Breaking News
More () »

Man found guilty in 2021 Knoxville murder that started with confrontation over water balloons

Ralphelle James killed Vincent Williams in May 2021.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — UPDATE FRIDAY: A man on trial in the 2021 killing of a Knoxville man was found guilty Friday of second-degree murder.

Jurors worked Thursday afternoon into Friday morning before returning their verdict against Ralphelle James. He'd been originally charged with first-degree murder.

The panel also convicted James of unlawful possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment as charged.

Knox County Criminal  Court Judge Steve Sword said he'd impose sentence on James, 53, on Nov. 2. He ordered authorities to conduct a pre-trial investigative report to aid in sentencing.

The trial started Monday.

Prosecutor Rachel Hill told jurors James deliberately shot and killed Vincent Williams in a parking lot at the Walter P. Taylor Homes development  in May 2021 as friends and family watched.

Williams, too, was armed with a gun.

Veteran defense attorney Mike Whalen told jurors his client acted out of self-defense.

PREVIOUS STORY: A day that started with water balloon fun in May 2021 ended with a Knoxville father shot and killed in the parking lot of the Walter P. Taylor Homes housing development in East Knoxville.

Ralphelle James is on trial in Knox County Criminal Court this week on charges of first-degree murder, illegal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment. He's accused of killing Vincent Williams, a dad who was in the neighborhood sharing the water balloon event with his family.

Judge Steve Sword is presiding over the trial, which started Monday afternoon.

Prosecutor Rachel Hill told jurors in her opening statement that the proof would show James tracked down and shot and killed Williams after an earlier confrontation.

James was in an apartment with several other men in the development May 20, 2021. They used the apartment for drug sales, Hill said.

On that day, children dashed around the development filling up water balloons. They used various apartments to do that, including the unit where James and the other men were.

One of the men yelled that he didn't want children coming into the apartment anymore. One of the children who was yelled at belonged to Williams, Hill told jurors.

Williams went to the apartment to confront the men for yelling at his child. They surrounded him.

They had guns, Hill said; Williams had his own gun.

Williams wasn't perfect, Hill said. But he didn't do anything to deserve death, she said.

While the moment proved tense, no shots were fired, and Williams ended up leaving. He was ready to move on from what had just happened, Hill told jurors.

RELATED: Grand jury to review Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. deadly shooting case

The prosecution alleges James and others still resented Williams challenging them. The decision was made to confront Williams further, Hill said.

While Williams was out in the development parking lot, James walked over to him with a revolver in hand, they traded brief words and as Williams tried to reach for his gun in his waistband, James shot and killed him, Hill said.

Defense attorney Mike Whalen countered that his client felt threatened from Williams' previous behavior. Williams was armed, Whalen said. James thought his life was in danger.

He'd had other people suffer gun violence, Whalen said. It wasn't going to happen to him as well, he told jurors.

"No one's going to kill me!" his client declared, Whalen told the jury.

Before You Leave, Check This Out