Co-defendant pleads guilty in case where dad was killed in Riverside in front of his kids

The front windows of the Walter H. Rice Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse downtown. THOMAS GNAU / STAFF
The front windows of the Walter H. Rice Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse downtown. THOMAS GNAU / STAFF

Credit: Thomas Gnau

Credit: Thomas Gnau

A co-defendant of a man accused of shooting and killing a dad in front of his children in Riverside pleaded guilty in federal court.

James T. Harmon pleaded to aiding and abetting a felon in possession of a firearm in U.S. District Court. He faces up to 10 years in prison, a plea document says, and a sentencing date was not listed on the case’s docket.

A message sent to an attorney representing Harmon was not returned Wednesday.

Harmon was charged in the case involving Sterling Roberts, who is accused of shooting Robert “Bobby” Caldwell, the ex-husband of his girlfriend, Tawnney Caldwell, on Aug. 15, 2017. The Caldwells were in a custody dispute at the time of the shooting, court records say.

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Roberts, Tawnney Caldwell, Harmon, Roberts’ brother Chance Deakin and Tawnney Caldwell’s mother Chandra Harmon are all listed as defendants in the federal criminal case.

According to a statement of facts filed with the plea, James Harmon sold an AK-47 rifle to his stepdaughter, Tawnney Caldwell, for Roberts for about $120 to $140. The statement says Harmon knew Roberts was a convicted felon and spent time in prison.

“Defendant was aware that Tawnney Caldwell was purchasing the AK-47 for Sterling Roberts and that Sterling Roberts would have access to the firearm,” the document says.

The statement says Harmon then traveled with Tawnney Caldwell and Sterling Roberts to Deakin’s Dayton home and recovered a handgun.

“Defendant assisted in cleaning the Taurus 40 caliber handgun for Sterling Roberts,” the document says.

The document says the handgun was used in the slaying of Robert Caldwell and the AK-47 was utilized by Roberts when he shot at police in South Carolina four days after the Dayton killing.

In the statement of facts, prosecutors also gave more detail about the actual shooting and what they believe occurred.

Prosecutors said Robert Caldwell was ordered by a magistrate to go to counseling with his children once a week and Tawnney received text messages about the appointments so she knew when her ex-husband would be there. They said at around 4 p.m. Roberts left Tawnney Caldwell’s home and went to the area of the Cornerstone Building on Linden Avenue in Riverside.

Robert Caldwell and his sons left the building at around 5:57 p.m.

“Immediately thereafter, Sterling Roberts quickly got up from a squatting position behind a mailbox and ran toward Robert Caldwell while firing shots from the handgun that he and Tawnney Caldwell had retrieved from (the Dayton home),” the court document says. “Robert Caldwell fell to the ground, and his sons fled the scene. Sterling Roberts stood between Robert Caldwell’s legs and appeared to continue shooting Robert Caldwell in the head. Sterling Roberts then fled the scene.”

Roberts defense attorney Donald Malarcik told the Dayton Daily News Wednesday that they do not agree with the statements.

“The ‘statement of facts’ in Mr. Harmon’s plea agreement was created by the US Attorney’s Office and Mr. Harmon’s lawyer. Neither Sterling Roberts nor his attorneys were given an opportunity to object to statements they believe are false,” Malarcik said.

Tawnney Caldwell previously pleaded guilty to interstate stalking in federal court. She faces between 20 to 35 years in prison. A motions hearing was held in Roberts’ case earlier this month.

An attorney for Tawnney Caldwell declined to comment when reached.