Public Safety

Man accused in Tarrance Newman's shooting may not be competent to stand trial

Competency hearing for Donald Harris next month

Donald Harris
Donald Harris
/

This is Newstrack, where The Gazette catches up on previous coverage from our community.

Background

CEDAR RAPIDS — Tarrance Newman’s body was found on the porch of his home Nov. 12, 2017. He had been fatally shot, but it would be another eight months before a suspect was charged. Six months after that, a second man was charged, followed by a third man in March.

Police responded to Newman’s home at 1506 D Ave. NE at 9:45 p.m. after someone reported hearing a noise “like something was breaking.” They found Newman dead on the porch. Police provided scant details as to what happened.

Newman’s girlfriend, Stephanie Rinearson, told The Gazette after his death that she and Newman had just learned the week before that she was pregnant.

The two met in Cedar Rapids but learned they grew up in the same neighborhood in Chicago. She said they had been dating nearly eight months when he was killed.

Rinearson said Newman, 40, worked as a welder and had four children from a previous relationship who lived with their mother.

What’s happened since

In July 2018, Rayshaun D. Friend, 29, of Cedar Rapids, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and going armed with intent. Friend is accused of making plans with a second man, later identified as Donald R. Harris, 31, of Cedar Rapids, to go to Newman’s home that night to “steal money and drugs,” according to a criminal complaint.

The complaint says a handgun was used to kill Newman, and the other man — now identified as Harris — may have been the shooter.

In January, Harris was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and going armed with intent, according to a criminal complaint. He was found in Chicago and extradited to Cedar Rapids.

The complaint and search warrant affidavit laid out more details of what happened to Newman.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The two men went to Newman’s to steal money and drugs, and Harris shot him during the robbery, according to a complaint. Harris’ DNA was found at the scene, and a witness identified him as the shooter.

A woman, who was at Newman’s house that night, told police that after she was texting with Harris and Friend, they came to the house and forced their way inside, according to the warrant.

The woman said she was in the kitchen doing dishes when Newman was shot and she went outside. Friend came after her and “forced” her into a vehicle. An unknown woman was driving the car, she told police. Harris admitted to shooting Newman in the neck, the woman told police. Harris told her he saw Newman “take his last breath.”

Another witness identified Friend as taking part in the robbery, according to a complaint.

In March, James N. Johnson, 31, of Cedar Rapids, was connected to the fatal shooting by more DNA found at the crime scene. He was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery.

Also in March, Harris’ public defender, Michael Adams of Des Moines, asked a judge for a hearing to determine whether Harris is competent to stand trial. Adams said in his conversations with Harris, he noticed his client having cognitive issues and memory loss. Harris may not be able to assist in his defense, make informed decisions or recall the nature of the charges, Adams said in the motion.

He asked the court to put a hold on further proceedings until Harris’ competency is determined.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Christopher Bruns granted the motion March 28 and ordered Harris to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville.

Court documents show an evaluation was completed this month, and Bruns set a competency hearing for June 4 in Linn County District Court.

Trial for Johnson is set for Jan. 21, and Friend’s trial is Feb. 3.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

Harris’ trial remains set for Nov. 4, but that could change depending on the results of the competency hearing.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.