Lawyer says Jarrell is culpable, but not for aggravated murder


Attorneys for James Jarrell today in his aggravated murder trial said he may be guilty of some things, and he struggled with his stepmother before she was beaten and stabbed — but he is not guilty of murder or aggravated murder.

Opening statements began today in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in the trial for Jarrell, 36, who is charged with aggravated murder, murder, aggravated robbery, tampering with evidence and receiving stolen property in the July 7, 2015, stabbing death of Tina Jarrell, 55, who was found stabbed to death in her Wellington Avenue home.

Judge Lou D’Apolito is hearing the case. A jury was seated Wednesday.

Defense attorney Andrew Zellers told jurors that Jarrell and his stepmother both used drugs and that when the defendant was younger she had sexually abused him. He said the day she was killed, the victim and James Jarrell were both going to use drugs again but a heated argument ensued, then a struggle and Tina Jarrell wound up dead.

“In the end we think he is responsible for something, but it is not murder,” Zellers said.

In her opening statement, Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Paris said James Jarrell was seen on video at several local gas stations using Tina Jarrell’s credit cards, used cash he took from her to buy drugs and was caught in Pittsburgh the day after her murder with her car and credit cards.

She said the defendant’s DNA was under Tina Jarrell’s nails and James Jarrell had marks on his body that indicated he had been in a violent struggle with someone. His DNA was found on soap and a towel in the home as well, Paris said.

“He killed her, he bludgeoned her, he’s covered in blood and he washes his hands before he leaves,” Paris said.

Testimony is expected to continue today.

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