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Teen accused in October slaying of St. Petersburg man

ST. PETERSBURG — Police say they have solved the October slaying of Clarence Mitchell Jr., and detectives are pointing the finger at a familiar figure.

They say Jaqueal Edward Harris, 18, shot Mitchell on Mitchell's doorstep. The two had been in a recent fight, police say.

Police have also questioned Harris in connection with the slaying of 15-year-old runaway Malayshia Gamble and have charged him with an array of other crimes, including three armed robberies.

He has been in the Pinellas County Jail since Jan. 10.

Harris has been racking up criminal charges since he was 13, but the second-degree murder charge in connection with Mitchell's death is the most serious he has ever faced. A conviction carries a life sentence.

Harris' arrest was welcomed by Mitchell's family members, though they have many questions about the slaying.

"I need more answers," said the victim's sister, Monise Jackson, 34. "I wish I could speak to him myself to ask why he killed my brother. I don't know why he did it."

• • •

Mitchell died the night of Oct. 21. The Tropicana Field employee was excited about going to work the next day, which was Game 1 of the World Series. His younger brother Daron, 30, was visiting from New York.

Mitchell was getting ready for bed when there was knocking at the door. He stepped outside to talk to someone.

Then, minutes later: three gunshots. Mitchell staggered back inside, shot in the chest.

"I heard pow, pow, pow," said his girlfriend, Yolanda Williams, 31. She ran to cradle him in her arms.

Mitchell clutched at the wound in his chest and called out to her. "Ma" was his nickname for her.

"I kept telling him to just hang on, hang on," Williams said. "His last words were 'Ma, Ma, Ma.' And he just stopped breathing."

Mitchell was the oldest of three siblings born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, N.Y.

He died at the age of 37.

• • •

Those closest to Mitchell say he and Harris were only acquaintances. Yet police say the shooting was rooted in some kind of fight between the two earlier that week. Harris was 17 then.

"We know they had been involved in a physical altercation a few days earlier," said St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt. "But we don't know the exact nature of the conflict."

The investigation continues.

Police say they focused on Harris soon after Mitchell's death but didn't have enough evidence to arrest him — not until the Malayshia Gamble slaying.

Police say Harris was the last person to see her alive.

Harris' parents, James and Evette Harris, have told the St. Petersburg Times that police suspect him in her death.

Police have not commented on that. But Proffitt said that during the investigation into her death, new witnesses came forward linking Harris to several crimes, including Mitchell's slaying.

• • •

Williams and Mitchell were together for three years. He was like a stepfather to her two daughters, ages 13 and 11, who were there the night he died.

Harris "stole a part of their innocence," Williams said. "I don't give a damn about what went on between Clarence and Jaqueal. Clarence was still my best friend."

Once the couple had planned to marry. Now the house they shared on 13th Avenue S sits empty. She couldn't stay without him.

"We had a future. We had plans," Williams said. "But someone chose differently for us."

Times researcher Will Gorham contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at or (727) 893-8472.

Teen accused in October slaying of St. Petersburg man 01/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 12:05am]
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