Cuyahoga Falls — What was described by police as a “tumultuous” relationship between Jeffery J. Conrad and Amanda Russell came to an end last week with her death by stabbing.
On Sept. 3, Cuyahoga Falls police charged Conrad, 43, whose last known address is Toledo, with first-degree felony aggravated murder in Ms. Russell’s death. He was scheduled to be video-arraigned at Stow Municipal Court from Summit County Jail on Sept. 5, after the paper’s deadline. See www.fallsnewspress.com for updates.
Ms. Russell, 40, was found stabbed to death behind her Cuyahoga Falls residence on Eighth Street Aug. 28.
Conrad and Russell “were boyfriend and girlfriend at one point,” said Lt. Gary Merton Jr., the department’s top detective, during an afternoon press conference Wednesday inside the city’s Natatorium, next door to the police station. “They’ve had a relationship that has been tumultuous. He has been arrested on various occasions and has had a protection order taken out against him with the protected party being Amanda Russell.”
Merton said the civil protection order, which was issued in 2012, was in effect at the time of Russell’s death. He said the life of the protection order was five years.
“He was an ex-boyfriend and she was in fear from him … [and] he may have been in contact with her at various times,” said Merton, adding Conrad’s motive is not known. The police lieutenant confirmed Conrad has a criminal history but would not go into specifics.
Conrad was first identified by Cuyahoga Falls Police as a “person of interest” in the murder on Tuesday.
Merton credited the Cleveland Metroparks Ranger Department for their arrest of Conrad Aug. 28. Rangers took him into custody on unrelated charges of felonious assault on a police officer and resisting arrest, according to Cuyahoga Falls Police.
Police were called to Ms. Russell’s home at 3235 Eighth St. at 3:26 p.m. Aug. 28 by the woman’s teenage daughter, who said “she was too scared to go out and look” after returning home from school and seeing her mother’s body lying in the backyard.
The police and fire departments responded, and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation was called in to process evidence because the death was being “treated as a homicide,” said Lt. Merton on Aug. 28.
The following day, the death was ruled a homicide by the Summit County Medical Examiner’s office.
Ms. Russell’s 14-year-old daughter told a 911 dispatcher she walked home from school because her mother wasn’t at the school to pick her up as expected. When she found her mother lying on the ground, she called 911. Her mother was lying face down in the backyard, the girl told the dispatcher, and she was afraid to get a closer look. The dispatcher convinced her to go to her mother.
“We’re going to do this together,” said the dispatcher. “… We need to go and see if we can wake your mom up.”
The girl called out, “Mom,” then told the dispatcher, “She would not wake up.”
The girl said her mother was bleeding and that the ambulance had arrived.
Two related 911 calls were received from Debbie Bowman, Russell’s mother, in West Salem, who said her granddaughter called and said her mother was hurt.
Mike Dunton, the city’s fire marshal, was the first to arrive at the scene. “[The daughter] was obviously distraught,” Dunton said. “I met her in the driveway and walked back to check her mom. She obviously appeared deceased to me. At that point, it was just a matter of keeping her away and consoling her till the EMS guys got there and then they put her in the back of the squad to take care of her.”
Dunton said his shift was ending and was driving from Fire Station 1 on Front Street to Station 5 on Wyoga Lake Road when he got the call. “I was literally just around the corner, and it sounded like a bad call. When those types of calls go out I try to get there to help out.”
A 28-year veteran of the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department, Dunton said he knew from experience the call sounded bad. “I’ve encountered those kinds of tragedies in the past,” he said. “As soon as I walked up, I knew this was just a very horrific scene. Fortunately it doesn’t happen in this city too often.”
His arrest at Euclid Beach
Cleveland Metro Parks Rangers arrested Conrad at Euclid Beach around 10:30 p.m. Aug. 28 with the help of officers from the Cleveland and Bratenahl police departments. When Rangers first saw Conrad, he was stepping out from behind a tree holding a hunting knife with a 7- to 8-inch blade, according to the ranger department’s police report.
When they saw the knife, the rangers drew their handguns, and told Conrad to drop it. “You go ahead and do what you have to do,” Conrad told them. “You’re just going to have to kill me.” Conrad told rangers he was schizophrenic and suffering from psychosis, the report said.
Conrad ran from rangers who pursued him on foot through woods, a trailer park and past a library, reaching Lake Erie where Conrad jumped in and, according to rangers, tried to drown himself. A Bratenahl police officer deployed his Taser which caused Conrad to drop the knife into the water.
He was handcuffed, the report said, and taken by EMS to Euclid Hospital. He was charged with felonious assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest while brandishing a dangerous weapon. Park rangers did not know until after they arrested Conrad that he was wanted for questioning by Cuyahoga Falls Police, the rangers’ report stated.
Conrad was evaluated for psychiatric treatment at Euclid Hospital and released at 2:50 a.m. Aug. 29, when he was transported to Cleveland City Jail and booked without incident.