Trial begins in West Side stabbing death

By Joe Gorman


Robert Jarrell came home from work late July 7, 2015, and thought it was odd that the dog did not greet him as usual.

He sat down at his kitchen table with a can of pop, and the dog emerged from the living room. He walked in to follow the dog and saw his wife, Tina, kneeling on the floor, her head and arm resting on a couch, her face in a pool of blood.

“I screamed, ‘Tina, Tina, Tina,’ but I didn’t see no movement,” he testified Thursday in the trial of his son, James Jarrell, who is charged with killing Tina Jarrell, his stepmother.

Opening statements began Thursday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in the trial of James Jarrell, 36, charged with aggravated murder, murder, aggravated robbery, tampering with evidence and receiving stolen property in the stabbing death of Tina Jarrell, 55, in her Wellington Avenue home.

Attorneys for James Jarrell argued in their opening statement that 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.

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.

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