The mother of a man convicted of killing his girlfriend's daughter and stabbing his own son in August told a three-judge panel in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday that she wants her son to live.
Spectators in the courtroom wiped tears from their eyes when Diana Roe said, "I would like to keep on hearing his voice."
Her testimony came during an 11-hour session that ended at 8 p.m. to determine whether Eric Harmon should be executed for killing his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter, Skylar Burnard.
Judges Charles Doneghy, Ronald Bowman, and William Skow, who last month convicted Harmon of aggravated murder for the Aug. 22, 2003, stabbing death of Skylar, will hear closing arguments tomorrow as part of the trial's sentencing phase.
To recommend any sentence other than the death penalty, the judges must find that any mitigating circumstances that favor the defendant outweigh any aggravating circumstances in the murder.
Harmon, 32, stabbed Skylar and his infant son, Gavin Harmon, in a detached garage at 6055 Secor Rd. during a domestic dispute with their mother, Nicole Miller.
Gavin was stabbed six times but survived his injuries. Harmon was convicted of attempted murder for that assault and faces a 10-year sentence for that crime.
An unstable childhood that included allegations that the defendant was physically abused were among the mitigating factors offered to the judges by his attorneys, Ron Wingate and Jeff Helmick.
In an opening statement, Mr. Helmick told the court that Harmon was suffering from a psychotic disorder on the night he barricaded himself in the home with Ms. Miller and the children.
Mr. Helmick said Harmon's behavior was similar to an incident in June, 2000, when he went to a stranger's home in Old Orchard and asked for help because he thought someone was after him but became combative when police arrived.
He was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing justice, and resisting arrest, and subsequently was admitted to Flower Hospital, where he underwent treatment and was prescribed anti-depressants.
Jolie Brams, a clinical psychologist, told the judges that she reviewed Harmon's medical, school, and Children Services investigation records and interviewed the defendant and his family.
Ms. Brams said Harmon's bizarre behavior on the night of the attacks, which included shaving his hair and eyebrows and covering windows in the home with blankets, were symptoms commonly associated with psychotic disorders.
The defendant's mother, Ms. Roe, testified that Harmon's father, whom she said was an alcoholic, often was abusive to her and her children, and they "walked on eggshells" in his presence to avoid upsetting him.
Ms. Roe, who was married to Harmon's father from 1969 to 1975, tearfully recalled examples of her ex-husband's explosive violence, including kicking a hole in the wall with his shoe and throwing breakfast cereal on the floor and ordering the children to eat it.
She said Harmon's father took custody of her two sons after they divorced, and she subsequently saw less of her son, Eric. But he visited her periodically in Florida, where she now lives.
Harmon's father, Jim Harmon, was outside the courtroom all day, but defense attorneys did not call him to offer any testimony.
Lucia Hinojosa, a clinical psychologist with the Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Toledo, testifying on behalf of the prosecution, said she believes Harmon didn't have psychological problems on the night of the attack.
Instead, she said, the behavior he displayed was substance-induced psychosis from drug and alcohol use. The effects of substance abuse often can mimic psychotic behavior in a person, she said.
Ms. Hinojosa said a review of Harmon's records indicated that the he was abusive with women he dated, including a girlfriend whom he held at knifepoint while driving in a car after she broke off the relationship.
Contact Mark Reiter at: email@example.com or 419-213-2134.