Former Keenan High star returning to Columbia to face law enforcement - - Columbia, South Carolina

Former Keenan High star returning to Columbia to face law enforcement

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Former Keenan High School basketball star Jerome Harper is on his way back to South Carolina to face charges in a cold case murder.

When Jerome "Buddy" Harper went airborne, crowds at Keenan High went wild, but the next flight Buddy Harper takes is expected to land him in the hands of Columbia police.

"I talked to Buddy ... We're making arrangements for him to come down and turn himself in," says his former attorney, Billy Walker.

Harper, considered a fugitive, was named a suspect this week in the 1999 shooting death of his friend and Columbia motel owner Nick Thompson. At the time of the murder, Harper was just 17, and widely regarded as one of the top high school basketball players in the country.

His uncle says, "I'm trying to put the pieces together. With criminal activity, high-school and playing ball ... just no way."

"Basketball was his way out," Walker says. He says Harper "had been bouncing around some schools ... Iowa State ... Frankly he didn't make his grades."

Billy Walker is a close friend of the Harpers. Walker got a front row seat, watching Harper chase his hoop dreams and fall terribly short.

Harper's demise began in 2000. With Walker as his attorney, Harper was charged with assault. The charges were later dropped, but he'd already lost a college scholarship.

Most recently, he'd settled for some semi-pro ball with the Chicago Throwbacks of the Premier Basketball League.

But the team's owner tells WIS News 10 that Harper was cut this week when he missed practice and no one could reach him.

"He's going to turn himself in voluntarily, come back from Chicago and do the right thing," says Walker. "We love the kid. Think the world of him and we'll do what we can to support him. And we pray he's not truly guilty of what he's accused of."

Harper is expected in South Carolina soon. Family says it could be Friday night; his former attorney says it could be early next week. A Columbia police spokesperson tells WIS News 10 the department isn't yet ready to set any sort of deadline.

Reported by Dan Tordjman

Posted by Chantelle Janelle

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