Two Brothers & Hickory Woman Convicted in Murder, Cover-Up of Landlord

Three people connected to the murder of an elderly man more than three years ago were convicted and sentenced for their roles in the death during Catawba County Superior Court on Monday, December 9, 2019.

Thomas Gregory Ball, 41, of Hickory, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and concealment of death in the October 9, 2016, killing of 78-year-old Benny Daniels. His brother, 30-year-old Rodney Adam Ball, of Virginia, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to murder and concealment of death for his role in the crime.

Thomas Ball was issued a prison term of 20 to 25 years by the Honorable Karen Eady-Williams, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, following his plea. Judge Eady-Williams entered a sentence of nine to 13 years for Rodney Ball after he pleaded guilty to his role in Daniels’ death.

Tabitha Lynn Harrison, 34, of Hickory, also was sentenced to a prison term of four to six years for her involvement after entering a guilty plea on September 16, 2019, to the offenses of accessory after the fact to murder and concealment of death.

All three defendants will serve their prison terms in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.

Judge Eady-Williams noted the tragedy of the situation, saying, “It was unnecessary. I don’t know what the argument was about, but it was a permanent resolution to something that did not have to happen.”

Daniels’ body was found in a shallow grave covered in dirt and concrete not far from his house after family members reported him missing to the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office on October 10, 2016. An autopsy report showed that he died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and upper body.

Thomas Ball and Harrison were renting a downstairs apartment from Daniels at his residence. A dispute between Daniels, Harrison and Thomas Ball took place, and Harrison was told to go downstairs at the residence.

Before she did, Harrison saw shadows in another room that appeared to show one person strike another. While downstairs, she heard a commotion that sounded like someone beating the floor.

Later she saw Thomas Ball and Rodney Ball driving a tractor hauling something wrapped in a quilt on property of Daniels’ residence.

The Balls were seen buying concrete prior to the discovery of Daniels’ body. Harrison initially told investigators she was not with them, but she also was seen in the passenger seat of a truck that belonged to Daniels when they were buying the concrete. Rodney Ball was in a back seat, and Thomas Ball was driving.

“It is through our strong partnerships with the (North Carolina) State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and our District Attorney’s Office that a successful resolution to this case has been achieved,” Catawba County Sheriff Don Brown said. “I’m proud of the work of this investigative/prosecutorial team. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Daniels family.”

Mike Hoyle and Kerry Penley led the investigation for the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Assistant District Attorney Jamie Adams handled prosecution for the State with assistance from Legal Assistant Belinda Gaither.

CONTACT: Nathan Key
Phone: 828-695-6193