Slain Woman Stuck With Husband Through Hardships

BURTON, Ohio (AP) - The wife of an ex-Columbus police officer found slain in her home was a loving mother who wanted to be a police officer because of her concern for others, her parents said.

"She didn't deserve this," Elizabeth Harton's mother, Joyce Strmen, told The Plain Dealer. "This is my child. You're not supposed to bury your child."

Harton phoned her parents Thursday night to tell them she scored well on a test at the Columbus Police Training Academy. She also discussed birthday plans for her youngest daughter.

Franklin County sheriff's deputies found the 27-year-old woman dead before dawn Friday in her home just west of Columbus.

"I'm still numb," her father, Peter Strmen, said sitting at a picnic table behind his Burton Township home. "There was no fear in her voice. No indication something was going to happen."

Hermando "Cliff" Harton (pictured, above) is accused of killing his wife during a morning of rage that ended in a standoff with State Highway Patrol troopers on Interstate 71 north of Mansfield. Harton, 39 was in critical condition Tuesday at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

The Hartons married in 1995. Five years later Elizabeth Harton filed for divorce after learning her husband got another woman pregnant, according to records.

A month later, the Hartons reconciled, and she halted the divorce proceedings.

Elizabeth Harton cared deeply about family, helping raise the son from her husband's affair and two of his children from a previous marriage, her parents said. Her three children with her husband meant everything to her, Joyce Strmen said.

"She was always pushing the envelope, always trying to excel in so many things," her father said as he recounted her jobs and hobbies. "She was always going, always running from one challenge to the next.

"Maybe she was right to run. Her time ended up being so limited."

Hermando Harton will be charged in Franklin County because it's the location of his wife's death, which will result in the most serious charge, said Steve Martin, head of the county sheriff's detective bureau.

The process of several agencies sharing information on the case will slow the process for filing charges, Martin said.

"We're putting all the information together. We're talking about a 60 mile crime scene," he said. "He's not going anywhere. He's under guard. It's not like we're in a hurry to do something."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)