Defendant says he was provoked when killing stepmom

By Joe Gorman


James Jarrell told a jury Monday his stepmother provoked him into stabbing her repeatedly with a box cutter, slitting her throat and fracturing her skull.

Jarrell, 36, testifying on his own behalf in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court before Judge Lou D’Apolito in his aggravated murder trial, said under direct examination from defense attorney Andrew Zellars that he had come to the home of Tina Jarrell, 55, on July 7, 2015, to do drugs with her.

Jarrell said he had a relationship with his stepmother from the time she had married his father when he was about 16. He said the day she died, she mocked him for not wanting to be with her permanently, then started hitting him, then grabbed a glass globe.

That is when he grabbed a box cutter on a nearby table and began stabbing and cutting her, he testified.

“I grabbed the box cutter and I started stabbing her,” he said. “I don’t remember everything. I remember coming to with the glass globe in my hand.”

Jarrell said he cleaned up, took her car and also took her credit cards and some items from her house. He pawned some of her jewelry with a friend to buy crack cocaine, and after he smoked that, he bought more crack cocaine and then drove to Pittsburgh, where he was arrested.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Paris asked Jarrell point blank: “Yes or no, did you kill her?”

“I caused her death, yes,” Jarrell answered.

During their argument, Jarrell testified his stepmother called him several names.

“She said some horrible things to you, so you killed her? Didn’t you ever hear of sticks and stones?” Paris asked him.

Paris asked if Jarrell was in a fog how could he have inflicted such massive wounds on his stepmother, such as slitting her throat and beating her. He was not able to answer fully. At times, his voice was hard to understand and he also appeared to be crying or close to crying several times.

Jarrell faces charges of aggravated murder, murder, tampering with evidence and receiving stolen property.

Jurors began hearing the case Wednesday.

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