FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 14CR089848
NICHOLAS J. HANEK, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
P. WILL, Prosecuting Attorney, and LINDSEY C. POPROCKI,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
J. CARR, JUDGE.
Defendant-Appellant, Jeanne Harrington, appeals from her
convictions in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. This
On the morning of August 16, 2011, Harrington placed a call
to the Avon Lake Police Department to notify them that her
husband had committed suicide. Upon arriving at the marital
residence, officers found the victim lying on a couch with
his head wrapped in plastic. They also found a purported
suicide note that was typewritten, but signed in ink with the
victim's name. The coroner ultimately determined that the
victim died as a result of asphyxiation, but was unable to
conclusively state whether his death was the result of a
homicide or suicide. After a lengthy period of investigation,
the police arrested Harrington in connection with the
A grand jury indicted Harrington for murder, felony murder,
two counts of felonious assault, and tampering with evidence.
A jury trial ensued, at the conclusion of which the jury
found Harrington guilty on all counts. The trial court merged
several of her offenses as allied offenses of similar import
and sentenced her to a total of 16 years to life in prison.
Harrington now appeals from her convictions and raises two
assignments of error for our review. For ease of analysis, we
reorder the assignments of error.
OF ERROR II
CONVICTIONS FOR TWO COUNTS OF MURDER, TWO COUNTS OF FELONIOUS
ASSAULT, AND TAMPERING WITH EVIDENCE WERE NOT LEGALLY
In her second assignment of error, Harrington argues that her
convictions are based on insufficient evidence. We disagree.
A review of the sufficiency of the State's evidence and
the manifest weight of the evidence adduced at trial are
separate and legally distinct determinations. State v.
Gulley, 9th Dist. Summit No. 19600, 2000 Ohio App. LEXIS
969, *3 (Mar. 15, 2000). When reviewing the sufficiency of
the evidence, this Court must review the evidence in a light
most favorable to the prosecution to determine whether the
evidence before the trial court was sufficient to sustain a
conviction. State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259, 279
An appellate court's function when reviewing the
sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction
is to examine the evidence admitted at trial to determine
whether such evidence, if believed, would convince the
average mind of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt. The relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the
evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any
rational trier of fact could have found the essential
elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Id. at paragraph two of the syllabus.
A person commits murder when he or she "purposely
cause[s] the death of another * * *." R.C. 2903.02(A).
Meanwhile, a felony murder occurs when a person
"cause[s] the death of another as a proximate result of
[his or her] * * * committing or attempting to commit an
offense of violence that is a felony of the first or second
degree * * * " R.C. 2903.02(B). Felonious assault is a
second-degree felony offense of violence. R.C.
2901.01(A)(9)(a); R.C. 2903.11(D)(1)(a). Pertinent to this
appeal, a person commits felonious assault by either (1)
"[c]aus[ing] serious physical harm to another, "
R.C. 2903.11(A)(1), or (2) "[c]aus[ing] or attempt[ing]
to cause physical harm to another * * * by means of a deadly
weapon or dangerous ordnance." R.C. 2903.11(A)(2).
Tampering with evidence occurs when a person, "knowing
that an official proceeding or investigation * * * is * * *
likely to be instituted, * * * [a]lter[s], destroy[s],
conceal[s], or remove[s] any record, document, or thing, with
purpose to impair its value or availability as evidence in
such proceeding or investigation * * *." R.C.
Harrington does not challenge any particular element of her
convictions. Instead, she argues that the State failed to
prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt because the
evidence, if believed, only showed that she and the victim
"had a troubled relationship" and fought shortly
before his death. She notes that no lay witnesses were able
to implicate her on the night the victim died, her DNA was
not found on the plastic wrap binding his head, and the
coroner was unable to conclusively rule the victim's
death a homicide. According to Harrington, there was
insufficient evidence that she perpetrated any of the crimes
with which she was charged. See State v. Johnson,
9th Dist. Lorain No. 13CA010496, 2015-Ohio-1689, ¶ 13
("[I]dentity of the perpetrator is an essential element
that must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.").
On the morning of August 16, 2011, Harrington called the
police to report that she had found her husband's body in
their home. Sergeant Francis Tibbitts soon arrived, and
Harrington informed him that she was making arrangements for
her eleven-year-old son, who was unaware of the situation and
playing on an upstairs computer. She told the sergeant that
she and her son had gone shopping that morning and, when they
returned home, she found the victim with his head wrapped in
plastic. Harrington indicated that their house was scheduled
for a sheriffs sale the following day, and the victim was
meant to be fixing a plumbing issue in the basement. She
stated that she last saw him around 2:00 a.m. when they
argued about money and the pending sheriffs sale. After
listening to Harrington tell him more about the family's
debts, Sergeant Tibbitts went to look for the victim.
Sergeant Tibbitts testified that he initially walked upstairs
because he assumed the victim's body would be in the
master bedroom. He was unable to find the victim in any of
the bedrooms, however, so he eventually returned to the first
floor. By that time, other officers had arrived, and he and
another officer had to ask Harrington where the body was. She
then informed them that the victim was in the den on the
first floor. There was testimony that the victim routinely
stayed in the den rather than the master bedroom because he
and Harrington, though still married, were essentially
In the den, Sergeant Tibbitts found the victim lying on a
couch in a "semi-fetal position" with his head
"tightly wrapped in shrink-wrap." A spool of
plastic wrap lay on the floor and, on a nearby coffee table,
the police found a brochure about living wills and a note
that looked "as if it had been just opened out of an
envelope." With the exception of the signature, the note
was typewritten and read:
This is the only possible way I will be able to feed and
provide for my family and keep a ...