Columbus man accused of 11 armed robberies pleads not guilty

John Arthur Morris
John Arthur Morris

A Columbus man accused of 11 armed robberies in Georgia, Alabama and Florida that date back to January appeared in Columbus Recorder’s Court Tuesday morning.

John Arthur Morris, 47, pleaded not guilty to two counts of armed robbery and one count of kidnapping stemming from two of the nine robberies he allegedly committed in Columbus. No injuries were reported in the incidents.

Columbus Police Detective Wayne Fairbairn said an armed black man entered AutoZone at 6450 Flat Rock Road around 7:59 a.m. May 13 with a ski mask covering his face. He ordered the employees to go to the back of the store.

He used zip ties to bound their hands behind their backs and ordered one of them to retrieve money from the safe. He took more than $2,000 before fleeing the scene on foot.

A man who matched the same description of the AutoZone suspect robbed the Golden Corral at 1505 Manchester Expressway around 11:20 p.m. July 1, according to police.

Columbus Police Detective David Stokes said a black man brandishing a firearm forced the occupants to the back of the restaurant before stealing a large sum of cash from the safe.

He also abducted the manager at gunpoint and forced her to drive him a few blocks away from the restaurant in her vehicle. She wasn’t harmed.

Police said Morris’ fingerprints were lifted from the crime scene at the Golden Corral. Individuals in that robbery identified him as the assailant, Stokes testified.

When authorities were searching for the defendant, he was allegedly linked to 11 armed robberies, including one in Phenix City and another in Kissimmee, Fla. He was also wanted by the FBI on a warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

According to the FBI, he would often force his victims to a back room or office and restrain them with zip ties or telephone cords, which led Columbus police to link him to the AutoZone robbery.

Morris was arrested on Aug. 22 during a traffic stop in Mississippi.

Judge Michael Cielinski ordered him held in the Muscogee County Jail. He was denied bond on the armed robbery charges but granted a $50,000 bond on the single count of kidnapping.

The charges were bound over to Superior Court.

Sarah Robinson: 706-571-8622, @sarahR_92