Son, daughter of murdered Hilda Warren shocked that cousin may have been involved in crime
Darlene Warren Smith and Marcus Warren have waited patiently to find out who killed their beloved mother in her St. Rose home on Aug. 13 of last year.
On that date, Hilda Warren’s lifeless body was found with a gun shot wound to the back of her head and very little evidence linking anyone to her murder.
Then last week, Crime Stoppers’ tips helped to slowly spring life back into the investigation, eventually leading to an arrest.
The family was informed by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office that Donald Harris Jr., a.k.a. ‘Tush,’ a distant relative, is the prime suspect in the murder of their 70-year-old mother. He is also charged with a recent murder that took place in St. Rose last week.
“We don’t know him personally,” Smith said. “However, we are distant cousins and our families have always shared a closeness.”
Smith and M. Warren want to see more evidence surface so that both the truth and the entire story behind their mother’s murder will be revealed.
“My brother and I are hopeful that justice will be served,” she said, “It’s heartbreaking to know that family is involved.”
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne says Harris, who lived two blocks away from Warren’s home, was one of several suspects identified early on during the course of the murder investigation.
“He was one of the people whose name came up early on our list of suspects in this case,” Champagne said. “With the most recent murder of DeShawn Davis in St. Rose on Nov. 14, we were able to connect him to both killings through our investigation and tips we received from Crime Stoppers.”
The family is relieved that the sheriff’s office has made an arrest, but says that their pain and sense of loss will continue.
“It won’t bring back our mother,” Smith said. “It won’t stop the pain we feel or the sense of loss we live with everyday.”
Her brother agrees.
“It will not fill the void that I believe many in the community feel by her being gone -by her not being there,” M. Warren said.
A community in turmoil
An armed robbery, the murder of Davis, and another shooting that resulted in an injury have all occurred in St. Rose in recent weeks.
Residents living in the once quiet town are beginning to wonder if they will ever have their peaceful lives back again.
Dwayne Harris, a friend of the Warren family and a lifelong resident of St. Rose, is concerned about the violence in the community.
“I had never witnessed an event such as this in my lifetime in St. Rose,” Harris said. “It never used to be like this.”
Smith said if her mother was alive today she’d be very concerned about the crime and violence going on in St. Rose. Hilda Warren loved her family, her church and her community.
“Our mother loved St. Rose and loved all of the people in St. Rose,” Smith said. “She would be heartbroken over what is happening in St. Rose. St. Rose has always been a quiet, peaceful, close-knit town.”
Community leader Lisa Price feels the pain and heartache that the community has suffered – especially over the last couple of weeks.
“We have a ways to go,” she said. “We’re implementing sources to improve the community.”
Who is Donald Harris Jr.?
Little is known about Harris except for the fact that he is 18 years old and the prime suspect in two murders and an armed robbery. Harris’s mother, Tonya Cristy, died in January. After that, he lived with his great- grandmother.
Often in and out of school, he was a student at Destrehan High, but left the school his junior year. Neighbors said he was often involved in petty crimes around the neighborhood, but nothing this serious.
“He had broken into a few houses in the past,” a resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, said. “But he never killed anybody.”
According to St. Charles Parish police reports, Harris’ criminal activities continued to escalate.
In October, Harris was approached by a carload of teens who wanted to buy drugs from him. One teen gave Harris $100 to purchase marijuana. Harris began to inspect the money to see if it was real, and while doing so, a second person wearing a bandanna around his face jumped up from behind some bushes and pointed a gun at the group in the car waiting to buy drugs.
Harris and the masked gunman ran off with the money.
After a short manhunt, Harris turned himself in to Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Office authorities on Nov. 22 and was later transferred to St. Charles Parish where he remains in custody at the Nelson Coleman Correctional facility.
The Crime Stoppers’ award of $13,350, plus an additional $2,500 put up by the Warren family, will be given to the tipster once the arrest and conviction are finalized.