Attorney General Berkeley Bell told the Times-News Wednesday he believes the murder was motivated by an altercation between the victim — 36-year-old Christopher Varalli — and Varalli’s 16-year-old stepson, whom Varalli was raising.
Varalli was found dead by fireman the afternoon of March 20 after a mail carrier noticed the smoke coming from Varalli’s mobile home at 478 George Allen Road in the Stanley Valley community of Hawkins County. An autopsy indicated Varalli died from gunshot wounds to the abdomen as well as a toxic concentration of cyanide which was caused by the fire.
On Monday the Hawkins County Grand Jury indicted Randy Edwin Harr, 49, most recently of 833 Bell Ridge Road, Kingsport, for first-degree murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated arson, and first degree felony murder in connection with the death of Varalli.Harr’s wife, Lisa Marie Harr, 40, also of Kingsport, is also the ex-wife of Varalli, and mother of the 16-year-old boy Varalli was raising.
On Monday the grand jury indicted Lisa Harr with intent to obstruct or hinder the officer from apprehending another person, and tampering with evidence.
Mr. and Mrs. Harr are currently at-large and Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said it is believed they have fled the state. The Harr’s have family and friends from New York to Florida and many locations in between. Lawson said the U.S. Marshal’s Office is assisting in the search, and Mr. Harr has been added to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s 10 most wanted list.
A third man accused of helping cover up the murder is in custody on a probation violation charge in Sullivan County. James Anthony Hall, 52, was indicted by the Hawkins County Grand Jury Monday for intent to obstruct or hinder the officer from apprehending another person and tampering with evidence.
Varalli was found shot to death in the bathroom of his double-wide mobile home on George Allen Road in the Stanley Valley community on March 20 shortly after 1 p.m. by firefighters responding to a blaze just inside the back door of the residence.
The fire was allegedly set by Randy Harr to destroy evidence, but a quick-thinking mail carrier saw the smoke and put the fire out before it could spread. That preserved evidence including hair found in Varalli’s hand and other tissue samples.
At the time of his death Varalli’s household consisted of his wife, Joan Clawson, a middle school age daughter he shares with Lisa Harr, and a 16-year-old stepson who is Lisa Harr’s son, but lived with Varalli. That step-son is no blood relation to Randy Harr.
Clawson told the Times-News shortly after the murder that Varalli’s stepson moved in with the Varallis in September of 2011 at Lisa Harr’s request because of discipline problems. Clawson said Varalli felt like he was the only person who could help his stepson.
The night before Varalli’s murder, Hawkins County deputies were called to the residence on a complaint of the boy running away from home. The morning of the shooting, police returned to the residence because the boy was allegedly unruly and had to be physically restrained by Varalli.
Clawson said the dispute was over Varalli taking away the boy’s cell phone as a disciplinary measure.The boy was arrested that morning and was being held at the regional juvenile detention center in Johnson City at the time of the murder.
Clawson told the Times-News Varalli had a heated telephone discussion with Lisa Harr after the boy’s arrest. During that telephone conversation Varalli threatened to report Lisa Harr for Social Security fraud because she was (allegedly) claiming the son who was living with Varalli, Clawson said.
Clawson went to work shortly after that alleged conversation between Varalli and Lisa Harr, and later that day Varalli was murdered.
Clawson told the Times-News, “He fought whoever did this. He had a handful of hair when they found him. There was 15 bullet holes in my house. They shot him through the (bathroom) door like a fish in a barrel, but I saw him and I could tell he fought.”
Bell wouldn’t comment on the Social Security fraud threat, but he did say the altercation between Varalli and the stepson is believed to be a motive.
“I think it does have something to do with (Lisa Harr’s) son,” Bell said. “That’ appears to have been the trigger, anyway. The events surrounding the boy preceding that particular morning triggered the killing, but I can’t say that’s the only motive for it.”