Just a month before 32-year-old Amberly Harris was shot and killed inside an Independence apartment, a death and dismemberment insurance policy worth $20,000 was taken out in her name, according to investigators.
On Monday, 55-year-old Tommy Joe Powell, who prosecutors say was the beneficiary of that policy, was sentenced to life in prison for Harris’ death. That prison term was handed down by Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe.
Powell pleaded guilty last month to a murder charge and admitted using a shotgun to kill Harris, with whom he had been in a relationship. He will have to serve 20 years of his sentence before he’s eligible for parole.
By the time Independence police went on Dec. 15, at the request of Harris’ employer, to the Beechgrove Drive apartment where the couple lived, Powell had been inside the home with her body for several days.
A criminal citation states that Powell told the officers that Harris was dead, and he later told the arresting officer that he shot Harris during an argument days earlier and had not called 911.
Police found her lying dead on the floor of the master bedroom with a gunshot wound to the head.
The shotgun was recovered from the bedroom, Independence police Detective Adam Strine testified during a December hearing, adding that Powell also told police he had been drinking the evening of the shooting.
Powell was taken to a local hospital after his arrest to be treated for dehydration, prosecutors have said.
“I wanted all of you to know how deeply sorry I am from the bottom of my heart and soul for what happened that night,” Powell wrote in a letter to Harris’ family, which his attorney read aloud. “My actions caused a very special lady to be taken from us.”
Still, for Harris’ loved ones, much surrounding her death remains a mystery.
“There’s just so many, so many questions, and answers that we want, to why you did this,” Jessica Mann, Harris’ sister, said through tears in court on Monday. “I just want to know why.”
Powell was previously convicted of a domestic violence assault in April 2022. In that incident, Powell attacked Harris after an argument at their apartment over Harris’ use of social media, court records state.
He struck her in the face and choked her to the point of blacking out, a criminal complaint states. Harris arrived at the Independence Police Department after the assault with abrasions and bruises on her neck, face and chest, the complaint says.
Powell was sentenced to conditional discharge and ordered to undergo anger management and domestic violence treatment, though he was later found to be noncompliant with his treatment program, court records show.
Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders said Powell was allowed to plead guilty to the assault charge – a misdemeanor – because Harris didn’t come forward as a witness to prosecute Powell on a felony charge of strangulation.
“I just think that the justice system should do more to protect victims of domestic violence,” Sanders said.