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Clara HARRIS

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Jealousy
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 24, 2002
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1968
Victim profile: David Lynn Harris, 44 (her husband)
Method of murder: Repeatedly running over with a Mercedes-Benz
Location: Houston, Harris County, Texas, USA
Status: Sentenced to 20 years in prison on February 14, 2003
 
 

 
 
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Clara Harris: Few smiles were brighter than those of Clara and David Harris. Both dentists, they shared a thriving practice and a seemingly perfect marriage.

But that changed in July of 2003, when Clara began to suspect her husband was having an affair with his secretary. Intent on catching them in the act, Clara hired a private detective to tail the couple around town.

A few days later, the detective called Clara to tell her that he had followed David and his secretary to a hotel rendezvous - the same hotel that Clara and David had been married in. Enraged over the news, Clara grabbed her stepdaughter and drove to the hotel to confront David. When Clara saw him exit the building, she gunned her Mercedes and ran over him - several times.

At her trial, Clara's attorneys said she had been pushed to the limit by her difficult-to-please husband. According to the defense, Clara had quit her practice, hired a personal trainer and undergone plastic surgery in an effort to make David happy.

But the jury showed her little sympathy, especially after watching a videotape of the vehicular homicide that had been taped by, ironically, the detective Clara had hired to tail David. Convicted of 2nd degree murder, she's currently serving a 20-year sentence.


Murder of David Lynn Harris

David Lynn Harris was an orthodontist who owned a chain of orthodontist offices along with his wife, Clara Harris. The chain was particularly successful, and the couple were able to afford an upscale home in Friendswood, Texas and luxury cars, including Clara's Mercedes-Benz. The couple had married on February 14, 1993, and were raising three children, twin sons born in 1996 and David's daughter Lindsey from a previous marriage.

Affair

During the course of his marriage to Clara however, David began having an affair with his former receptionist, Gail Bridges, who later admitted to the affair. Clara, who was suspicious, had hired a private detective agency to spy on her husband, and on July 24, 2002, the agency notified Clara that her husband was at the Nassau Bay Hilton Hotel with his mistress.

Murder and Trial

When Clara Harris went to the Hilton Hotel to confront her husband, she reportedly attacked her husband's mistress Gail Bridges. When hotel security guards escorted Clara to her Mercedes-Benz, she was apparently still mad, and she took her anger out on her husband. When David and Gail came out of the hotel, Clara struck down her husband in the parking lot as her teenaged stepdaughter sat in the passenger seat. According to the medical examiner's office, Clara ran over her husband three times. David was dead at the scene, and Clara was charged with first-degree murder.

Her trial began the following February. At the trial Lindsey Harris testified against her stepmother, claiming to have attempted suicide four times after her father's death. Also introduced at Clara's trial was an actual videotape of the crime, recorded by the detective agency she had hired.

Clara Harris was found guilty of murdering her husband and on February 14, 2003, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $10,000. Twenty years is the maximum sentence allowed by the jury's "sudden passion" finding and would have been the minimum without a finding of "sudden passion." Ironically, Valentine's Day would have been Clara and David Harris's tenth wedding anniversary. She is incarcerated at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas. She will be eligible for parole in 2013. Clara's sons are in the custody of friends, and they see their mother often.

Aftermath

A book titled Out of Control was written by Steven Long about the murder case. Published in 2004 by St. Martin's Paperbacks (as part of their St. Martin's True Crime Library series), the book follows the story of the murder and the reasons behind it.

This story was the inspiration for the completion of a chapter in the series Mexican Mujeres Asesinas "Killer Women". The chapter name is Luz, overwhelming (Luz, arrolladora).

The case was profiled on the Oxygen Network series Snapped in 2004 and Deadly Women in 2010.

It was also the topic of a Lifetime Original movie, Suburban Madness, starring Elizabeth Peña and Brett Cullen.

Wikipedia.org


Harris gets 20 years for Mercedes murder

CNN.com

February 14, 2003

Clara Harris was sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine Friday for killing her husband in a hotel parking lot with her Mercedes-Benz.

Clara and David Harris were married on Valentine's Day. Their 11th wedding anniversary would have been Friday.

The jury began deliberating the penalty phase of Harris' murder trial about 10:30 a.m. EST Friday after closing arguments, which became a battle of tears between the defendant and prosecution.

On Thursday, jurors found Harris, 45, guilty of murder for repeatedly running over her 44-year-old orthodontist husband with her car. The crime was caught on tape by a private investigator Clara Harris had hired to document her husband's affair.

Jurors found that Harris acted with "sudden passion," which could have reduced the jurors' recommendation to probation. Instead, the jury said Harris should be fined and sentenced to prison at the upper limit of the sentencing guidelines for the special circumstance.

Harris slumped into her chair as the sentence was read.

Harris' attorney, George Parnham, had argued that the crime happened moments after an emotional and volatile confrontation between Harris, her husband and his mistress at the same hotel where the couple was married.

During his half-hour closing, Parnham also focused on Harris' twin sons and how they need their mother.

He pointed out that even David Harris' parents and brother had testified on Clara Harris' behalf.

"I think that speaks volumes to what this jury should do," Parnham said.

Prosecutor Mia Magness used her rebuttal to try to dismantle arguments for probation.

She said Harris' boys would be provided for and they would adjust and survive, "because that's what children do."

She also scoffed at Parnham's statement about keeping the boys with "the last parent they have on Earth."

"Well, she ought not to be given credit for making herself a single parent," Magness said.

She then brought up David Harris' daughter, Lindsey, and began crying as she spoke.

Lindsey Harris was the prosecution's only witness during the penalty phase of the trial. She was in the car with her stepmother when her father was killed.

The 17-year-old testified that she had tried to commit suicide four times in the months after her father's death July 24. Magness reminded jurors how Lindsey Harris had gotten her father's clothing out of the trash, where they had been thrown earlier that day, and laid the items out on her bed so she could feel like he was there.

"Your verdict will in part tell her what she went through was worth it," Magness said.

The prosecutor said it was "almost offensive" to consider that the defendant has suffered, too.

"What about the brutality and violence involved in his death," she asked, going on to describe how Harris lay "dying on the pavement ... drowning in his own blood while his daughter was watching."

The prosecutor lowered her voice to almost a whisper as she made her final points.

"Doing the right thing doesn't always feel good," she said. "And that's the position you're in right now, but I know you will do the right thing."


Jury convicts woman in Texas love triangle killing

February 13, 2003

A Texas woman who ran down her cheating husband with a Mercedes Benz committed murder, a jury decided Thursday.

Clara Harris, 45, stood still as the verdict was read, flanked by members of her defense team.

Harris first confronted her orthodontist husband, David Harris, in the lobby of a Houston hotel on July 24, 2002.  Harris emerged from an elevator with his mistress and receptionist, Gail Bridges. The altercation quickly moved into the parking lot, where prosecution witnesses said Harris rammed her husband and circled around to crush his body.

The jury of nine women and three men convicted Harris of the most serious of a range of charges, including the lesser charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.  Jurors could still show lenience in choosing a sentence for Harris, a process that will begin later Thursday morning.

In her closing argument, prosecutor Mia Magness recalled the testimony of numerous eyewitnesses to the parking lot killing who said that Harris not only hit her husband with the front of her late-model luxury sedan — but that she also ran over his body repeatedly.

"When you run a person over again and again and again, your intent is to hurt them. Your intent is to kill them," she said.

Harris' defense attorney, George Parnham, urged jurors to consider the marital stress that prefaced the killing, and offered Gail Bridges as the true villian.  "I don't care how you slice it, she is a home wrecker," said the attorney.

Harris, who took the stand in her own defense, said she was crestfallen when her husband told her she didn't measure up to his mistress. Harris said she bought lingerie, scheduled a breast implant surgery, and joined an expensive gym in the days before the final confrontation — which she maintained was an accident.

Lindsey Harris, David Harris' daughter from another marriage, testified otherwise.  Harris was in the Mercedes that evening and told the court that Clara Harris said, "I'm going to hit him," before stomping on the gas pedal.

After nearly seven hours of deliberation Wednesday, jurors asked for a readback of testimony concerning a statement Harris gave to police after the alleged murder, during which Harris said she wanted to "separate" Harris from his mistress, and that she intended to hurt David Harris, not kill him.

The important distinction between the three major charges was Harris' intent.

"At this point it is time for you to call her for what she is, and that is a murderer," said Magness.


Prosecution witnesses recall wife running over husband

CNN.com

February 11, 2003

Two men recounted Tuesday the horror of watching Clara Harris run down her husband with her Mercedes-Benz.

"I wasn't sure if what I was seeing was real," said Chris Junco, describing the scene at a suburban hotel parking lot last summer.

"I even thought the car was pissed off at him," Junco added, pausing and choking back tears.

The prosecution rested its case following testimony from Junco and Oscar Torres, both of who saw David Harris be run over in a hotel parking lot across the street from where they were playing tennis.

Prosecutors say Clara Harris, 45, intentionally ran down her husband David last July 24 after confronting him at the hotel with his lover. A medical examiner has testified the orthodontist was run over at least twice.

The defense has claimed that David's death -- shortly after a confrontation in the hotel, where she found him with his mistress, Gail Bridges -- was an accident.

A private detective hired by Clara Harris to follow her husband to the Nassau Bay Hilton Hotel caught the July 1 event on videotape, but she testified last week that she had not been aiming at him and did not remember hitting him.

On Tuesday, Torres, whose tennis game had been interrupted by screams and screeching tires in the hotel's parking lot, said he saw a man's body "flying."

"How many times did you see the defendant run over the body?" Harris County prosecutor Mia Magness asked.

"Three times," Torres replied, adding that he saw the car make three complete circles in the parking lot before stopping.

The witness said he remembered a teenage girl who was a passenger in the car, jumping out and screaming, "My dad! My dad! You've killed my dad! He's dead!"

"It was like an animal that would scream in excruciating pain, out of control," Torres said, describing David Harris' daughter, Lindsey, who had been in the car with Clara Harris, her stepmother.

"(David Harris) was mauled, he was gasping for air," Torres said.

Junco told jurors that at first he thought the car was a "low-rider because of how high it bounced when it ran over the body."

Clara Harris fought back tears, sometimes holding her head in both hands during Junco's testimony.

When Magness asked if what Junco had seen could have been an accident, he said, "No, ma'am."

The defense rested its case after opting not to call any rebuttal witnesses.

State District Judge Carol Davies set closing arguments and juror instructions for 10 a.m. EST Wednesday. The jury, which will be sequestered, was allowed to go home until then.

Clara Harris told police she was only trying to separate her husband from Gail Bridges and she testified last week she had wanted "to hurt her husband emotionally, not physically."

"I never saw hitting him. I never saw running over him," she testified.

The victim's relatives had testified in the widow's defense Monday, saying the couple was "devoted to each other."

David Harris' brother, Gerald Harris Jr. called Clara "truthful and credible" and "one of the most law-abiding persons I know."

In rebuttal, prosecutors called a Houston police officer who testified that according to his analysis, Clara Harris ran over her husband at least twice.

Under questioning from her own attorney last week, Harris said, "everything seemed like a dream" as she drove the car during the fatal incident.

-- CNN Correspondent Art Harris contributed to this report.


Parents of man run over and killed by wife testify for defense

CNN.com

February 10, 2003

The mother-in-law of a Houston dentist who killed her husband with a Mercedes-Benz defended her daughter-in-law Monday, saying the couple was "devoted to each other."

During her testimony, Mildred Harris looked directly at her daughter-in-law, defendant Clara Harris, and smiled as she recounted her attributes as a wife, mother, and daughter-in-law.

"(Clara) included us in everything," Mildred Harris said. "(She) loved David very much."

The defendant dabbed her eyes from time to time as she listened to the testimony.

Before calling Mildred and Gerald Harris to the stand Monday, defense attorney George Parnham filed a motion to have a two-hour tape of his client's statement to police admitted into evidence.

It is "the best evidence available of her state of mind," Parnham said.

But Judge Carol Davies ruled that only excerpts of the tape directly related to the incident could be played for the jury. Parnham declined and none of the tape was admitted into evidence.

Prosecutors say Harris, 45, intentionally ran down her husband last July after confronting him at the hotel with his lover. A medical examiner has testified the orthodontist was run over at least twice.

The incident was caught on videotape by a private detective hired by Harris to follow her husband.

The defense has claimed that the death of David Harris -- shortly after a confrontation in the hotel, where she found him with his mistress, Gail Bridges -- was an accident.

Clara Harris said she had been working tirelessly to save the 10-year marriage since learning of his affair the week before.

During cross-examination on Friday, Harris County prosecutor Mia Magness tried to use Clara Harris' statements to police to refute that claim.

"Isn't it true you told police, 'I was trying to separate him from her?'" Magness asked.

"Yes, if that's what the tape says," Harris said, adding that she did not remember the statement.

The defendant broke down in tears at least 12 times during cross-examination, prompting the judge to send jurors out of the courtroom. But at other times, she was composed and held her own against the prosecutor's fire.

Under questioning from her own attorney Friday, Harris said that "everything seemed like a dream" as she drove the car during the fatal incident. She remembered how her stepdaughter kept screaming "stop."


Fatal infidelity: When adultery investigations turn deadly

By Matt Bean - Court TV

August 6, 2002

When Clara Harris drove to a Houston-area Hilton, she may have simply wanted to confront her husband about his adultery. But the confrontation turned violent. In the hotel parking lot, Harris slammed her Mercedes into David Harris three times and then left it parked on his lifeless body.

For Harris, a 44-year-old dentist, the naked truth may have been too much to bear: The day before her July 24 rampage she had hired a private investigator to uncover her husband's infidelity. She found him at the hotel with Gail Bridges, a secretary who had once worked at his orthodontic clinic.

The vigilant private investigator, who was situated in the parking lot with a video camera, filmed the fatal rampage.

"Our investigator had the camera focused on the subject until the very end," said Bobbi Bacha, who runs Blue Moon Private Investigators.

Catching a killing on film isn't de rigueur for a private investigator, but as PIs themselves are the first to admit the practice of vetting adultery allegations often results in violence.

"It's a tricky situation and there are a lot of emotions involved," said Bobby Newman of the Texas firm ACTA Investigatons, Inc.

There are no national statistics kept on crimes of passion in which investigators played a role, but most seasoned investigators have anecdotes and newspaper clippings at the ready when asked whether they, too, were involved in cases that went wrong.

In 30 years in the business, Newman says he has seen a number of adultery investigations turn dangerous. In 1990, he was retained by Arlene Rogan to trail her husband, whom she suspected of having an affair. He was. Distraught over Newman's reports, the wealthy socialite ultimately killed her husband and then committed suicide aboard their yacht. More recently, Newman trailed the husband of Lynn Ryan Kilroy, who was convicted this year of soliciting his murder.

For many firms, trailing potential adulterers is a necessary evil. The PI business bills by the hour, and adultery can be a cash cow compared to duties such as serving subpoenas or other court orders (Newman was retained by David Harris' daughter to serve a motion to freeze the couple's assets last week) and conducting interviews with witnesses, says Newman.

"I laugh when I hear about these firms saying they don't take divorce [cases]," said the PI. "It's just more business for me."

Business keeps rolling in for PIs only because couples keep cheating, says Ken Raggio, a lawyer with the Dallas firm Raggio & Raggio and a former chair of the American Bar Association's family law group. Couples considering divorce often have an incentive to catch philandering spouses with private investigators, says the lawyer, and hard evidence of adultery can open up the coffers.

In Texas and most other states, a so-called "fault" divorce on grounds of cruel treatment, abandonment, adultery and even addiction can give a spouse a chance at more than the normal 50-50 split.

Fault divorces were the norm three decades ago before the introduction of the amicable "no-fault" clause, now on the books in every state except Illinois and South Dakota. Then, private investigators were integral to the oft-staged adultery investigations needed to justify marital splits.

But today, says Raggio, those investigations can mean the difference between getting the house and getting an outdated set of encyclopedias. "You never know what you're going to need," said the lawyer. "You hope everything is going to work out, but sometimes ... if you have bad facts on the other side it persuades people that they don't want to play hardball."

Another motive, says the lawyer, is the "undying quest for the truth."

"If somebody feels that they have been living an ethical life, and they find out their spouse is leading a double life, they get pissed," said Raggio. "And sometimes when you find out the truth, you get angry."

And the truth isn't often pretty. "The majority of times people come to an investigator it's probably true," said David Kale, a California investigator who has worked on more than 15,000 cases since 1965. Emotional reactions happen regularly, says the investigator. "We always talk to the client later because you don't want that to occur," he says. "You don't want somebody to run off with a gun."

One precaution firms take to make sure clients don't have violent reactions is to keep them away from the scene of the investigation. "It says in our agreement that if our client is on the scene in any fashion that we will pull out of the case and they will lose any refunds," said Bacha.

Harris' rampage clearly illustrates the reasoning behind the rule. The successful dentist may have simply intended to catch her husband in the act. She had hired Blue Moon only the day before, after her husband reportedly confessed the affair and even revealed the location of the illicit trysts.

But soon after Harris arrived at the Hilton, with her husband's 16-year-old daughter from a previous marriage in tow, she became enraged. Harris demanded that a hotel employee summon the adulterous couple to the lobby.

When they arrived, a scuffle broke out between the two women, and Bridges lost her blouse. Hotel security guards intervened, and the combatants retreated to the parking lot.

David Harris was heading for his Lincoln Navigator when his wife first hit him with her Mercedes. The blow threw him into the air, and she hit him again before he landed. With her stepdaughter screaming and trying to exit the car, Clara Harris spun around to crush and recrush his body.

Not every cuckolded spouse is liable to snap like Harris, and that's why Kale says his business tries to choose clients who don't appear prone to knee-jerk reactions. Kale's first meeting with a client is generally something of a psychological evaluation.

Whether Harris actually snapped is a matter that will be left to the courts to decide. Out of jail on $30,000 bail, she told reporters after the rampage that it was an accident, and her attorney indicated last week that she plans to plead not guilty. In the interim, her conduct on July 24 was enough to convince one judge to issue an order of protection keeping Harris away from her husband's alleged mistress.


Famous inmate talks about prison, her children and her crime

'I never saw him,' Clara Harris says

By Ruth Rendon - The Houston Chronicle

Feb. 27, 2005

Clara Harris, convicted of killing her husband by running him over with her car, talks with reporter Ruth Rendon in prison last Wednesday.

GATESVILLE - After two years in prison, Clara Harris, the Friendswood dentist convicted of running over her husband in her Mercedes-Benz, has involuntarily turned her attention from dental work to passing her time learning to convert printed text into Braille.

In an exclusive interview with the Houston Chronicle, Harris talked about her work, visits with her twin boys who live with family friends, prison life and her hopes of a new trial. She also maintained that she doesn't remember running down her husband, David Harris, the evening of July 24, 2002.

"I didn't know what David died of," Harris said. A week after her husband's death, her father-in-law told her David's chest had been crushed.

In the hourlong interview, Harris revealed:

•How she is adjusting to prison life, including her wake-up schedule and workload.
•Her fears about the safety of her children because of her notoriety.
•Her relationship with other inmates.
•Her children's psychologist warning her not to cry in front of her twin boys during their visits.
•Her hopes of being able to visit with Lindsey Harris, her stepdaughter and front-seat passenger in the Mercedes-Benz.
•Fears that her 20-year prison term will not be overturned on appeal.
Except for a brief interview with the Chronicle in May 2003, Harris has not spoken with the media until now. With her frustration over not being granted a new trial, Harris said she wanted to discuss her life after the killing.

Harris was convicted six months after the incident, on what would have been her 10th wedding anniversary, of murdering her husband and sentenced to 20 years in prison. She is eligible for parole after 10 years.

Prosecutors painted a picture of Harris outraged after finding her orthodontist husband with his mistress, Gail Bridges, at the Nassau Bay Hilton hotel. Earlier he had promised to break off his relationship with Bridges. Not trusting him, Clara Harris hired a private investigator to follow him.

'Doing something good'

The investigator ended up with a videotape of Harris driving her car in circles in the hotel parking lot. When the car stopped, David Harris, 44, was dead.

During the interview, Harris, dressed in prison-issued white drawstring pants and smock, talked about the work with Braille she does with 60 other female inmates at the Mountain View Unit outside of Gatesville in central Texas.

"It is the best thing that is happening in this place," a smiling Harris said from behind a wire-mesh and Plexiglas enclosure. "I got into it about a year ago and am about to get my certification to become a Braille transcriber. I didn't know how important that was until I got into it seriously. We really love the profession because we know that we're doing something good for the blind kids in the state of Texas."

Harris, now 47, said transcribing public school textbooks into Braille keeps her mind occupied and helps her not to think about being away from her 6-year-old twins, Brian and Bradley, who live with family friends in Friendswood.

The books on history, government, science, math, and music, she said, are subjects she wants to know about "so I can help my kids with their homework one day. It helps your mind because you're constantly learning different things that are interesting."

Should Harris be released after 10 years, her boys will be 14 years old.

Prison routine

Harris, who operated a thriving dental practice in Lake Jackson, says she routinely takes work back to her cell. She also is taking a psychology class.

"I have tried to keep my schedule pretty busy. In my cell, I don't have much time. Studying Braille, studying psychology, writing letters," she said.

The day for Harris and the other inmates starts at 3 a.m. with breakfast at 3:30 a.m.

"I cannot eat breakfast at 3:30 in the morning. There is no way. I've been here two years already and I haven't been able to get into that schedule," she said with a laugh.

Instead, Harris takes the time to mail the numerous letters she frequently writes to her children, family and friends.

At 4:30 a.m., she stands in line to pick up her daily clothing and a towel. Once a week, she gets clean sheets and a clean gown to sleep in.

Everybody knows her

Today's attire is in sharp contrast to the well-groomed woman in tailored business suits who faced cameras every day of her two-week trial.

Her hair, meticulously coiffed during the trial, now is fashioned into a pony tail with gray hair visible on her temples.

"It's kind of funny. Initially when I came here at that time of the day it's usually real foggy. All you see are these white uniforms walking quietly. You feel like you're in purgatory seeing all these souls walking by. It was real eerie," she said. "It's like a community. You feel for everybody."

For the most part, Harris says she feels comfortable and safe in prison.

Her high-profile case made international news, was the butt of jokes on late-night TV shows and even made its way to the prison — making her somewhat of a celebrity.

"That is so terrible because I walk and everybody says, 'Hello, Clara.' I think it's people that I know and I turn and I don't recognize their faces. Initially I was trying to make an effort to see who is this person that I don't remember. Now I know that everybody knows everything about me, and I don't know who they are," she said.

Warden Audrey Lynn Smith said she realizes Harris' case is well known. The warden does not allow publications in the prison's library about inmates so she consulted with Harris before a made-for-TV movie about the case was to air last year.

"I asked her if she wanted me to block the movie," Smith said. "She said, 'No, I want to see what they say about me.' "

After the movie aired, Smith asked Harris what she thought.

She said Harris quickly replied, "I never wore that black leather outfit."

Worried about children

Her notoriety and the publicity about her case cause her great concern for her children. Inmates, like others, know where her children live. She is fearful someone may harm them or, worse yet, kidnap them and demand a large ransom. Following a bitter custody battle between Harris and her in-laws, Gerald and Mildred Harris of Pearland, a Brazoria County judge granted joint custody of the boys to their mother and family friends, Pat and Ana Jones in September 2003.

Harris is able to have up to three contact visits a month with her children. Ana Jones and other loyal friends make the eight-hour round-trip drive so the boys can see their mother. Harris insists the boys, who already are busy with T-ball and soccer, not miss their activities so they end up seeing their mother about once a month.

She already is looking forward to next weekend's planned visit.

With tears running down her cheeks, Harris said every time the boys show up she thinks they'll tell her they no longer want to visit. Instead, they run to her with arms extended, each clamoring for their mother's attention.

Her tears streamed down her face even more — prompting a guard to bring her a roll of toilet paper to use to wipe away the tears — when she explained that Jones told her that the boys often ask, "Would you take me to see my mama?"

The boys were 3 when their father died and 4 when their mother was sent to prison.

"They are growing. They are up to my chest. They were up to my hip when I left them," Harris said, sobbing. "They are so mature. They are such good boys. They really behave. They are so good at their school. They are so smart. That just makes me so proud. They both are reading. They write little notes, 'I love you Mama.' They write their names."

No tears allowed

Unlike many parents who hang their children's art on the refrigerator, Harris keeps her children's art and photos in a locker box. No displays are allowed on the walls of her cell.

"They make me drawings and write I love you," she said. "What amazes me is that even though it's been two years, they still love me like if I never left."

The boys' psychologist found them suffering from depression and separation anxiety and warned Harris not to cry in front of them, even if they are "happy tears."

Harris said she struggles not to cry. "I try to be real happy. It's hugs and kisses," she said.

During the visits, the talkative boys fill their mother with details about their school, teacher, friends and their grandparents, whom they routinely visit. The three spend time playing with plastic blocks provided by the prison, playing house and building robots.

Many times Jones will entertain one boy while Harris visits with the other.

"I check their hands and I check their feet. They love that," she said. "When they come in, they take their shoes off. They are ready because they want me to check on their feet to make sure their toenails are nice and clean."

One person with whom Harris has not spoken is her stepdaughter, Lindsey Harris. The teenager who lives in Ohio was a front-seat passenger in the Mercedes-Benz when her father was killed. She was the star witness and testified against Clara Harris.

"They have kept her away. She has said she doesn't want to come back to Texas, but the boys told me that she was coming in the summer. I hope she comes," Harris said. "I wish there was a way to talk to her."

Stepdaughter's decision

Harris admits it would be difficult since the two would be talking though a Plexiglas wall and in public.

"I know she's suffering. I know that in the court when they gave the verdict she was the one that was crying the loudest, saying she had taken the mother away from (Lindsey's) brothers. I know that she knows in her heart that her testimony must have helped in putting me here. I know she knows in her heart that I never intended to do this to David," she said.

Marty Weber, a Houston attorney who represented Lindsey in a civil proceeding against her stepmother, said he did not recall Lindsey crying the loudest in court or saying she had taken her stepbrothers away from their mother.

Weber said he keeps in contact with Lindsey, who is now in college, but was not aware of her planning a trip to Texas. He said it would be up to Lindsey to decide if she wanted to see Harris.

Harris, meanwhile, waits and worries about her appeal. She and her attorneys are hopeful an appellate court will agree with their position that a videotaped re-creation of the events of July 24, 2002, should have been shown to jurors. State District Judge Carol Davies, who presided over the trial, declined to allow the tape as evidence.

Harris said she does not have a clear memory of July 24, 2002. A week after her husband died, she asked her father-in-law to explain what happened to him.

"The car ran over him?" she said she asked. "He said, 'Yes.' I didn't know. I never saw him."

The videotape re-creation helped her understand what happened. She maintains one of the car's tires ran over her husband once, not three times as witnesses, including Lindsey, testified.

"My attorneys are very confident but also very fearful just like I am," she said of her chances of getting her conviction overturned.

"What happens in the court is unknown. We just have to wait and see. That causes me horrendous fear. It's so difficult for me because it's just up in the air".

 

 

 
 
 
 
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