Saturday, October 26, 2002

Man guilty in killing of girlfriend's fetus

Woman was shot during carjacking

The Associated Press

CANTON, Ohio - A jury has convicted a man of scheming to end his ex-girlfriend's pregnancy by having her shot during a staged carjacking. Jurors rejected a defense lawyer's argument there was no proof her shooting was planned.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 1 for Paul Nino Tarver II, 29, who prosecutors say arranged to have Keisha Lewis, 23, shot so he could avoid becoming the father of her child. Ms. Lewis survived the March 7 shooting, but her 3-month-old fetus did not.

The jury of six men and six women took less than four hours Thursday to convict Mr. Tarver of complicity to aggravated murder and complicity to felonious assault.

Ohio law allows for an aggravated murder charge for purposely causing the unlawful termination of another's pregnancy.

Mr. Tarver faces a prison sentence of 20 years to life for the first charge, plus three years for using a gun. Stark County Common Pleas Judge Sara Lioi could add another two to eight years for the second charge, which dealt with the shooting of Ms. Lewis.

Defense attorney Jeff Haupt called no witnesses, choosing instead to question the evidence gathered and focus on the absence of the shooter and the gun.

A visibly upset Mr. Tarver muttered to his attorney and turned to glare at Ms. Lewis as she sat in the back of the courtroom. A sheriff's deputy warned him to stop.

"It's not right. It's not right. If you listen to the evidence you could see that nothing was consistent," said Paulette Tarver of Canton, Mr. Tarver's sister.

Paul Tarver's attorney maintained he and Ms. Lewis were robbed, victims of a masked gunman who surprised them as they sat in a truck at a restaurant parking lot.

Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett argued the robbery was a setup, and that Mr. Tarver's renewed interest in Ms. Lewis was part of a lie. Ms. Hartnett claimed that Mr. Tarver wanted Mr. Lewis to have an abortion so he could be with another woman. When Ms. Lewis refused, Mr. Tarver began threats that escalated to the staged heist, Ms. Hartnett said.

Although the masked gunman has not been identified, his intention was clear, Ms. Hartnett said in her closing argument. She said there was no other reason the gunman would aim at Ms. Lewis and fire three times into her belly from inches away.

When Mr. Tarver fled, the gunman fired once at Mr. Tarver's leg. He was wounded.

Mr. Haupt said that putting Mr. Tarver on the stand would have opened the door for questions about past convictions for robbery and drug trafficking. "It was a very, very difficult case," Ms. Haupt said. "I obviously fell short in presenting the evidence to the jury."

Ms. Lewis uses a cane and said she still has pain and some loss of feeling. Two bullets remain inside her.

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