Fugitive caught in Gainesville returned to Tennessee to face murder charge

Law enforcement officers found Tennessee murder suspect and fugitive Randy Harr, 49, at this tent in the 2600 block of Southeast Hawthorne Road on Dec. 13. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marshals Service)

Published: Monday, December 31, 2012 at 11:23 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 31, 2012 at 11:23 a.m.

A fugitive captured by federal marshals in Gainesville has been returned to authorities in East Tennessee where he has been charged with murder, burglary and aggravated arson in the death of a man found shot to death in his burning home in March.

Hawkins County Sheriff's Office named 49-year-old Randy Edwin Harr, of Kingsport, Tenn., as one of three suspects in the murder of Christopher Varalli at his Surgoinsville home in March. Harr is being held without bail and no court date has been set yet, according to local news reports. Authorities say Varalli died from a gunshot wound and toxic levels of cyanide. His body was found inside his burning mobile home.

Harr was taken into custody on the night of Dec. 13 after officers learned he was living in a tent near Newnans Lake and eating raccoons and fish to survive.

“This person … for some unknown reason had picked Gainesville as the place where he was going to hide from the law and live off the land. Our community is a lot safer today because of some very good work by several investigators in Florida and Tennessee,” Deputy U.S. Marshal Bryon Carroll said at the time of Harr’s arrest. “No doubt local raccoons are also glad Harr is now behind bars receiving three meals a day.”

Carroll said Harr was arrested by members of the U.S. Marshals’ Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force after they received information from marshals in Tennessee that Harr might be in the Gainesville area living off the land to avoid capture.

While checking area campgrounds and parks, members of the team spotted a tent in a wooded area north of the 2600 block of Hawthorne Road and saw Harr and another man sitting next to a small campfire. Harr was confronted at gunpoint and arrested without incident.

A raccoon that had been cleaned and pinned to a tree was found at the campsite, Carroll said.

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