Man confesses to Lauderdale Co. murder, investigators say

Joshua Balentine (Source: Lauderdale Co. Sheriff's Dept.)
Joshua Balentine (Source: Lauderdale Co. Sheriff's Dept.)

LAUDERDALE COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Lauderdale County investigators say 29-year-old Joshua Balentine confessed to the murder of Royce Varnell.

Varnell was found dead at his home on County Road 511 in April.

Community members say Varnell, who was wheelchair-bound and lived alone, was a good-hearted man who kept to himself.

Initially, investigators said Varnell was shot to death at his home near Anderson, but now they say he was beaten to death.

Investigators say they received a call from the sheriff's department in Alcorn County, Miss. where a suspect in the Varnell homicide case had been incarcerated. Authorities say Balentine sent a note out asking Lauderdale County investigators to come talk to him because he wanted to confess to the murder of Varnell.

According to authorities, Balentine was in jail in Mississippi for theft. He had stolen a vehicle in Lauderdale County, Tenn. and also in Mississippi, which ended in a high speed chase and his arrest by Mississippi authorities.

Investigators say Balentine told them he did commit the murder and gave them specific details. They said the details were only details the person who committed the crime would know.

Investigators say Balentine used a hammer to kill Varnell. They believe they have recovered the murder weapon and it has been sent off for forensic testing.

Balentine has been charged with murder and is still in jail in Mississippi.

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