Assistant principal at Alabama middle school charged with murder in connection with triple-homicide cold case

An assistant principal at a middle school in Alabama is behind bars and awaiting extradition to Georgia after he was charged with murder in connection with a savage triple homicide that occurred more than a decade ago.

Last week, Keante Harris — a 45-year-old assistant principal at McAdory Middle School in McCalla, Alabama, about 20 miles southwest of Birmingham — turned himself in to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office on a fugitive of justice warrant. A few days later, he signed the necessary paperwork so that he could be extradited to Georgia, where he awaits much more serious charges: three counts of malice murder.

‘My brother didn’t deserve the death that was put on him.’

These murder charges relate to a case that occurred all the way back in January 2013. On the 13th of that month, police officers found the deceased bodies of three victims — Cheryl Colquitt-Thompson, Quinones King, and Rodney Cottrell, all of Alabama — in a vehicle abandoned on an I-85 exit ramp in Fulton County, Georgia.

Investigators believe the three victims were lured to a residence in Jonesboro, Georgia, forced inside at gunpoint, and then tortured before they were ultimately murdered and left in the abandoned vehicle. Two of the victims died of asphyxiation, and the other was found strangled.

Harris is one of four suspects arrested and charged with three counts of malice murder in connection with this case. The others are: Kenneth Thompson, Kevin Harris, and Darrell Harris. It is unclear whether any of the suspects are related or how they might have known the victims.

For now, law enforcement has remained tight-lipped about how investigators cracked the case after 11 and a half years. However, Tony Garrett with Central Alabama Crime Stoppers did hint that advancements in “technology” may have played a role.

“We are seeing DNA investigations, agencies combining more resources,” Garrett said. “We are seeing that is a better solution or a better way to investigate. So, we are seeing technology catch up, and we are seeing better communication.”

Garrett, who has been working with the victims’ families since the murders occurred, cautioned that these arrests are only the beginning of yet another long legal process. “I have to tell them to be mindful because this is only just the start of it,” Garrett said. “Now they have to still investigate and still take this to court, so it’s still a long process for the family. So my prayers and my heart go out to them.”

Over the years, members of the victims’ families have spoken out in hopes of bringing justice for their loved ones. “My brother didn’t deserve the death that was put on him,” said Bridget Miller, Rodney Cottrell’s sister. “He just left a lot of people who love him. It was personal because of the way they were killed, and it just hurts.”

Lakita Lewis, who was related to two of the victims, is likewise tormented by the brutality of the crime and how callously the victims were dumped by the side of the road. “They were killed in one place, but the people who did it there, they put them in their cars,” she said. “They put my uncle and Rodney in the backseat, and they put my sister in the trunk of her own car.”

Harris is expected to be transferred to custody in Georgia by May 28. His fugitive of justice charge in Alabama will likely be dropped.

For now, Harris has been placed on administrative leave per district protocol.

“We have been made aware that Mr. Keante Harris was arrested [on May 8],” Jefferson County Schools said in a statement. “At this time we still are gathering facts about the specifics of this situation. However, early indications are that the charges are not related to this individual’s employment with Jefferson County Schools. Per standard procedure, Mr. Harris has been placed on paid administrative leave. As more facts become available, we will act according to our district’s policy.”

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