Thomas James Niarhos is an alleged teen killer from Pennsylvania who has been charged with the murder of Jeremiah Waylon Hawkins, 39.
According to police reports Thomas James Niarhos was involved in an altercation with Jeremiah Waylon Hawkins as Niarhos believed that Hawkins had sexually assaulted his girlfriend behind a dumpster.
The fifteen year old Thomas James Niarhos would pull out a gun and fatally shoot Jeremiah Waylon Hawkins in the face. Niarhos would be detained at the scene by a witness and soon after was placed into custody by the Pottstown Police Department
Thomas James Niarhos has been charged as an adult in the murder of Jeremiah Waylon Hawkins
Thomas James Niarhos News
A teen has been charged with murder after allegedly shooting and killing a man in Pottstown Wednesday afternoon, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office said.
According to court documents, officers responded to South Hanover Street at Security Plaza around 12:07 p.m. and found a man – later identified as 39-year-old Jeremiah Waylon Hawkins – with a gunshot wound to his head.
Hawkins was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead, officials stated.
Officials said the suspect – later identified as 15-year-old Thomas James Niarhos of Stowe – was held by a witness and immediately taken into custody by police.
A gun was recovered from the scene and officials said it was later determined to belong to Niarhos’ father.
Upon further investigation, detectives discovered that a fight had ensued between Niarhos and Hawkins.
Surveillance video showed that Niarhos had extended his arm out toward Hawkins and in return, Hawkins swung a tire attempting to knock a gun out of Niarhos’ hand, according to officials.
Officials said Niarhos then fired a single shot at Hawkins, fired another round, dropped the gun and was then detained.
An autopsy report stated that Hawkins had been shot once in the side of his face at close range, officials said.
According to court documents, Niarhos has now been charged as an adult with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, possessing a firearm by a minor, possessing an instrument of crime and other charges.
Officials said Niarhos is being held at the Montgomery County Youth Center with no bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., Nov. 30.
Thomas James Niarhos More News
A 15-year-old from Stowe who is the son of the executive director of the homeless advocacy agency Beacon of Hope has been charged with first-degree murder in the daylight shooting of a homeless man just yards from the borough police station.
Thomas James Niarhos of East Race Street is accused of shooting 39-year-old Jeremiah Waylon Hawkins, who was experiencing homelessness, near the Norfolk Southern train tracks at South Hanover Street and Security Plaza, which is also the hub for the Pottstown Area Rapid Transit bus routes.
The motive in the shooting may be related to an alleged sexual assault of Thomas James Niarhos’ girlfriend four months earlier, according to investigators.
Court records indicate Thomas James Niarhos told police on July 13 that Hawkins had raped his 16-year-old girlfriend, whose name has been withheld, behind the dumpster in Security Plaza near the Norfolk-Southern railroad tracks. Police investigated that accusation but received no cooperation from the girl’s family, and her mother told police the next day the family did not wish to press charges.
Police were dispatched at 12:07 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, and arrived to find Hawkins lying on South Hanover Street with an obvious gunshot wound to the head, according to a press release issued jointly Saturday morning by Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele and Pottstown Police Chief Michael Markovich.
Hawkins was transported to Pottstown Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Thomas James Niarhos was being held by witnesses when police arrived and he was immediately taken into custody by police.
Several witnesses told police Thomas James Niarhos dropped the gun after shooting Hawkins and started running through Security Plaza toward the parking lot of The Blue Elephant restaurant before he was restrained by bystanders until police arrived.
A .40 caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic firearm was recovered on the scene, according to the press release issued by the D.A.’s office. Detectives later determined the firearm belonged to the defendant’s father, who declined to make a statement to MediaNews Group when contracted on Saturday.
However, the accused’s father, told police he kept his gun in a locked nightstand in his bedroom, but kept the key in another location in the bedroom, according to court records. He told police he found a note in his son’s bedroom saying he planned to run away, along with a packed bag of clothing and a phone charger.
A joint homicide investigation by Pottstown Police and Montgomery County Detectives found through multiple witness interviews and review of surveillance video that Thomas James Niarhos had sought out Hawkins, and the two males were standing close together arguing when Niarhos extended his arm toward Hawkins.
Hawkins, who was on a bike and holding a spare tire, swung it at Thomas James Niarhos attempting to knock the gun out of his hand, but Niarhos fired a single shot at Hawkins’ face, and the victim fell immediately. Niarhos fired a second time, then dropped the firearm and walked away, when he was detained by bystanders, the press release said.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, as Niarhos was being escorted to the police station, an officer’s body camera recorded him shouting at first responders trying to save Hawkins, “he’s a rapist, don’t be sorry for him” and “he raped a 15-year-old girl, don’t help him.”
An autopsy was conducted on Hawkins’ body by Dr. Khalil Wardak, a forensic pathologist with the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, which found that Hawkins had been shot once in the side of his face at close range.
Dr. Wardak determined the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of death was homicide.
Niarhos was charged as an adult with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, possessing a firearm by a minor, possessing an instrument of crime and other charges.
Niarhos was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Margaret Hunsicker on Nov. 22. No bail is available for first-degree murder, and he was remanded to the Montgomery County Youth Center.
Anthony Colavecci, who is also experiencing homelessness, told MediaNews Group Wednesday after the shooting that Hawkins, whom he called “Jay,” was his former roommate “and he saved my life. I slipped in the bathroom and I kept saying I was fine, but he insisted that the ambulance take me to the hospital.”
Colavecci said Hawkins had become addicted to drugs in the last few months.
“I keep trying to tell myself I don’t care, but there are people who will miss him and I’m one of them,” Colavecci said.
A preliminary hearing for Niarhos is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., Nov. 30, before Magisterial District Judge Scott T. Palladino.
The case will be prosecuted by Assistant Chief of Trials Lauren Marvel and Assistant District Attorney Anne O’Connell.
The accused shooter’s father has come to be well-known in the borough since 2020, first as the executive director of the first Al’s Heart Warming Center that operated a winter nighttime warming center for those experiencing homelessness when the COVID epidemic forced area churches which had performed this function to cease operations.
For two years Niarhos, who previously experienced homelessness himself, ran the center out of the former St. Aloysius parish school on North Hanover Street. When that arrangement ended in 2022, the agency, now named Beacon of Hope, operated a warming center in St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, which brought them into conflict with the borough as a zoning violation that was ultimately withdrawn.
Niarhos has been the local face of the agency through its efforts to use $1.3 million in federal COVID funds to win the 2022 zoning approval for the construction of a permanent 45-bed shelter at Glasgow and West High streets along the western border of the borough