More jailhouse calls reveal 19-year-old accused of Chinatown robbery not understanding her charge

Mycah Hatfield Image
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Suspect complains about victim's donations: 'You done run up $230,000'
Only 13 Investigates obtained jailhouse phone audio that appears to include a 17-year-old's confession to an attack on a woman who became paralyzed.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Within 24 hours of being arrested, the 17-year-old accused of paralyzing a single mother during a robbery started making damning calls from jail.

Joseph Harrell, 17, is charged with aggravated robbery after following Nhung Tuyet Truong for 23 miles from a bank to Chinatown. During the robbery, police say Harrell threw the victim to the ground, leaving her with severe injuries.

The robbery was caught on clear surveillance video.

All calls made by inmates in the Harris County Jail are recorded. ABC13 obtained copies of several of his jail calls and verified with the Houston Police Officer's Union that it is Harrell.

It is unclear who he is speaking with in each of the calls.

PREVIOUS STORY: Jailhouse calls reveal 17-year-old complains about paralyzed victim's GoFundMe page

On March 17, just after midnight, the teen explains to someone on the other end of the line what happened on Feb. 13.

"Basically, I went with these girls, bro, on some dumb (expletive) (expletive) and we was snatching purses," Harrell was heard saying. "I snatched a purse. Basically, when I snatched a purse, the lady ran with the money. I grabbed her and slammed her and she was paralyzed."

During one call, Harrell directed someone to search for the case online. The person on the other end came across the surveillance video.

Harrell directed multiple people to his Instagram account to delete information.

"JoJo is this you?" the person on the other end of the line said. "What the (expletive)?"

"Bro, chill," Harrell responded.

"Alright, look, you see that (expletive) I got on, right?" Harrell said minutes later in the same conversation.

"Yes," the other person responded.

"Go to my lives and look for that (expletive) and delete all of that (expletive)," the 17-year-old said. "Because the laws took my phone."

During another phone call, Harrell asked that Instagram messages between himself and Zy'Nika Woods, who's also charged in the case, also be deleted.

Four days ago, the teen asked someone to post his mugshot on his Instagram account with the caption, "I'm innocent and I'm going to come out on top."

Harrell can be heard saying that he will not accept a 20-year sentence for his case, which he said was the maximum sentence for the aggravated robbery charge. Texas law says the punishment range is from five to 99 years.

"I ain't tripping," Harrell said over the phone. "I am going to come out on top with probation."

The victim in the case has a GoFundMe account that has raised more than $300,000. Harrell took issue with that during a call last week.

"Like (expletive), you already done ran up $230,000," he said. "They say she ran up $230,000 and she will be back walking in a year."

Harrell's attorney, Catherine Verlander Evans, told ABC13 over the phone that it is "unethical" that the jail calls were released to the media. She said she was assigned the case on Wednesday morning and only has access to limited discovery at this point. She said she does not have the jail calls.

Verlander Evans went on to say that she finds it concerning that law enforcement is selectively releasing information to the media. She said the case is playing out in the media and it is very one-sided right now.

ORGINAL REPORT: Woman followed, robbed in Chinatown after making large cash withdrawal from miles away: HPD

Co-defendant Woods also admitted to the crime over recorded jail calls.

She was heard crying on a call to her mother, saying, "It's a lot, Mama. I did something bad. I had did something bad."

When asked what she did, she responded, "We hit on somebody, Mama. We hit on someone."

Woods went on to say that she drove the car and does not understand why she is charged with aggravated robbery. She said the bodyslam that paralyzed the victim was the "deadly weapon" in the case.

"Paralyzed don't have nothing to do with me," Woods said.

"Well, no, if you accessory, you with it too," the person on the other end of the line said. "If somebody go out here and rob a bank and I'm just in the car and I drive, I'm with it too. Because I didn't have to go with them. You get it now?"

"Yeah," Woods responded.

Both Harrell and Woods remain behind bars.

Harrell's bond was slashed by a judge in this case on Wednesday from $200,000 to $100,000.

Woods is set at $50,000.

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SEE RELATED: 'I'm really scared that they're coming after us': Woman paralyzed after mugging speaks to ABC13