somebody would do something to him like that because he was such an easygoing, kind-hearted person who would do anything to help anybody,” Alisa Harris said Wednesday.

On Nov. 20, Gwinnett County police officers knocked on Alisa’s door as she was setting up the home for Thanksgiving. They handed her an Atlanta number and advised that she call it. She said she had no clue what to expect after being told to ask for a specific investigator.

The details of that call are blurry, she explained, but she remembers being told that her son was found unresponsive in an abandoned building. She thought maybe he was just found unconscious and would be fine.

“Then that’s when they said, ‘I’m sorry to inform you of this over the phone,’ and I don’t even remember what happened after that,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I just remember just breaking down.”

Atlanta police said James, 27, was found inside an abandoned apartment in the 400 block of Vine Street in southwest Atlanta around 8:20 a.m. that day. The initial investigation revealed that his body had been there for several days before it was found, authorities added.

It was only on Monday that Atlanta police classified the incident as a homicide.

Alisa said her son was found with a gunshot wound to his head, but police have not confirmed what caused his death.

The last time Alisa spoke to James was on his birthday July 29. He reported his phone stolen to police sometime in August and he hadn’t had a phone since then, Alisa was told by her cousin, who kept in touch with James through social media.

Police have not provided any details about a suspect in James’ death, but Alisa thinks it may be connected to the phone theft. She said that soon after the theft, she also learned from her cousin that someone had been threatening James, but she said she “didn’t think it was to this severity.”

“Apparently this person was threatening James’ life at the time because he was upset that James called the police on him (to report the theft),” she said.

James Harris Jr. lived with his parents Alisa and James Sr. until June of this year.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

Alisa described James as caring and said she fears he might have trusted the wrong people. His sisters, Jaimee Harris, Andreea Ayers and Jada Harris, shared in that sentiment, adding that James was charming and welcoming to all. Ayers said James always brought positive and “light-hearted energy” to every room he entered.

James, who was born in Missouri but had lived in metro Atlanta since 2001 and graduated from Shiloh High School in Snellville, loved being around his family. Jada, the youngest of the bunch, said that despite the occasional fights, James was always there for his sisters. He would compliment them, support their decisions, uplift them when they were going through a hard time and just listen when they needed to vent.

“It was good growing up knowing that we had a brother to be there for us, no matter what,” Jada said.

When James wasn’t surrounded by friends and family or working in hospitality, he was drawing cars or recording a rap track with his cousins. Jaimee said her brother was a talented artist, and that despite their two-year age gap, James was like her twin.

“James was very loved by each and every one of his family members, and he loved everyone and he trusted everyone. We just want justice for him. If anybody knows anything, they can come forward and give our family a sense of peace,” Jaimee said.

A celebration of life service is scheduled for Saturday at noon at Peace Baptist Church in DeKalb County.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to contact Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, text information to 274637 or visit the Crime Stoppers website.

— Please return to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.

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