Joseph Harwell sentenced to 30-35 years in prison for murders of Mary Thomas, Tondilear Harge

CLEVELAND - Cuyahoga County prosecutors said Joseph Harwell was sentenced to 30 to 35 years in prison, to run consecutive to the 15 years to life sentence he's currently serving for a 1997 murder in Franklin County.

Harwell earlier pleaded guilty to a pair of involuntary manslaughter and abduction charges.

In 1989, Mary Thomas, 27, was found dead between two buildings by East Ohio Gas men working in an alleyway on First Avenue on Cleveland's east side. Thomas was pregnant when she was raped and strangled to death by Harwell.

Seven years later, in 1996, Harwell struck again. Cleveland police found the body of Tondilear Harge, 33, in a vacant lot on the south side of Chester Avenue. Her body was in a wooded area between E. 86th and E. 87th streets. Harge was also raped and strangled to death.

Prosecutors said after Harwell, also known as Joseph Ober, murdered Thomas, he was convicted of felonious assault for strangling a 31-year-old woman in East Cleveland that same year. Harwell was sentenced to jail time and released on parole in 1995.

It was while he was on parole that prosecutors said he murdered Harge and then took off to Columbus. Six months later, Harwell murdered Teresa Vinson, prosecutors said, and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

After 11 women's bodies were found at the home of convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell, prosecutors decided to review 75 unsolved murders within a two-mile radius of Sowell's Imperial Avenue home. That review linked DNA from Harwell to Harge and Thomas.

"Solving cases like these two begins the closure process for families who have been waiting a long time for answers on the death of their loved ones," said Prosecutor Bill Mason in a news release. "Another serial murderer has now been held accountable for tearing innocent victims away from their families."

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