Tacony women jailed for intimidating witnesses

Re­l­at­ives of two mur­der­ers had en­countered the wit­nesses in a loc­al doc­tor's of­fice.


Two re­l­at­ives of con­victed Ta­cony mur­der­ers Ger­ald Drum­mond and Robert Mc­Dow­ell were sen­tenced last week to pris­on time for threat­en­ing wit­nesses in the case.

Mc­Dow­ell’s moth­er, Theresa Merlo, and Mc­Dow­ell’s wife, Tara Mc­Dow­ell — who also is Drum­mond’s sis­ter — each pleaded guilty to charges stem­ming from a Nov. 1 con­front­a­tion in a neigh­bor­hood doc­tor’s of­fice.

Ac­cord­ing to As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Car­los Vega, Merlo and Tara Mc­Dow­ell en­countered the two fe­male wit­nesses by chance and took the op­por­tun­ity to threaten their lives.

Merlo, 48, and Tara Mc­Dow­ell, 26, told the wit­nesses that they and their chil­dren would be killed in re­tali­ation for the wit­nesses’ testi­mony at the 2010 murder tri­al of Drum­mond and Robert Mc­Dow­ell, Vega said in court last Thursday, ac­cord­ing to pub­lished re­ports.

Drum­mond and Robert Mc­Dow­ell were con­victed in Decem­ber 2010 of the ex­e­cu­tion-style shoot­ings of Timmy Clark, 16, and Dami­en Hol­lo­way, 27, on the 6800 block of Vandike St. on Ju­ly 13, 2007.

Testi­mony by the two wit­nesses helped se­cure first-de­gree murder con­vic­tions for Drum­mond, then 26, and Robert Mc­Dow­ell, then 28. The wit­nesses didn’t see the shoot­ing but gen­er­ally test­i­fied that Drum­mond and Robert Mc­Dow­ell im­plic­ated them­selves by boast­ing about the murders after the fact.

Both men con­tin­ued to deny in­volve­ment in the murders throughout their tri­al and sen­ten­cing. They are serving life in pris­on without the pos­sib­il­ity of pa­role.

Merlo test­i­fied for the de­fense dur­ing the pen­alty phase of the murder pro­ceed­ing. She spoke of phys­ic­al and emo­tion­al ab­use that she and Robert Mc­Dow­ell suffered at the hands of her two ex-hus­bands, one of whom was Mc­Dow­ell’s nat­ur­al fath­er. She blamed the child­hood beat­ings as a con­trib­ut­ing factor to her son’s ab­use of il­li­cit drugs, in­clud­ing heroin.

After the sen­ten­cing, Merlo called the North­east Times mul­tiple times to cri­ti­cize the pa­per for what she deemed as biased re­port­ing in its cov­er­age of the murder case. She re­ques­ted to tell a dif­fer­ent side of the story. The news­pa­per de­clined the of­fer, not­ing that Merlo would have told of any mit­ig­at­ing cir­cum­stances dur­ing her court testi­mony.

Au­thor­it­ies ar­res­ted Merlo and Tara Mc­Dow­ell on Nov. 7, six days after the doc­tor’s of­fice con­front­a­tion, and they re­mained be­hind bars through last week’s sen­ten­cing.

Ac­cus­a­tions of wit­ness in­tim­id­a­tion in­volving oth­er mem­bers of the Drum­mond and Mc­Dow­ell fam­il­ies also sur­faced dur­ing the 2010 murder tri­al.

Ger­ald Drum­mond’s broth­er, Mi­chael, was ar­res­ted for re­tali­ation on Dec. 11, 2010, pleaded guilty and was sen­tenced to up to 23 months in pris­on.

Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Ben­jamin Lern­er presided over the murder case and the re­tali­ation case in­volving Merlo and Tara Mc­Dow­ell. He ordered Merlo to serve sev­en to 23 months in pris­on, with cred­it for time served, fol­lowed by four years of re­port­ing pro­ba­tion. The judge sen­tenced Tara Mc­Dow­ell to time served up to 23 months in pris­on, plus four years re­port­ing pro­ba­tion, so she was re­leased upon the con­clu­sion of the sen­ten­cing hear­ing.

The guilty pleas were not ne­go­ti­ated with the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice. Vega sought pris­on sen­tences of three to six years for both de­fend­ants.

Ac­cord­ing to pub­lished re­ports, Tara Mc­Dow­ell apo­lo­gized for threat­en­ing the two vic­tims and vowed not to tar­get them again, but Merlo did not apo­lo­gize or oth­er­wise ad­dress the court in her own de­fense.

Ac­cord­ing to testi­mony at the murder tri­al, Drum­mond wanted Hol­lo­way dead be­cause Hol­lo­way had fathered a child with Drum­mond’s sis­ter, then had a fall­ing-out with her. Drum­mond en­lis­ted his broth­er-in-law, Robert Mc­Dow­ell, to help in the killing. Clark was killed be­cause he happened to be with Hol­lo­way at the time. Clark worked for Hol­lo­way as a land­scaper.

Drum­mond used ra­cial epi­thets in re­fer­ring to Hol­lo­way after the killings, wit­nesses said dur­ing the murder tri­al. Drum­mond and Mc­Dow­ell are white; Hol­lo­way was black. ••


You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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