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Tiffany Ann POWELL





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Custody battle
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: April 26, 2014
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: July 22, 1981
Victim profile: James Harris, 69 (her ex-boyfriend and the father of five of her eight children)
Method of murder: Slamming his head into the ground 15 times
Location: Akron, Summit County, Ohio, USA
Status: Sentenced to 30 years to life in prison on February 24, 2016
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Akron woman sentenced to life in prison for murder of ex-boyfriend; will be eligible for parole after 30 years, 30 months

By Stephanie Warsmith - Beacon Journal staff writer

February 25, 2016

Tiffany Powell had an odd request for her sentencing Thursday morning for the murder of her ex-boyfriend: she didn’t want to be there.

Powell’s inquiry sent attorneys and the judge scrambling to see whether she could be sentenced without being present in the Summit County courtroom.

Powell ultimately relented, though, sitting the whole time — rather than standing, as a defendant normally does — and shielding her face with her hands and a tissue.

“I didn’t want this to happen,” Powell, 34, of Akron, said during her remarks during the sentencing. “I would never want my children to look at their mom and say, ‘You killed dad.’”

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Tom Teodosio sentenced Powell to life in prison for aggravated murder and 30 months for obstructing justice, with the terms to be served consecutively. She will be eligible for parole after 30 years and 30 months.

Powell faced between 20 years to life in prison. She plans to appeal.

A jury convicted Powell of being the mastermind behind the beating death of 69-year-old James Harris, Powell’s ex-boyfriend and the father of five of her eight children. Prosecutors say Powell lured Harris, who lived in Canton, to her Akron home April 26, 2014, where Paul Reed, her new boyfriend, beat Harris to death in the basement. Harris was there under the guise of looking at a car and a washer he might want to purchase.

Reed, 40, of Akron, was convicted of murder in February 2015 and sentenced to life in prison. He is appealing.

Powell claimed during her jury trial that she got Harris to come to her home so that he would violate a restraining order that she mistakenly thought was still in place. She hoped this would allow her to regain custody of and protect her children. She reiterated this claim during her remarks in court Thursday.

“I had to do something,” she said. “It was an emergency ... I never would have risked to kill anyone.”

Powell’s attorney, Kerry O’Brien, said his client was uncomfortable appearing at her sentencing because she was afraid. He urged Teodosio to consider sentencing Powell to 20 years to life, the lowest possible amount of time for her convictions.

Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel though urged Teodosio to sentence Powell to life in prison.

“She planned to take the life of James Harris,” Baumoel said.

“That’s a lie,” Powell said, prompting a warning to remain quiet.

Trina Danzy, one of Harris’ adult daughters, spoke during the sentencing, reminiscing about her father.

She said he wasn’t at all like how he was portrayed during the trials of Reed and Powell. She said Harris, a father of 10, was a loving father who instilled in his children a love of God and an appreciation for education. She said he coached track and started Ebony Stars, a track club for inner-city youths.

“I miss dad so much,” she said, trying to stifle her tears.

Jamila Mitchell, another of Harris’ adult daughters, said she didn’t plan to speak, but had to after hearing Powell’s remarks. She called Powell a liar, manipulator and a neglectful mother who hasn’t accepted responsibility for her role in Harris’ death.

“Now, you’re a killer,” she said. “The only victim here is my father.”

Mitchell said Powell never cried after Harris’ death.

“The tears you see are something for herself,” she said.

Teodosio said Powell lured Harris to her home and to his death. He said their relationship facilitated his death and she has shown “little or no remorse.” He said he thought the consecutive sentences were appropriate because of her “danger to the public.”

O’Brien objected to the consecutive sentences, and was overruled by Teodosio. He also asked Teodosio to put in a request with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction that Powell serve her time at the Marysville prison. Teodosio refused and said he will allow the prison department to decide where Powell should be housed.


Tiffany Powell convicted in murder of her ex-boyfriend; could be sentenced to life in prison at Feb. 25 hearing

By Stephanie Warsmith - Beacon Journal staff writer

January 29, 2016

Tiffany Powell showed little reaction and hid behind a computer monitor to avoid being photographed Friday as she learned a Summit County jury had found her guilty in the death of her ex-boyfriend.

The jury of seven women and five men found Powell guilty of aggravated murder and obstructing justice. She faces from 20 years to life in prison when she is sentenced Feb. 25 by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Tom Teodosio.

Powell was the second person convicted in the 2014 beating death of 69-year-old James Harris of Canton. The first was Paul Reed, Powell’s new boyfriend, who is serving a life sentence after being convicted in February.

James Harris’ four adult daughters wept and comforted each other in the courtroom Friday after the jury’s verdicts were read. They sat through both Powell’s and Reed’s trials.

“We’re really happy with the verdict,” said Jamila Mitchell, his daughter, who lives in Navarre. “The jury really listened. The prosecutor did a wonderful job.”

Kerry O’Brien, Powell’s attorney, declined comment after the verdicts.

None of the jurors wanted to speak afterward either. The jurors deliberated Friday for about six hours.

Powell and Harris have five daughters and were in the middle of a custody battle when Harris was killed on April 26, 2014, in the basement of Powell and Reed’s Minota Avenue home. Prosecutors say Powell lured Harris to the Akron home by having a friend tell him she wanted to sell him a car and a washer. They say Reed attacked Harris, knocking him onto the concrete floor and slamming his head into the ground 15 times. Harris died of blunt force trauma.

Reed, who is appealing his conviction, testified during Powell’s trial against the advice of his attorney. He took responsibility for Harris’ death, though he said neither he nor Powell had any intention of harming or killing him.

Instead, both claimed they planned to catch Harris violating a protection order that Powell thought was still in place so that Powell could get her children back.

Powell, though, admitted to lying to police, a fact that Assistant Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel hammered home during his cross-examination.

Powell painted her relationship with Harris as a volatile one and accused Harris of beating her and some of their children.

Harris’ daughters, though, were angered by this portrayal. They said Harris was an Akron teacher for 30 years, teaching special education, and was a track official at the University of Akron.

“He was loving to his kids and grandkids,” Mitchell said of Harris, who had 10 children and 14 grandchildren. “We’re happy the jury was able to see through the antics and the lies.”

Mitchell said sitting through two trials was difficult.

“It feels good to get past this,” she said.


Akron man testifies in girlfriend’s murder trial against his attorney’s advice, says he killed her ex-boyfriend

By Stephanie Warsmith - Beacon Journal staff writer

January 27, 2016

Ignoring the advice of his attorney, Paul Reed testified Wednesday in the trial of his girlfriend, Tiffany Powell, and took responsibility for the death they were both charged with causing.

“Do you know who killed James Harris?” Kerry O’Brien, Powell’s attorney asked Reed as soon as he took the witness stand in Summit County Common Pleas Court.

“Yes, sir,” responded Reed, who was sentenced to life in prison last March for Harris’ murder, but is appealing. “I did.”

Reed, however, and Powell, who also testified Wednesday, both said they had no intention of harming Harris, Powell’s ex-boyfriend and the father of five of her eight children. Instead, they both said they wanted to lure the 69-year-old Canton man to Akron to catch him violating a protection order Powell thought was still in place so that she could regain custody of her children.

“We had a plan and it went wrong,” Powell said.

The trial, which started last Thursday in Judge Tom Teodosio’s courtroom, will resume Thursday morning with Assistant Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel cross-examining Powell, followed by closing arguments.

Powell, 34, is charged with aggravated murder and obstruction of official business. Harris was killed April 26, 2014, in the basement of Powell and Reed’s Minota Avenue home, where Harris thought he was going to purchase a car and a washer.

Prosecutors claim Powell was the mastermind behind the plan to lure Harris to Akron, but the defense argues she was motivated by a desire to protect her children and had no intention of harming Harris.

Boyfriend takes stand

Reed’s testimony, originally planned for Wednesday morning, was delayed to allow time for his appellate attorney, Jason Wallace, to be in court.

Wallace and Teodosio both advised Reed, who was subpoenaed by Powell’s defense attorney, O’Brien, that he could invoke his Fifth Amendment rights to not incriminate himself. Reed, however, remained steadfast in his desire to testify, even after Wallace interrupted the questioning several times to advise him against answering.

Reed, 40, who was dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, said he met Powell four years ago when she was living in her car with her seven children. He said he invited her and the children to live with him.

Reed said Harris was upset about their relationship and, in the summer of 2013, Harris kicked his truck, pulled Reed out of it and assaulted him with a curl bar. Reed said he reported the incident to police.

Reed said he and Powell moved several times and “Harris would come around and start trouble.” The couple moved to a home on Minota Avenue in early April. They didn’t have the children with them — Harris had custody at that point and he and Powell were battling for custody in court — and Powell was 8½ months pregnant with Reed’s child.

Plan goes awry

On the day of Harris’ death, Reed said he learned about a plan concocted by Powell and a woman she had met in a domestic violence shelter. The woman, whom Powell paid $100, would call Harris, known for buying and fixing vehicles and other items, about buying a car from her and get him to come to Powell and Reed’s home. When Harris arrived, Powell would call the police and report him for violating a protection order that she didn’t realize was no longer active. They also expected Harris to leave the children at home during his trip to Akron, which could land him in trouble.

Reed said Harris was only supposed to go into the garage to see the car and not come into the house. Instead, Reed said Harris came into the basement of the house holding a gun.

Reed said he and Harris began to scuffle, with his focus on getting the weapon from him. He said he punched Harris and slammed his face into the concrete basement floor several times, stopping when the gun fell out of Harris’ hand. By that point, Reed said Harris wasn’t moving much and Powell called the police.

O’Brien asked if Reed or Powell ever planned to hurt or kill Harris. Reed said they did not.

Baumoel questioned Reed at length about the assault, asking if he pushed or banged Harris’ head into the floor.

“You have to push it to make it bang,” Reed answered.

“A man died,” Baumoel responded. “You slammed his head into the ground again and again, so much so that you pulled out his hair.”

Baumoel showed Reed and the jurors a photograph from the crime scene in which clumps of hair were visible around Harris’ body.

Reed admitted during his testimony that he lied to detectives when they questioned him after Harris’ death, including not telling them about the involvement of Powell’s friend.

Powell, who also admitted to initially lying to detectives, detailed her tumultuous, on-again/off-again relationship with Harris that included several domestic violence charges against Harris, trips to domestic violence shelters and custody disputes. Despite this, she said she still cared for Harris and didn’t want to see him harmed. She said she wanted to get back her kids, whom she found out Harris had brought with him to Akron where they waited in a van outside with Harris’ adult son.

“You told me to tell the truth,” she said to O’Brien. “The truth is I didn’t know or want for this to happen.”


Prosecutors paint Tiffany Powell as planner behind Canton man’s murder; defense says plot was aimed at getting children back

By Stephanie Warsmith - Beacon Journal staff writer

January 21, 2016

Evil schemer or protective mother — the prosecution and defense painted these two very different pictures of Tiffany Powell during opening statements in her murder trial Thursday in Summit County Common Pleas Court.

Assistant Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel told jurors in Judge Tom Teodosio’s courtroom that Powell was the mastermind behind a scheme to lure 69-year-old James Harris, her ex-boyfriend and the father of her five daughters, to her Akron home where her new boyfriend beat him to death.

“It was a set-up — perpetrated by Powell,” Baumoel said.

Defense attorney Kerry O’Brien, though, argued that Powell never intended to harm Harris and instead drew him to the home so he would violate the protection order she thought was in place and she could regain custody of her daughters.

“I don’t believe there was any intent to kill,” O’Brien said. “It just happened.”

Powell, 34, is charged with aggravated murder and obstruction of official business. Harris was killed April 26, 2014, in the basement of Powell’s Minota Avenue home where he thought he was going to purchase a car and washing machine.

The trial is expected to last through at least next Wednesday.

O’Brien said the seven female and five male jurors will hear from Powell, as well as James Reed, 39, Powell’s boyfriend, who was sentenced to life in prison last March for Harris’ murder after a jury trial.

Baumoel said Harris was a teacher for 30 years and, after his retirement, bought cars and other items to fix them up and resell them. He had 10 children, including five girls with Powell who are now between the ages of 5 and 14. Harris and Powell were in the midst of a custody dispute, with the girls living with Harris. A custody trial was scheduled for May 5, 2014, but Harris was killed before then.

Baumoel said Powell paid a 19-year-old woman $100 to contact Harris and arrange for him to come to the Minota Avenue house under the guise of seeing a car and washing machine she wanted to sell. He said the woman thought Powell planned to trap Harris into violating a protection order and then call the police so that Powell could get custody of her daughters.

When Harris went to the Minota Avenue home, where unbeknownst to him Powell and Reed had been living for a few weeks, Harris’ adult son and five daughters waited in the van. The 19-year-old woman led Harris to the basement where Reed attacked him.

Baumoel said Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler will testify that Harris died of 15 blows to the head that caused his brain to swell. He said the injuries were consistent with a person having his or her head slammed onto the floor.

Powell shook her head repeatedly during Baumoel’s statement.

O’Brien told a different version of the story. He said Harris abused Powell and some of her children, but she stayed with him because she couldn’t afford to leave. He said Harris was twice charged with domestic violence in Stark County and both times pled to a lesser offense. He said Powell, who only has a seventh-grade education, thought a protection order she had against Harris was still in place when it wasn’t.

O’Brien said Powell met Reed when she was living in her car with her daughters after leaving Harris. He said Harris wasn’t happy about this new relationship and at one point attacked Reed.

“They were like two bull elephants fighting over another elephant,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said Powell devised a “pretty hare-brained” idea to lure Harris to Akron so the police could catch him violating the protection order. He said this was “not the smartest thing in the world.”

“The state would like you to believe there was a plan to kill,” O’Brien said. “Nowhere in any message is there any discussion of hurting anybody.”

O’Brien said Powell was on the first floor of the house when the altercation happened between Reed and Harris in the basement. She called 911.

“Keep an open mind,” O’Brien urged the jury. “The real issue is: Did she intend to kill? My firm belief and what you will find is that she did not.”


Akron woman meant to get ex-lover arrested, not killed, defense says

By Adam Ferrise -

January 21, 2016

AKRON, Ohio -- An Akron woman whose trial began Thursday devised a plan to get her ex-boyfriend arrested, not killed, her defense attorney said during opening statements.

Tiffany Powell, 34, wanted James Harris arrested for violating a protection order so she could get full custody of their five children, defense attorney Kerry O'Brien.

Powell devised a plan to lure Harris, 69, to her home on April 28, 2014, then call police to get him arrested. Instead a fight broke out in the basement of her Minota Avenue home that left Harris dead.

"There was a plan to get him arrested," O'Brien said. "If anything happened other than that it wasn't intended by Ms. Powell. She never intended for anyone to get killed."

Powell faces charges of complicity to aggravated murder and obstructing justice. Summit County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Teodosio is presiding over the trial.

Powell's ex-boyfriend and co-defendant Paul Reed was convicted of bashing Harris in the head with a metal pole, then slamming his head against the floor until he died.

Reed was convicted in February of murder and was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility in 15 years. Reed is expected to testify in Powell's defense next week.

Powell has a 7th grade education and met Harris when she was 14. The two started a relationship after Harris' wife died. Their children are all between 5 and 14 years old.

Harris was a retired school teacher and a father of 10, including five children with Powell.

O'Brien called the fight the result of a love triangle. He said Harris had previously fought with Harris and Powell.

"She devised this hair-brained idea to get Mr. Harris in trouble," O'Brien said. "It's not the smartest thing in the world, but when you consider her background, how little she's accomplished, the only thing she wanted to save were her kids."

Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Jon Baumoel said during his opening statement that Powell wanted Harris killed before an Aug. 5, 2014 trial in Stark County Domestic Court that could have given Harris permanent custody of their children.

Powell found a then-19-year-old woman she met at a battered women's shelter to help with her plan, Baumoel said. She paid the woman $100 to contact Harris and tell him she had a used car and washing machine for sale. Harris in his retirement fixed up cars and appliances and resold them.

Once Harris arrived, she planned to call police. She believed they would arrest him for violating a protection order. Baumoel, however, said there was no protection order barring Harris from being near Powell.

Harris drove to the home Powell and Reed had recently moved into on Minota Avenue. The 19-year-old woman led Harris to the basement, where Reed waited to attack Harris, Baumoel said.

Reed hit Harris with the metal pole, placed his knee on his back, grabbed his hair and slammed his head against the ground at least 15 times.

Powell called 911. She told the dispatcher her ex-boyfriend broke into her home and attacked her boyfriend. O'Brien argued this meant Powell was surprised by the fight and never intended for anyone to be killed.

Baumoel portrayed the call as a lie used to cover up her plan and make it look like a case of self-defense.


Akron man guilty of killing girlfriend's former lover

By Adam Ferrise -

February 27, 2015

AKRON, Ohio -- An Akron man was convicted Friday of killing his girlfriend's former lover by bashing his head on a floor in a revenge-fueled fit of rage.

Paul Reed, 39, was found guilty of murder and complicity to commit murder in the April death of James Harris, 69. The jury found Reed not guilty of aggravated murder.

Reed is scheduled to be sentenced March 13 by Summit County Judge Thomas Teodosio. He faces life in prison with parole eligibility in 15 years.

Harris was a retired Akron special needs school teacher and father of 10, including five children with Reed's girlfriend, Tiffany Powell.

Powell also is accused of murder. Prosecutors alleged during the trial that she and Reed devised a plot to lure Harris to his death and kill him because Harris had custody of Powell's children.

During Friday's proceeding, Teodosio rejected a request for a mistrial by Reed's attorney, Walter Madison, citing inconsistent findings after the jury of eight women and four men initially found Reed guilty of murder but not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Instead, Teodosio granted a request from Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Joe Dangelo to give the jury further instructions on how to fill out the jury forms. After about three more minutes of deliberation, the jury left the involuntary manslaughter charges blank, meaning they decided Reed was guilty of murder.

"You can't legally commit a murder and not involuntary manslaughter," Madison said after the hearing. "It's a legal impossibility."

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Powell and Reed had a 19-year-old woman in need of money offer to sell a cheap car to Harris, who fixed and resold used cars. After several calls, prosecutors said, Harris agreed to meet the woman at Reed and Powell's Minota Avenue home.

Harris met the woman in front of the home and she led him down into the basement, where prosecutors said Reed struck him in the head with a pole in "a blitz-style attack."

Reed then knelt on Harris' back and slammed his head into the floor, prosecutors said. The repeated impacts caused skull and brain injuries that led to his death.

The 19-year-old woman fled from the home after seeing Reed hit Harris. She was not charged in the case.

Harris' and Powell's five children and Harris' other 28-year-old son sat in a car parked in the driveway of the home during the attack. They didn't know what happened until police arrived.

Powell's trial is scheduled to begin March 31.

Madison had asked the jury to return a guilty verdict on the involuntary manslaughter charge. He argued that Reed only meant to hurt Reed, not kill him. Madison argued that Harris pulled a gun during the incident and Reed defended himself.

Prosecutors disputed that theory during the trial.

"At that point, Mr. Reed became the victim, not the offender," Madison said. "He did what he had to do to preserve his life."


Man's head slammed on the ground until he died in revenge slaying, prosecutors say

By Adam Ferrise -

February 18, 2015

AKRON, Ohio -- Paul Reed slammed James Harris' head on the floor in a revenge-fueled fit of rage until Harris stopped moving, according to prosecutors.

Reed, 39, of Akron, and his girlfriend, Tiffany Powell, crafted a scheme to use a 19-year-old woman and the promise of a cheap car to lure the 69-year-old Harris to his death, prosecutors said Wednesday during opening statements in Reed's murder trial.

Reed is charged with aggravated murder and obstructing justice.

Harris, a former Marine and retired special education teacher with the Akron School District, was the father of 10 children, including five with Powell, his ex-girlfriend. He spent his retirement restoring and selling used cars.

Those five children and Harris' 28-year-old son sat in their car in Reed's driveway last April while their father was murdered, Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Felicia Easter said.

Reed and Powell -- who was pregnant at the time the killing took place -- wanted to kill Harris because he had custody of the five children, Easter said.

The couple came up with a scheme to lure Harris to their Minota Avenue home. Powell and Reed recruited a 19-year-old woman Powell met at a homeless shelter. Powell offered the mother of two money in exchange for her help.

Easter referenced a Facebook message that Powell sent to the woman that said, "I have a plan. Would you like to make some money."

She told the woman she had a protection order against Harris. Powell wanted to lure Harris to the home, call police and get Harris arrested, Easter said. No actual protection order existed.

Powell had the woman call Harris and tell him she was looking to sell her car and thought he might want to buy it, Easter said. The woman went to Harris' home but he wasn't there.

They called Harris several times, and he finally told the woman that he was at a church function with five of his children, Easter said. He picked up one of his older children who helped him restore cars and drove to the Minota Avenue home.

Harris did not know Powell lived at the home, Easter said. Harris met the woman in front of the home and she led him down into the basement. Reed struck him in the head with a pole in what Easter called "a blitz-style attack."

Reed then knelt on Harris' back and slammed his head into the floor. The repeated impacts caused the skull and brain injuries that led to his death, Easter said.

The 19-year-old woman fled from the home after seeing Reed hit Harris, Easter said. She was not charged in the case.

Akron police found a gun next to Harris' body when they arrived to investigate, according to Easter. The magazine of the gun had Harris' DNA on it. Easter said Harris was not known to carry a gun.

Defense attorney Walter Madison gave a short rebuttal during his opening statement on Wednesday to an eight-woman, four-man jury.

"Pay close attention to what you hear and what you don't hear," Madison said. "And remember one thing: A man's home is his castle."

Testimony is expected to continue Thursday at the Summit County Courthouse.


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