Murder suspect’s police interrogation aired in Delta County District Court
By ILSA MINOR
and BRIAN ROWELL
The Escanaba Daily Press
ESCANABA — Family and friends of Harley Corwin, the 22-year-old Escanaba woman whose slain body was found last month at O.B Fuller Park, listened intently Monday as evidence was presented in court suggesting her ex-boyfriend and possible father of her unborn child could be responsible for the killing.
Law enforcement and a forensic pathologist testified Monday during the preliminary examination of Tavaris Jackson, 32, of Escanaba, but perhaps the most difficult part of Tuesday’s hearing for Corwin’s family and friends was the 37-minute replay of Jackson’s interrogation by Det. Sgt. Ron Baril of the Michigan State Police Gladstone Post.
“I’ve never been accused of murder, so I don’t know, but thinking outside the box — I’ve been doing this for 25 years — so, if I’ve been accused of something, and not being upset about it? That bothers me a little bit,” Baril told Jackson near the end of the interview.
Other than a few fleeting moments of visible nervousness — all of which revolved around what Jackson was doing for multiple hours in O.B. Fuller Park on July 3 — Jackson remained calm and collected throughout the interview with Baril. He told Baril that Corwin had attempted to sabotage his relationship with his girlfriend, Chloe Benevides, which ultimately led to him going on a drive with Corwin towards Cedar River to talk sometime between 10 a.m. and noon on July 3.
Jackson, who is biracial, said Corwin had come to his house with a white man in her car and that some of her anger was about having a Black baby and a white boyfriend. He did not know who the man was and struggled to name anyone who would know the man’s identity.
Jackson said he and Corwin left his home in Jackson’s Chevy Silverado truck headed south on M-35 and that partway through the drive, Corwin reclined the seat of the truck and went to sleep. Jackson then turned the car around and came back to Escanaba.
When he returned home, the alleged boyfriend was waiting in the driver’s seat of Corwin’s car. Jackson then went inside the house. He said he did not see Corwin leave the truck, but she apparently left with the man.
While there is no debate that Jackson did travel south on M-35 with Corwin on July 3, Corwin herself left evidence that it was not a simple drive. She had installed an app on her phone called Life360, a real-time GPS tracking application designed to allow friends and family members to know where someone is at all times.
The app tracked Jackson’s car into O.B. Fuller Park, where it sat motionless for more than three hours, between 1:45 p.m. and 4:54 p.m.
“I honestly don’t remember being in there,” said Jackson, who said he had memory loss related to a car accident in 2015.
The app also tracked Jackson’s car after his return to Escanaba, including a trip he made to a grocery store and a trip to Menards with some of his children. While at Menards, Jackson said he bought his children toys and a shovel he intended to use to build a fire pit in his yard.
Jackson said he did not know the phone was still in his vehicle. Eventually, the battery died and the app stopped reporting location data according to police.
Jackson’s story of a morning drive was also inconsistent with social media messages and security camera footage presented in court.
The court admitted a number of photos set by Corwin via Snapchat on the afternoon of July 3 and one audio file sent to Benevides by text message the same day. The content of the audio file was not discussed in detail in open court, but Escanaba Public Safety Det/Sgt. Tabitha Turnacliff said voices that appear to be Corwin’s and Jackson’s can be heard on the recording.
“Chloe believed that it is in Tavaris Jackson’s vehicle, (because of) the sound,” said Turnacliff.
Two security camera views from The Store gas station in Escanaba were also played in court, showing Jackson and Corwin at The Store shortly before 1 p.m., about an hour before the Snapchats were sent.
In the videos, Jackson can be seen in a white and red Michael Jordan basketball jersey, emblazoned with the number 23, while the obviously pregnant Corwin follows in a burgundy sundress and sandals.
The first video shown in court showed Jackson getting out of his pickup at a gas pump and entering the store, with Corwin following him into the building a short time later. The second video showed the two inside the store, making purchases.
While the video of Jackson and Corwin returning to the truck was not presented in court, Delta County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Kurt Wilson, who first went to The Store to review the security footage, testified that the two could be seen leaving The Store in the truck and traveling southbound on South Lincoln Road.
Earlier in the day, investigators from the Delta County Sheriff’s Department testified they received a request from Escanaba Public Safety Department detectives to check on a area in Fuller Park on July 8. There, they found a body that had been covered with grass. The body, was found about 100 yards off a two-track road, and was later identified as Corwin.
According to Haaris Iqeal, a forensic pathologist who attended the preliminary examination remotely and who had performed the autopsy on Corwin, Corwin was shot twice in the head. Both shots were from the right side, but one bullet entered from the front of her head and one from the back. Either wound would have been fatal.
No bullets were recovered during the autopsy, as there were exit wounds in both cases.
Delta County Sheriff’s Deputy Jerod Larson testified that he arrested Jackson for murder after the body was discovered. He described Jackson as being initially upset, but that he became calm when he was taken to jail.
Larson also said he and other law enforcement officers from several agencies took part in a search of Jackson’s residence on South 13th Street in Escanaba. He said they were looking for specific clothing — a number 23 basketball jersey and pair of jeans. Jackson was seen wearing this clothing in social media posts around the time that Corwin had disappeared.
Larson said he located the jersey in the kitchen of the residence and the jeans in the front room. Two cellphones were also seized, as well as a shovel from the garage.
Executing the search warrant took about one and a half hours, Larson said.
Delta County Sheriff’s Department Detective Mike Groleau said several photos posted on social media linked to Corwin and Jackson showed a location that was later determined to be O.B. Fuller Park.
Jackson was bound over for murder and other charges Tuesday.