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Cops and Courts

UPDATED: Avon Lake woman arrested for husband's death


AVON LAKE — Police arrested an Avon Lake woman Thursday on a murder charge for allegedly killing her husband three years ago.

Jeane Harrington, 56, is accused of killing 55-year-old Michael Gabel, who died Aug. 16, 2011.

Chief Deputy Lorain County Coroner Frank Miller said Gabel died from asphyxia caused by plastic wrap over his nose and mouth and also had bruises on his head, trunk and extremities, as well as burns caused by electrical control devices.

Miller said Gabel’s death was classified as undetermined, although that likely will change now that Harrington has been charged with murder.

Avon Lake Police Chief Duane Streator called the case “complex” and said police will release more details during a news conference today.

“There’s a lot of things that didn’t add up, which is what took so long to put all the pieces together,” he said.

According to Lorain County Common Pleas Court and U.S. Bankruptcy Court records, the couple had been having financial problems, including multiple judgments for unpaid back taxes, before Gabel died.

The couple’s former home at 33400 Karen Drive was sold at sheriff’s sale the day after Gabel was killed, according to county records on the foreclosure case. The home, which was appraised for $99,000, sold for $115,000 at the Aug. 17, 2011, sale.

A second home on Moore Road, which was listed as a rental property in a bankruptcy case, sold at sheriff’s sale in December 2011 for $68,250, county records showed. It had been appraised at $51,000.

The couple also had marital problems in the past and Harrington filed for divorce from Gabel in January 2005.

The divorce paperwork said the pair had married in October 1999 and accused Gabel of “extreme cruelty and gross neglect of duty.” A counterclaim filed by Gabel leveled the same accusation at Harrington.

At the time of the marriage, court documents said, Harrington had owned the Karen Drive home outright, but after the couple married, it was mortgaged to free up cash to buy the Moore Road house. That house was later mortgaged and $88,000 used to pay off Gabel’s credit card debts, according to a filing by Harrington’s divorce attorney.

“(Gabel) had told (Harrington) prior to marriage that he had no debts,” the court filing said. “The bulk of said credit card debt was cash advances taken by (Gabel) to pay gambling debts.”

The document also said that Gabel had withdrawn about $25,000 from his 401(k) retirement account and had racked up additional credit card debts.

Court records show that the Gabel and Harrington reconciled and agreed to drop the divorce proceedings in April 2006.

Harrington once worked at the gift shop at Avon Lake Public Library but lost her job when the position was eliminated, the divorce file said. Gabel had worked at a variety of car dealerships during his career, most recently for Pat O’Brien Chevrolet, according to his obituary.

The obituary also described Gabel as a sports enthusiast who graduated from Rocky River High School. He had two biological children, including a son with Harrington, and a stepson, the obituary said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.

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