Convict admits to raping, murdering two women

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announced that Joseph Harwell, now 51, plead guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of abduction for the 1989 aggravated murder of 27-year-old Mary Thomas and the 1996 aggravated murder of 33-year-old Tondilear Harge.

Mary Thomas was found March 28, 1989 between two buildings by two East Ohio Gas men working in an alleyway of 13411 First Avenue, East Cleveland. The victim was three to four months pregnant when she was raped and murdered by strangulation.

On September 30, 1996, police found the body of Tondilear Harge in a vacant lot on the south side of Chester Avenue, in a wooded area between E. 86th and E. 87th Streets in Cleveland. She was raped and murdered by strangulation.

Harwell was also known as Joseph Ober. After Harwell murdered Mary Thomas, he was convicted of felonious assault in 1989 for strangling a 31-year-old woman in East Cleveland. He was incarcerated for this crime and released on parole in 1995. That year, while on parole, he murdered Tondilear Harge, fled to Columbus, and within six months murdered Teresa Vinson.

Joseph Harwell is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Lance Mason on February 27, 2012, at 9:30 am. Harwell faces a maximum of 35 years in prison.

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