Joseph Todd Jowers was 32 years old when he was shot and killed outside of the now-defunct nightclub where he often taught line dancing and sang karaoke in October 1996. Now, over 26 years later, Alabama law enforcement say they have finally found his killer.
During the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 1996, Jowers walked a woman to her car in the parking lot of what was then the Classic’s Lounge on 37th Street East in Tuscaloosa. By 2:20 a.m. he was shot in the head. The woman was never able to describe the assailant.
No arrests were ever made at the time and eventually the case went cold, according to Birmingham, Ala.-based Fox affiliate WBRC.
According to Patch.com, the case had some leads but those went nowhere for decades.
In October 2020, the Tuscaloosa Police Department formally reopened the case, sending out a call to the public for help.
On Dec. 23, 2022, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of Thomas Terry Johnson Jr., 49, on charges of murder.
“For the past year, investigators with the [Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office’s] 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 a grand jury,” TCSO Captain Jack Kennedy said in comments reported by AL.com.
Details on the case are currently scarce.
Investigators did not offer information as to how the particular suspect was connected to Jowers’ murder or otherwise provide evidence to make their case publicly. Police did say the suspect may have hidden in bushes near the nightclub and escaped through a wooded area in the southern part of the parking lot.
A Patch.com feature on the case in October 2021 recounted a news story written in the immediate aftermath of the slaying written by reporter Wendy Reeves and published by the Tuscaloosa News.
In that initial account, Jowers’ girlfriend told police she “heard a pop” and turned to see him on the ground near his car, some 40-50 feet away. Another witness at the time said they saw a white man in black clothing, wearing something “like a cap” running away and ducking back behind the club after the shooting.
A handgun was later recovered from the parking lot of Classics that was believed to have been the murder weapon.
In comments reported by various outlets, Kennedy speculated that robbery may have been a potential motive. Jowers also worked as a carpenter and handyman and may have been relieved of cash that may have been in his pockets after the murder.
The homicide unit commander of the TPD at the time said he believed that several people witnessed the shooting but were reluctant to come forward. The murder of the popular fixture at the bar, at the time, came during a particularly violent era in Tuscaloosa – Jowers’ death was the ninth homicide that year.
The since-closed lounge is now occupied by Crimson Bar.
Johnson is currently being detained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail on $75,000 bond.
[image via Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit]
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