County has first murder of the year

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

LELAND—Three shots rang through the early-morning calm last Friday at a Leland home, one of them striking a 26-year-old man.

Jerome Roberto Echlos died from a single gunshot wound to the chest at his Brandon Drive home around 3 a.m.

Norris Tywynne Johnson, 26, also of 6786 Brandon Drive, has been charged with his murder, Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald Hewett said.

According to Hewett, Johnson and his girlfriend drove to the Brandon Street home from her home in Clinton, where the two had been living. They arrived in Leland around 3 a.m.

Johnson entered the home where five people were sleeping—his sister and her boyfriend, his father, his niece and a family friend.

Upon arriving, Hewett said Johnson fired one “takeover” shot in the home, and then fired one shot into the couch, where the family friend was sleeping.

The man sleeping on the couch was not injured.

Johnson then entered the bedroom where his sister and her boyfriend were sleeping and began arguing with them.

Echlos walked outside with Johnson to “de-escalate the situation,” Hewett said.

“It is believed [Echlos] had a pack of cigarettes in his pocket, and as he was talking with the suspect Norris Johnson, he reached into his pocket to get a cigarette,” Hewett said. At that point Johnson fired a single round, striking Echlos in the chest.

Echlos was pronounced dead on the scene.

An autopsy performed Friday afternoon in Jacksonville confirmed Johnson was killed from one gunshot wound to the chest.

The sheriff’s office received the call just before 3:30 a.m., and responded within minutes, Hewett said.

Sheriff’s office patrol deputies stopped Johnson about one-half mile from the Brandon Street home, where Johnson was arrested without incident.

A small caliber handgun was recovered from the car, which was being driven by Johnson’s girlfriend, Hewett said.

Hewett said she was very cooperative and did not believe she was involved.

“The only motive I have at this time is that there was an argument,” Hewett said.

Alcohol did not play a role in the shooting, he added.

“The suspect stated he had a beer and a little wine before the incident, but that’s not believed to be a factor in this case at this point,” he said, noting drugs were not likely involved in the shooting.

Johnson is in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Center on bond, Hewett said.

This was the first murder of 2008 in Brunswick County.