Russell Tillis enters guilty plea to assault-on-officer charges

56-year-old also charged with kidnapping, killing, dismembering woman

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Weeks after his lawyer asked a judge to dismiss the charges against him, Russell Tillis pleaded guilty Friday to third-degree felony assault on a police officer.

Tillis, 56, went on trial on that charge earlier this year, but a judge declared a mistrial over evidence issues, and a new trial was scheduled for Oct. 17.

Tillis has been in jail on charges of aggravated assault on law enforcement officers, resisting arrest and battery of an officer since May 2015, when police said two officers were attacked with knives while they were serving Tillis with arrest warrants for violating injunctions neighbors had obtained against him.

The plea came on the day his defense lawyer was going to argue his motion that the charges be dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct.

Tillis was sentenced to more than two years and four months in jail and was given full credit for time served, meaning he had already served his sentence while awaiting trial.

Tillis also faces charges of kidnapping and murder after a tip led police to dig at Tillis' property in February 2016. After spending several days at the property, investigators found a set of human remains, which were later identified as those of Joni Lynn Gunter.

Tillis' lawyer told News4Jax the plea deal on the assault charges was settled because of a mutual desire to resolve that case and focus on the murder-related charges. That trial is set for next year.

Tillis' next pretrial date in that case is Dec. 4. He’s still being held without bond on those charges.

In June, police returned to investigate again at the home Tillis once owned, where Gunter's remains were found. They have not said if they found anything new.

Despite that, police said they believe that Tillis could have abused or killed other young women, particularly drug abusers, prostitutes or women who weren't in regular contact with family and who wouldn't be missed.