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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: July 29, 2007
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: October 26, 1988
Victim profile: Her father, Richard Messina Sr., 50, and his girlfriend, Sandra Cover, 43
Method of murder: Beating with an axe and a crowbar
Location: South Euclid, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA
Status: Pled guilty to two counts of aggravated murder and one count of robbery on September 15, 2008. Sentenced to 60 years to life in prison on October 24, 2008
photo gallery

Court of Appeals of Ohio
Eight Appellate Distric

State of Ohio v. Tabitha Messina

Tabitha Messina Sentenced to 60 Years to Life in Prison

October 24, 2008

CLEVELAND - Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announced that Tabitha Messina was sentenced to 60 years to life in prison.  

On September 15, 2008, Messina pled guilty to two (2) counts of aggravated murder and one (1) count of robbery. Messina, 19, of South Euclid, was indicted along with co-defendant Carlos Christopher for the murder of her father, Richard Messina, and his girlfriend, Sandra Cover, in the early morning hours of July 29, 2007.

Tabitha Messina and Carlos Christopher broke into Richard Messina's house, located at 1804 Donwell in South Euclid, and attacked the two with an axe and a crowbar while they slept in Richard Messina's bedroom. After the homicide, they ransacked the house. They took Richard Messina's two vehicles, a Corvette and GMC Jimmy, and fled to North Carolina. They were found sleeping in the Jimmy, which was parked in a motel parking lot in Avery County, North Carolina, two days after the homicide.

Carlos Christopher was found guilty of Aggravated Murder for both Richard Messina and Sandra Cover on May 27, 2008, and sentenced to two life sentences to run concurrent.


Life in prison in dad's murder

By Jason Lea -

October 24, 2008

Tabitha Messina will be 80 years old before she’s eligible for parole.

Messina received 60 years to life in prison Friday for masterminding the murder of her father, Richard Messina, 50, and his girlfriend, 43-year-old Sandra Cover.

Tabitha Messina, 20, and her friend Carlos Christopher broke into the elder Messina’s house in South Euclid while he and Cover slept July 29, 2007. Prosecutors said Messina and Christopher attacked the couple with an ax and a crowbar. Then, they stole a Corvette and GMC Jimmy from them.

Messina insisted she did not plan or want to kill her father or the woman who served as her surrogate stepmother for 10 years.

“Never once would I think of taking the life of the man who raised me,” she said at her sentencing.

However, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Timothy E. McMonagle said the evidence showed otherwise.

“She makes things up as she goes along and she believes what she says,” McMonagle said.

Even when Tabitha Messina was young, she used to lie after getting in fights, clinical psychologist Dr. Sandra McPherson said.

Messina used to attack other children, blame someone else and then get attention by trying to fix the problem, McPherson said in a study that was read by McMonagle.

Several members from Messina and Cover’s family filled McMonagle’s courtroom. Those who spoke made it very clear that they thought life in prison was an insufficient punishment.

Linda Moore, Cover’s sister, told Messina she deserved to die for the murder and mutilation of the couple.

Cover’s mother, Joann Bartell, said life in prison was “more mercy than she showed Sandy and her father.”

Bartell showed the judge a picture of Sandy Cover and said, “There are not adequate words in the English language to describe the pain, anguish and despair I feel.”

Betty Montanez, Richard Messina’s sister and Tabitha’s aunt, echoed the sentiment.

“When you forgot to respect him, and you forgot he was your father, we forgot you were our niece,” she said.

“At best, you deserve to die in prison, maybe of old age.”

The one person in her family who would have forgiven her, Montanez said, was her father.

Tabitha and Richard Messina had an often contentious relationship.

“I always used to push my dad to a certain limit to see how much he would take from me,” Tabitha Messina said.

Between January 2005 and the murder, South Euclid police were called to Messina’s home 68 times for reasons including loud music, barking dogs, trespassing and juvenile disturbances.

Tabitha Messina has alleged that her father abused her, but there is no evidence to corroborate it, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Patrick J. Thomas said.

Christopher has been convicted of murder and given two life sentences without possibility of parole.


Messina pleads guilty to South Euclid murders

By Ed Wittenberg -

September 18, 2008

CLEVELAND-- Tabitha Messina could face life in prison with no chance of parole after she pleaded guilty Monday to the murders of her father, Richard Messina, and his girlfriend, Sandra Cover.

Messina, 19, of South Euclid, will be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 23 in Judge Timothy McMonagle's courtroom at Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Just prior to her trial Monday, Messina pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated murder and one count of aggravated robbery.

Richard Messina, 50, and Cover, 43, were beaten to death in July 2007 at their home on Donwell Drive in South Euclid.

In May, a three-judge panel convicted Carlos Christopher, 20, the co-defendant in the murders, and sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole.

According to the prosecutor's office, Messina and Christopher broke into the home and attacked Richard Messina and Cover with an axe and a crowbar while they slept.

The co-defendants then ransacked the house, stole Richard Messina's two vehicles and fled to North Carolina, where they were caught by police the next day.


Carlos Christopher Sentenced to LWOP in 2007 Ohio Double Murder

South Euclid ax murderer spared death penalty----He gets life without parole for killing 2

May 29, 2008

Carlos Christopher found mercy in a Cuyahoga County courtroom Wednesday, but not forgiveness.

A 3-judge panel spared him from a death sentence for robbing and killing a South Euclid couple in their home. But the 20-year-old Christopher must spend the rest of his life in prison, with no hope for parole.

The decision brought a measure of relief to some of the victims' family members. Others left bitter.

Christopher used an ax to murder Richard Messina Sr. and Sandra Cover on July 29 while they slept.

"God may forgive him, but my family will not," Cover's sister Brenda Gregory told the judges before they sent Christopher to prison. "He will never see the light of freedom again, and I thank you for that."

Richard Messina Jr. told the judges he was disappointed with the decision.

"My dad wasn't given mercy," he said, breathing heavily. "While his adopted mother will get to visit him in jail, we get to visit a grave."

Common Pleas Judges Timothy McMonagle, Kenneth Callahan and Lillian Greene convicted Christopher last week and returned Tuesday to decide his punishment.

The defendant took the witness stand early Wednesday. He looked away from the families' menacing stares as he offered an apology but not an explanation for his crimes.

"I want to say I'm sorry for causing so much trouble and pain," he said.

Christopher and his 19-year-old girlfriend, Tabitha Messina, were arrested days after the slayings. Tabitha Messina, the slain man's daughter, also faces capital murder charges and is to go on trial later this year.

During closing statements, defense attorney John Pyle argued that Christopher should get life in prison with the possibility of parole. He said Christopher was provoked the night of the homicides.

"What we had here in this case is a windstorm, and those winds joined that tragic night and this was fueled by one word," Pyle said, referring to a racial slur he said Richard Messina Sr. uttered to Christopher hours before the homicides. "We all know this word. Not only is it a word that ridicules persons of color, it tells them they're less than human. Words hurt. And this was one of them."

Pyle presented witnesses who described Christopher's tumultuous childhood and how his experiences led to these crimes. Christopher was born in a jail in Brazil where his birth mother was incarcerated for drug abuse and stealing. His father died of AIDS in jail when Christopher was a young boy. Christopher also had language-based learning disabilities, dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He used the drugs Ritalin and Adderall.

He came to the United States at age 8 to live with a foster mother, Lucy Anne Christopher.

Joann Bartell, the slain woman's mother, called the defense's argument rubbish.

"My seven kids had rough childhoods, too, but none of them turned into mass murderers," she said.

"He had more help than most kids get and he threw it right back in our face."

Assistant County Prosecutor Steve Dever called the killings a bloodbath.

He said he hopes the state prison system puts Christopher in the "deepest, darkest dungeon because he's a dangerous man.


Police Charge Victim's Daughter With Double Murder

South Euclid, OH - Police have arrested the daughter of one of the murder victims in Sunday's double homicide.

Tabitha Messina, 18-years-old, and 19-year-old Carlos Christopher are now behind bars for two counts of aggraveated murder.

Sunday evening two people were violently murdered over the weekend on Donwell Drive around 6:00p.m.

South Euclid Police Department responded to 1804 Donwell Drive regarding a welfare check.  Upon officers' arrival, they noted that the screen to an enclosed patio was torn and a window was broken out of an entrance door to the house. 

Once inside the home, officers discovered the bodies of the homeowner 50-year-old Richard Messina, and his girlfriend 43-year-old Sandra Cover. 

The South Euclid Police Department is investigating this as a double homicide.

Sunday evening, the South Euclid Police Department recovered a vehicle that had been taken from the home along with a weapon which is believed to have been used in the crime. 

Police questioned three people Monday and then issued arrest warrants for the victim's daughter and her male firend.

The South Euclid Police Department has responded to 1804 Donwell Drive, 68 times since January 1st, 2005 for various reasons and the address is on the department's nuisance abatement list.

This is the first homicide in the City of South Euclid since October of 2003 when the South Euclid Police Department was called to the scene of a domestic homicide, which was successfully prosecuted.


Ohio Pair Wanted for Double Homicide Arrested in Avery County

By Ron Fitzwater -

August 2, 2007

Tabitha Messina and Carlos Christopher were apprehended Monday by members of the Avery County Sheriff’s Department and Newland Police Chief Jason Brown following a call to emergency services reporting an unresponsive person in a car in the parking lot of the Parkview Motel in Linville Falls.

First responders found the pair asleep but otherwise in apparent good health. A check of the vehicle’s registration by county communications showed that the vehicle and its occupants were wanted in connection with a double homicide in South Euclid, Ohio.

South Euclid law enforcement officials confirmed via the Avery County Sheriff’s Office that Messina’s father Richard age 50 and his girlfriend Sandra Clover age 43 had been found beaten to death in the upstairs bedroom of their South Euclid home.

Responding with Brown, Deputy Chris Workman, Chief Deputy Dallas Pate and Lieutenant Detective Danny Phillips removed the suspects from the vehicle along with key pieces of evidence sought by Ohio authorities. Phillips said, “They were for the most part cooperative. At first they did not want to open the doors, but eventually they opened the door and came out.”

Messina and Christopher waived extradition Tuesday morning in Judge Greg Horn’s court and according to Phillips, South Euclid police are making arrangements to take custody from Avery County within the next few days.

In a press release dated July 30, Avery County Sheriff Kevin Fry said, “I am very proud of my officers and with the assistance of Newland Police. We have taken two more really bad people off the streets of Avery County. This is the second and third murder suspect arrested in about the past month by our office and though I am glad we are getting them off the streets, I just wish they would quit coming here.”

Both suspects remain in the Avery County jail awaiting extradition.



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