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Published: Friday, 1/28/2005

Toledoan found guilty of killing 4-year-old girl

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Eric Harmon awaits the verdict outside the courtroom; he was found guilty in the slaying. Eric Harmon awaits the verdict outside the courtroom; he was found guilty in the slaying.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

Eric Harmon was found guilty yesterday of killing his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter and stabbing his own infant son in a bloody rampage at the West Toledo home of the children's mother.

A three-judge panel deliberated two hours before finding Harmon guilty of aggravated murder and specifications for a possible death sentence in the stabbing death of Skylar Burnard.

Harmon, 32, also was found guilty of attempted murder for stabbing his own son, Gavin, in the Aug. 22, 2003, incident at 6055 Secor Rd. that began when Harmon barricaded himself inside the home with the victims and their mother, Nicole Miller.

Judge Charles Doneghy, who presided over the four-day trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, announced the verdicts that were made unanimously with Judge Ronald Bowman and Judge William Skow.

The panel will reconvene Feb. 5 to listen to evidence before sentencing Harmon for the aggravated murder conviction. They can recommend life in prison with the possibility of parole after a sentence of either 20, 25, or 30 years, life in prison with no parole eligibility, or death.

The gallery of spectators, mixed with family of the victims and defendant, showed little emotion during the verdicts. However, family members, including Pat Burnard, the grandmother of Skylar, and Harmon's parents, cried in the courtroom when the hearing ended.

Harmon stared ahead and showed no emotion.

Jeff Lingo, an assistant county prosecutor, said he was pleased with the trial's outcome and was ready to proceed to the mitigation phase. "The judges very carefully considered the evidence and the 140-plus exhibits. In view of the evidence, we believe they reached the right verdict," Mr. Lingo said.

In the penalty phase, Harmon's attorneys will present evidence of the client's background or other factors to sway the panel from imposing the death sentence.

Earlier yesterday, his attorneys, Ron Wingate and Jeff Helmick, waived their client's right to give a closing statement. They did not present witnesses after prosecutors rested their case.

In cross-examining prosecution witnesses, questions from Mr. Wingate and Mr. Helmick often were directed to perceptions and observations about Harmon's actions and behavior that night.

According to testimony, after Harmon began barricading the home, Ms. Miller took Gavin and climbed out the window of an upstairs bathroom and jumped to the ground from a television antenna.



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