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East Mecklenburg woman called for help before her death

dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Three hours before a woman was killed in her east Mecklenburg home Tuesday morning, police responded to a call about a suspicious man knocking on her window.

That man turned out to be Halim Stovall, whom police interviewed along with the woman, Tamika McClelland. Police said Stovall and McClelland were in a relationship.

Officers determined Stovall hadn’t committed a crime and gave him a ride to another location.

But they now believe he returned about 7 a.m., kicked in the door, assaulted McClelland then lit the home on fire with her two children inside. They survived, but McClelland and Stovall did not. They were both 39.

Police haven’t said how the pair died but deemed McClelland’s death a homicide.

McClelland’s daughters, ages 21 and 8, were home when the fire broke out. They escaped and called 911, police said.

McClelland was a registered nurse from Erie, Pa., who moved to North Carolina in the past few years. Stovall had a criminal record in Erie, and a court order telling him to stay away from McClelland.

In the aftermath of the fatal fire, authorities continue to try to piece together what happened during those fateful three hours at the home in the 12100 block of Harpley Court.

First 911 call

Police said they first went to McClelland’s home about 4:10 a.m. after getting a 911 call about a suspicious person. Harpley Court is off Harrisburg Road and Interstate 485.

“I have somebody bangin’ on my bedroom window,” a woman believed to be McClelland said in the call.

When the dispatcher asked her whether she got a description, the woman said she didn’t because “I came straight to the bathroom.”

Police said officers who responded spoke to McClelland and Stovall and determined that Stovall hadn’t committed any crime.

Police said they offered to take Stovall to another location, and he accepted. Police didn’t say where they took him.

Police received three calls about McClelland’s home in a five-minute period, police said. The first of these calls came in at 7:04 a.m. from a woman saying she needed police. At least one police officer was dispatched, although officers were unable to determine the nature of the call, police said.

A man’s angry voice can be heard in the background saying, “Marrying somebody? Marrying somebody?”

The call soon ends.

The dispatcher should have known about the earlier call. CMPD spokeswoman Officer Jessica Wallin said the department’s computer system automatically alerts dispatchers to previous calls at an address a person is calling from.

Three minutes after the second call, police responded to a call to assist at a fire at the home, said CMPD spokesman Officer Keith Trietley. Police said the home was fully engulfed in flames when they arrived.

A girl had dialed 911 and said, “There’s a fire in my house. I need … you to come right now!” according to the 911 recording. Cries can be heard in the background.

Another 911 call came from a neighbor minutes later.

“Oh my God,” the woman told the dispatcher. “This little girl, she said her parents are in the house and set the house on fire. She thinks her dad’s in (there) maybe killing her mom.

“Just stay outside,” the dispatcher told the caller. “The fire and police are on the way.”

Medic pronounced McClelland dead at the scene and took Stovall to Carolinas Medical Center-University, where he was later pronounced dead.

How the department responds to multiple 911 calls about the same incident came into question in 2008 as details emerged about a triple homicide in northwest Charlotte.

In that case, police got two 911 calls about 40 minutes apart from the same cellphone. Police have not revealed what the caller said, but they dispatched an officer who knocked on the door but got no answer and left. Minutes later, someone else called 911 from the same phone, but officers heard only breathing.

Three hours after the second 911 call, officers got a call from neighbors, saying the home was on fire. Two people were found dead inside. Another was shot dead miles away.

Stovall’s criminal record

Stovall had a federal drug conviction in Pennsylvania, according to a search of criminal records conducted by the Observer.

He was arrested twice in July 2007 for violating a protection-from-abuse order involving McClelland, according to WBTV, the Observer’s news partner. Erie police also arrested Stovall in October 2007 on a simple assault charge and again in December 2008 for violating a protection-from-abuse order, according to WBTV.

In 1999 in Erie, Stovall also was charged with rape, indecent assault without consent and simple assault, according to court records.

He pleaded guilty to indecent assault without consent and simple assault – the rape charge was dropped – and he was sentenced to one to two years in prison, records show.

A woman at a home in Erie who identified herself as Stovall’s sister said the family declined to comment.

Staff researcher Maria David contributed.

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