The Murder of James Gerety

James Gerety

James Gerety, 50, was allegedly decapitated (garroted) with a guitar string by James Paul Harris, 30. Harris was charged with shooting Gerety in the stomach, torturing him for two days prior to the beheading. A witness testified in court that Harris spoke to Gerety’s head during voodoo rituals for more than a year. Harris pleaded no contest and received a prison sentence of 4 years 2 months before being released in 2021.


Delores and Ralph Gerety adopted James Gerety and his brother Tom Gerety. The family lived in Nortonville, Kanas. According to CJ Online, James had attended Jefferson County North High School and been a Marine. His father, brother, and a son survived him.

Though it is not known for sure, it is believed Gerety was on the way to meet James Paul Harris the day he disappeared. James was last seen on March 3, 2011. His conservator reported him missing after James did not pick up his monthly payment.

Harris’s father, Jeff Harris, b had lived on a property in Osage County, Kansas with a woman named Shirley Johnson.

The Discovery

On March 24, 2012, Johnson had been mushroom hunting on her property. While out, she discovered what she thought looked like the top of a person’s head, laying on the ground in the wooded area near the couple’s home. She quickly went back to the home and informed Jeff Harris, who immediately notified the police.

The Investigation

The discovery of the top of a human head prompted investigators to look at any individual that could have access or ties to the area of discovery. Investigators learned that James Gerety had planned to move into the Harris home in Carbondale, Kansas. Gerety had been receiving Social Security payments and failed to pick up his payment. According to this timeline, it was estimated that Gerety had died between March 3, 2011 and April 20, 2011. At the time of his disappearance, James Gerety was described as a 50-year-old Caucasian male, approximately 5″10″ and 160 pounds, with partially gray, close-cut hair and blue eyes.

James Paul Harris

Investigators learned of the series of alleged events from Bobbie Williams, an ex-girlfriend of James Harris. Williams stated that, for unknown reasons, Harris shot Gerety in the stomach. Harris then tortured Gerety for two days before beheading him with a guitar string. Once he had beheaded Gerety, Harris dismembered Gerety remains, placing his arms, legs, and torso in a 55-gallon barrel which he buried and reburied on his father’s property. He placed Gerety’s head in a canvas bag where it would be stored for more than a year. Investigators learned from Williams that Harris was a practitioner of Voodoo and would often take Gerety’s head out of the bag to speak to it and use it in voodoo rituals. It was also reported that Harris allegedly had cloth voodoo dolls that hung from his apartment ceiling with the names “Bob on the Hill”, “Jimbo”, and “Poor Jimbo Bolinsky”.

The Trial

A judge issued a warrant for Harris’ arrest in October 2013. Harris was already being held on unrelated federal charges at the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas. He had received felony sentencing by the Shawnee County Texas District Court for fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer, which had taken place on December 19, 2011. A judge gave Harris 12 months of supervised probation. At the time of Kansas warrant filing, Harris’s Texas probation sentence had been satisfied and with the wording of the state and federal laws, there was no established federal felony conviction.

Harris’ legal team filed to have the (Kansas filed) hold resolved in January 2014 so that Harris could face the charges in Kansas.

James Paul Harris was arrested and charged with the premeditated first-degree murder of James Gerety. Harris initially pleaded not guilty in the March 14, 2014 preliminary hearing but would later enter a plea agreement. During the preliminary hearing, Bobbie Williams had offered testimony where she stated that James Harris had confessed to her he had committed the torture and murder by using a guitar string to sever the victim’s head. She also explained what Harris had told her regarding the voodoo rituals that he had performed.

The Sentencing

On December 15, 2014, Harris pleaded no contest to the involuntary manslaughter charges. On March 30, 2015, Osage County District Court Judge Phillip Fromme sentenced Harris to 4 years, 2 months. This was in part due to the fact that James Gerety’s body and the murder weapon(s) have never been found.

Tom Gerety, James Gerety’s brother, was quoted as saying, “The justice system is a joke. You can murder somebody and get out in 50 months. What’s that tell everybody on the wrong side of the law?”

On a final note, the Kansas Criminal Justice Information System has listed James Paul Harris as discharged with a discharge date of June 12, 2021. You can search for the official Kansas Department of Corrections Status Report here.

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