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Cops and Courts

Avon Lake woman accused of killing her husband in ’11 appears in court


AVON LAKE — Before Michael Gabel was killed in 2011, Jeane Harrington told a parishioner at a church she worked at that she had a “surefire way” to kill her husband, Avon Lake Prosecutor John Reulbach Jr. said Wednesday.

“She told the person, who is available for trial, that she would wrap Saran Wrap around his head and sit on his face and suffocate him,” Reulbach told Avon Lake Municipal Court Judge Darrel Bilancini during a hearing.

Harrington, 56, was arrested last week on a murder charge following a nearly three-year investigation into Gabel’s death at the Karen Drive home the estranged couple shared with their then-11-year-old son.

Harrington called 911 on Aug. 16, 2011, and reported that she had returned home from running errands to discover her husband dead in the den of the house with plastic wrap over his face.

Chief Deputy Lorain County Coroner Frank Miller has said Gabel was asphyxiated and was wearing only a polo shirt and underwear when he was found. Miller also found evidence of multiple burns from a stun gun on the 55-year-old car salesman’s body.

Reulbach said Harrington admitted to police that she had used the stun gun on Gabel 20 times during a physical altercation in the early morning hours that day. Police have said Harrington later told them the fight was mutual and that she later left the room and last heard her husband use the bathroom about 2 a.m.

During the call reporting finding Gabel’s body, Harrington alluded to the financial woes the couple was having, including losing their house, which was sold at sheriff’s sale the day after Gabel’s death. She also told an Avon Lake police dispatcher that her husband had left a one-line note.

But Avon Lake Police Chief Duane Streator has said the scene appears to have been staged to look like a suicide. Rather, investigators believe, Harrington killed Gabel and tried to cover up the crime.

Streator said after the hearing, during which Harrington’s attorneys entered a not guilty plea on her behalf, that Harrington freely told people she hated her husband.

“She told lots of people that she wanted him to be dead,” Streator said.

He said the comment Harrington made to the church parishioner came during a conversation about another woman who was charged with killing her husband. Streator said Harrington was talking about how she would get away with killing Gabel and described the method she would use.

Reulbach said that given the evidence police have amassed to use against Harrington, he wanted her held on a $500,000 bond to prevent her from fleeing because of the possibility of life in prison if she’s convicted on the murder charge she faces.

But defense attorney Troy Reeves argued that the bond Reulbach was asking for was too high given Harrington’s financial and family ties to the community. He also questioned why if Harrington was so dangerous she wasn’t arrested three years ago.

“What type of new evidence is there?” he asked.

Bilancini set the bond at $500,000 and has scheduled a preliminary hearing for Monday.

Reeves declined to comment further after the hearing.

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

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