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Alabama Grand Jury Indicts Man For 1996 Murder Of Popular Line Dancer Shot Dead In Parking Lot

Joseph Jowers was fatally shot in the head outside a Tuscaloosa club as he walked his girlfriend to her car more than 26 years ago. Thomas Terry Johnson Jr. is now charged with his murder. 

By Jax Miller
5 Infamous Cold Cases of Murder

Alabama authorities have made an arrest in the heretofore unsolved murder of a well-liked karaoke singer and line dancing instructor 26 years ago.

Joseph Todd Jowers, 32, was fatally shot in the head on Oct. 13, 1996 outside the now-closed Classic’s Lounge on 37th Street East in Tuscaloosa, according to Fox Birmingham affiliate WBRC. Investigators said Jowers — who worked at the club as a karaoke and line dancing instructor — was killed in the parking lot while walking a woman to her vehicle a little after 2:00 a.m.

The woman with Jowers on the morning of the murder was reportedly his girlfriend, according to Patch.com. According to archives from the Tuscaloosa News, the woman told detectives that she “heard a pop,” then turned to see her boyfriend on the ground near his car.

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Jowers was pronounced dead on the scene. His girlfriend was unable to identify a suspect, multiple outlets reported. 

Another witness claimed to see a white man in black clothing with a headpiece “like a cap” running behind the lounge just after the shooting, then-Homicide Unit Capt. Mike Everett told the Tuscaloosa News.

Everett said they believed several people were in the parking lot when the shooting occurred. A handgun was found near the crime scene, though police never formally determined whether it was the murder weapon.

Thomas Terry Johnson Jr Pd

Authorities worked under the theory that the unknown shooter hid in the bushes before he killed Jowers and then escaped into a nearby wooded area. Investigators did look into the possibility that Jowers was targeted for robbery because he may have been in possession of cash, owing to his other work as a handyman and carpenter.

On Thursday, Thomas Terry Johnson Jr., 49, was indicted by a Tuscaloosa County grand jury for Jowers' murder, according to AL.com. He was 23 at the time of Jowers' death.

Capt. Jack Kennedy of the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Office confirmed the charges to that outlet.

“For the past year, investigators with the Violent Crimes Unit worked diligently, re-evaluated evidence, located numerous persons who were determined to be witnesses to the original case and then presented their findings to the grand jury,” Kennedy stated.

On Friday, Johnson was booked into the county jail, where he was being held on $75,000 bond, according to CBS Birmingham affiliate WIAT. Several media outlets, including WVUA 23, posted a photo of Johnson Jr. handcuffed, being led by a member of the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s Office.

Jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com show Johnson was booked into the county jail on Friday, but it appears he is no longer behind bars, and his name does not appear in the Tuscaloosa County arrest records online. A spokeswoman for the jail confirmed Johnson was not in their custody but couldn’t comment on whether someone by that name had been booked and released.

Authorities have remained tight-lipped as to how they determined that Johnson was a suspect, and requests for comment by Oxygen.com to Tuscaloosa County officials were not immediately returned

Over the years, Jowers’ family — including his now-deceased grandmother, Sybil Malone — had appealed to the public for information, as reported by Tuscaloosa’s WVUA 23.

“If anybody knows anything that can help us in any way, we will be so thankful that we can find the person that did this,” Malone said in a 2017 interview.

Jowers’ mother also passed away before an arrest could be made in her son’s murder, according to the outlet.