Man arrested for murder in stabbing death


Staff Writer

A Salem resident charged with assault after stabbing his own brother during a 2006 fight is now charged with murder in the stabbing death of a Washingtonville man after an altercation early Wednesday.

Robert L. Harmony, 45, of 383 1/2 E. Fourth St., remains in the Columbiana County Jail after telling police that he stabbed someone. Gerrod S. Lanzendorfer, 23, of 540 Union Street, Washingtonville, was found lying in the middle of street in the 400 block of South Broadway Avenue and declared dead at the scene.

He had multiple stab wounds, according to Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott, who said the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy and advised investigators of the injuries. The Columbiana County Coroner’s Office is also investigating.

Harmony is expected to be arraigned this morning in Columbiana County Municipal Court in Lisbon.

At this point, police are still trying to determine exactly what happened. Det. Dave Talbert said there was some sort of altercation between Harmony and Lanzendorfer, but he didn’t want to release any more details at this time on the situation that led to what they’re calling a homicide.

“Evidence at the scene corroborated what callers had told us,” he said.

A black Gerber folding knife allegedly found on Harmony was submitted to the medical examiner’s office.

A passerby on South Broadway Avenue called 911 at 2:35 a.m. to report a stabbing after noticing the victim and asking him if he was okay. A second 911 call came in from a male who said he had been involved in an altercation and stabbed someone. He then walked to the Salem Police Department to turn himself in.

Salem Fire Department first responders and EMT Ambulance responded to attend to the victim, who was pronounced dead.

“We have not established a relationship between the two of them. We have no reason to believe anybody else was present during this,” Talbert said.

Anyone with any information about the incident or who may have seen anything should call Salem Police at 330-337-7811.

Panezott said there was no indication of any drug involvement in the case.

From what they had learned about the victim, he graduated from United High School and played football for the Golden Eagles. He had been laid off from a building supply company in Enon Valley, Pa. They had no reports involving him until his death.

According to a comment from the Side Door Bar on its Facebook page, he was a bouncer at the bar on South Broadway Avenue and a proud Marine veteran. The bar planned to stay open in his memory for karaoke night.

“We were trying to find the right words to help everyone, friends, employees, family, and anyone that knew Gerrod. We are never going to come up with anything to make this easier. Gerrod was a great guy, a very kind soul and he will be dearly missed,” the comment said.

As for Harmony, police have had dealings with him over the years, including a felony domestic violence case still pending from July. In June 2006, he was charged with felonious assault after stabbing his brother Richard in the arm with a knife after they had a fight at a Jennings Avenue residence. He eventually pled guilty to a reduced charge of aggravated assault and was placed on probation.

According to online Columbiana County Municipal Court and Common Pleas Court records, he was charged with assault in 1996, with the charge amended to menacing. In 1998, he was charged with aggravated menacing and a 30-day jail term was suspended. In 2009, he was found guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence. He also had two separate protection orders filed against him, one in 2009 and one in 2013, which were both dismissed, both involving different women. In 2012, he had a drunken driving charge from an accident and a civil lawsuit was recently filed against him by a person injured in that crash.

This is the third homicide this year in Salem, with a fourth case deemed a suspicious death which remains under investigation. The first two cases both involved domestic violence, with the first case from June still pending in court. The most recent case, from September, was a murder-suicide in the Walmart parking lot.

“It’s just a sign of the times. People don’t fight with their fists anymore,” Panezott said, adding that homicides are “all related to domestics or drugs and alcohol and there’s a lot more drug and alcohol use now.”

“There’s no community immune to crimes like this,” Talbert said.

At the time when the calls came in, three officers were tied up at the hospital with a combative patient and had to get back quick to deal with the suspect and the scene, with the department spread thin.

The Columbiana County Homicide Task Force was activated and both Talbert and Panezott said it proved to be a valuable resource, putting them at least two days ahead. They were able to send someone to Akron for the autopsy and others were able to talk to people and track down possible witnesses and track down phone numbers. They also had to track down the victim’s family and tell them the devastating news.

Salem’s newest detective, Brad Davis, also responded with Talbert and the chief and fellow officers, along with investigators from the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office, Liverpool Township, Columbiana, East Palestine, Perry Township, St. Clair Township, the county prosecutor’s office and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.