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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Angry that Henderson discovered Harrison had stolen Henderson’s UA ID, $500 and two checks
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 5, 2007
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: March 26, 1989
Victim profile: Mia Janelle Henderson, 18 (her roommate)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife (23 times)
Location: Pima County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on November 25, 2008
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Harrison sentenced to life in prison for slaying UA dorm mate

By A.J. Flick -

November 26, 2008

A 19-year-old former University of Arizona student will spend the rest of her life in prison for stabbing her dorm roommate to death in September 2007.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Nanette M. Warner sentenced Galareka Harrison to prison, without the possibility of parole, for killing Mia Janelle Henderson, 18, of Tuba City.

Warner also sentenced Harrison, of Chinle, to 2.5-year sentences, to run concurrently, for three counts of forgery and for one count of identity theft. Harrison will get credit for 447 days already served in jail, which would come into play if the murder conviction or sentence is overturned on appeal.

Before sentencing Tuesday, Warner asked if Harrison wanted to say anything. Though Assistant Public Defender John O’Brien said he didn’t know “if she had the ability to stand up and speak,” Harrison did mutter a few words that were inaudible to most of the courtroom.

Warner indicated later that Harrison had asked for forgiveness from Henderson’s family as well as Warner.

“Someone made a statement yesterday that forgiveness is the Navajo way,” Warner said. “But stealing is not the Navajo way. Murder is not the Navajo way.

“This is a people who pride themselves on living in harmony with each other and with nature,” Warner said.

Warner also made reference to statements made by Harrison’s family during a four-hour sentencing hearing Monday in which they repeatedly said that no one knows what happened the day Henderson was killed.

“I have a pretty good idea what happened in that room that night,” Warner told Harrison.

“You killed her in a very violent way, with repeated stabbing,” Warner said. “There’s just no way around that. You did that.

“The choices you made, that you put into motion the first week you came to school, the choices you made in the early morning of Sept. 5, no sentence I can give can change that,” Warner said. “Nothing I can do can give the Henderson family back their daughter (or) erase their pain.”

Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay told Warner prosecutors sought a life sentence because of emotional damage suffered by Henderson’s family as well as the Navajo and university communities, among others.

Unklesbay also said Harrison’s extensive planning, which included planting the notion that she knew someone who was suicidal days before the slaying, warranted the most severe sentence.

“Here is a woman who . . . was not acting under the pressure of the moment, not acting under the stress of college, but she had planned this out for days in advance – when she went back home for the weekend – and carried out her plan,” he said.

O’Brien pleaded for the possibility of parole, saying Harrison committed a “crime of passion.”

“Galareka is truly, truly sorry for the pain she has caused,” O’Brien said.

“Before you is a young woman who was lost, who was overwhelmed, whose world was literally caving in all around her,” he said. “Someone who was at the bottom of the barrel, and the light was getting smaller and smaller above her.”

One week after accusing Harrison of stealing some checks and $500 from a bank account, Henderson was found stabbed 23 times in the Graham-Greenlee dorm on the UA campus.

Prosecutors say Harrison envied Henderson and was angered when Henderson shunned her.

Defense attorneys say Harrison was bullied.

Both students were in a Native American scholar program at the UA.

In September, a jury quickly found Harrison guilty of first-degree murder, forgery and identity theft, saying the evidence was overwhelming.


7 of 23 stab wounds struck UA student’s major organs, doc says

By A.J. Flick -

September 17, 2008

Galareka Harrison’s three-hour interview with University of Arizona police on the day Mia Henderson was slain began innocently enough, with the freshman heard giggling at chitchat the detectives made.

Soon, though, the Chinle native began sobbing hysterically when she told them an unknown man attacked the two women around 2 a.m. Sept. 5, 2007.

Later, she sounded calm telling the detectives that she lied to another UAPD officer the week before when she confessed to stealing Henderson’s UA ID, Social Security card and $500 from her bank account.

When asked by detectives why she lied before, Harrison said, “Because Mia had a gun.”

Prosecutors presented the audio statement to jurors to show how Harrison told “lie after lie after lie” after she stabbed Henderson to death, according to Deputy County Attorney Kellie Johnson.

Harrison, 19, is charged with first-degree murder, stealing the identity of another UA student and three counts of forgery.

Prosecutors say Harrison was angry at Henderson, 18, of Tuba City, for turning her into police for the alleged thefts, so she stabbed her 23 times and inflicted wounds on herself.

Defense attorneys say Harrison killed Henderson in self-defense.

“Can I ask you a question?” Harrison asked in a soft voice about 40 minutes into the police interrogation. Harrison said she’d overheard something she wanted detectives to confirm.

“What’d you hear?” a detective asked.

“That Mia is dead,” Harrison said, crying.

Jurors heard more than an hour of Harrison’s taped statements Tuesday. On Wednesday, they are expected to hear Harrison confess to killing Henderson.

In other testimony Wednesday, Dr. David Winston of the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office said seven of the 23 stab wounds Henderson received could have been fatal.

Most of the stab wounds were found on Henderson’s back, ranging in depth from half an inch up to 7 1/4 inches.

Three wounds were deep enough to penetrate her left lung, two punctured her right lung, one struck her spleen and the deepest wound struck her right kidney and liver, Winston testified.

Henderson also had defensive wounds on her right hand and wrist, Winston said.

Also Wednesday, UA sophomore Analisa Valencia, 19, testified that she was sitting next to Harrison in a study group the evening of Aug. 27.

Valencia testified that when she got back to her room at the Graham-Greenlee residence hall, where Henderson and Harrison shared a room, her wallet was missing from a zippered compartment inside her tote bag.

Around 2 a.m. on Aug. 28, Valencia received a phone call from a woman.

“They said they were calling from Wells Fargo and that something had happened to my account and they were needing my account information,” Valencia said.

“Based on what you were hearing, did you provide the information?” Johnson asked.

“No, it was awkward that they were calling that early in the morning,” Valencia said. “I told them to call me back later that day.”

Valencia said she reported her wallet missing to UAPD the morning of Aug. 28. Early on the 29th, she was contacted by Officer Timothy Lopez, who told her he found her wallet in Harrison’s possession.

The state will have three more witnesses after UA Detective Martin Ramirez finishes testifying. If the state rests Wednesday, defense attorneys may begin presenting witnesses Thursday.


Woman describes dorm stabbing scene

By A.J. Flick -

September 13, 2008

A former University of Arizona resident assistant described how she woke up to the sounds of screaming before dawn on Sept. 5, 2007.

“It was early morning and, um, I was awoken by screams,” Diane Povatah testified Friday. “I couldn’t determine whether they were in the hall or above me. To my knowledge, from what I can remember, it came from everywhere.”

Povatah lived in the room next door to Galareka Harrison and Mia Henderson in Graham-Greenlee hall on the UA campus.

Prosecutors say Harrison, now 19, stabbed her 18-year-old roommate to death because she was angry that Henderson discovered Harrison had stolen Henderson’s UA ID, $500 and two checks.

Harrison is charged with first-degree murder, forgery and ID theft.

“Screaming was going on and I heard bumping noises,” Povatah testified. “The best way I can describe it is as if someone was moving furniture.”

Povatah got up and began to get dressed.

“It ceased. It stopped. I didn’t hear nothing for a couple of minutes. By then, I had opened the door and peeked out. I closed the door.”

When Povatah was walking to the back of her room, she said, “I heard someone say, ‘Help me, Stacy. Help me.’ Galareka was saying that (to another student).”

Povatah ran out of her door and past Harrison and Henderson’s room. Inside the room, she saw Henderson, who was bleeding from her back. Blood was spattered around the room.

“I saw Mia and, um, she was, um, kneeling down. Her head was touching the floor. Her hair was in front of her.”

Further down the hall, Povatah saw Harrison, bloodied, with a gash in her right calf, sitting on the hallway floor crying.

Povatah called UA police.

Harrison told Povatah that she had been stabbed.

“That she had just gotten back home. Mia was calling her a bitch and that she was calling her all types of different names, grabbed a knife and started stabbing her.”

Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay later asked Povatah if she knew whether Harrison was telling the truth.

“No,” Povatah said.

Earlier Friday, one of Henderson’s best friends, Londynn Young testified that Henderson discovered that her CatCard, which allowed her dorm access and bookstore purchases, was missing Aug. 24.

Henderson suspected almost immediately that Harrison might have taken it, Young said.

“Don’t assume that yet,” Young said she told Henderson. “That’s the last resort.”

Young and another friend, Jordon Begay, testified that a campus police officer and a woman in the dean’s office laughed when Henderson insisted on pressing charges against Harrison and demanded that Harrison be removed from the dorm and the Native American student program both were enrolled in.

The officer “kinda chuckled, like huh!” Young said. “After that, he said, ‘This happens every day.’ ”

Povatah testified she saw a UA officer tell Henderson and Harrison sometime in the days before Henderson was killed to “let bygones be bygones” and shake hands.

“Forging a check is a federal offense that should have been dealt with,” Povatah said. “Anywhere outside the university, someone would have been in jail that night.”

Young testified that on Aug. 30, 2007, she received a text message from Henderson.

“Mia walked in, and Galareka was on the bed, quiet, with her head down and asked Mia, ‘So what are you going to do?’ ” Young said.

Henderson told Harrison, “I’m pressing charges and I don’t want to live with you anymore,” Young testified.

Harrison later text messaged an apology, which Henderson never accepted, Young said.

Prosecutors say Harrison bought a knife before returning to her dorm and, stewing over the prospect of legal problems or problems with the school over the stolen CatCard, stabbed Henderson 23 times early on the morning of Sept. 5.

One of Harrison’s friends, Yolanda Nez, testified that Harrison spoke of having a “bad feeling” on their way back into town the night before Henderson was slain.

“I didn’t know what to think,” Nez said. “She didn’t say what the bad feeling was about. Just something was gonna happen.”

Nez stopped at a Target store because Harrison wanted to buy school supplies, she said.

Harrison picked out a large kitchen knife, Nez said.

“I was like, ‘What class is that for?’ She didn’t say what class. I said, ‘Are you sure you don’t need an X-acto knife?’ ”

Harrison insisted the knife was identical to one another girl in a class had, Nez said.

Testimony will resume Tuesday before Pima County Superior Court Judge Nanette Warner.


UA student’s bond hiked

By A.J. Flick -

October 3, 2007

A judge raised bond for a University of Arizona student accused of killing her roommate from $50,000 to $500,000, but cleared the way for the student to return to the Navajo Reservation if she is released.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Nanette Warner granted a prosecutor’s request to increase the bond for Galareka Harrison, 18, who was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in the Sept. 5 stabbing death of Mia Henderson, 18. The two freshmen were roommates in a UA dorm.

Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay, who had asked for an increase to $1 million, said the low bond set by a magistrate judge wasn’t enough to ensure that Harrison would return to court for trial.

Unklesbay said the magistrate didn’t know that Harrison would be indicted on fraud and theft charges for accusations that she stole three checks from Henderson’s checkbook and cashed one for $500 using another student’s ID.

Harrison and Henderson were members of the Navajo tribe attending UA on scholarships.

Henderson’s parents, Henry and Jennifer Henderson, urged Warner to increase the bond.

“We are still coping with the tragic loss of our beloved eldest child,” they wrote. “And knowing that (Galareka) Harrison is set free on bond will greatly add to our emotional, spiritual strain which will affect the way we function as parents to our living children (and) everyday activities.”

Chief Assistant Public Defender Robert Hirsh urged Warner to keep the bond at $50,000 to give Harrison’s family hope of raising the money and getting her home for mental health counseling she may need.

Harrison’s maternal aunt Judith Jake; sister Garveda Harrison; and mother, Janice Harrison, testified that Galareka Harrison had never disobeyed the law or family rules.

“I love her so much,” Janice Harrison testified. “She’s still like my baby to me.”

Hirsh asked Janice Harrison whether her daughter had problems with alcohol or drugs.

Without directly answering the question, Janice Harrison said her father had been a medicine man and her children were all raised to help heal other people.

Warner said should Galareka make bond, either in cash or secured by assets, she should return to her hometown of Chinle to await trial.

“That’s the best environment for her,” Warner said, ordering that an extradition waiver must be signed first to ensure she would return to court without intervention.

Warner expressed concern whether Harrison is getting medical care in the Pima County Jail.

“She’s very young and I’m sure she’s never been incarcerated. I’m sure it’s hard on her,” Warner said. “Has she seen a physician? She’s been very tearful. Has she been prescribed anti-depressants?”

Hirsh said Harrison has seen the jail’s physician and will be evaluated at some point to determine whether she needs mental health treatment.


Tribal tragedy

Navajo community mourns a killing, an arrest, losing two of its brightest

The Associated Press -

September 13, 2007

WINDOW ROCK – That they had made it off the reservation at all was no small feat in a place where adversity runs as deep as tradition. But they were success stories: two Navajo girls gone to the big-city university, planning to come home one day and give back.

Mia Henderson, the one they called “Princess Mia,” captain of the softball team and a star student who had a flair for science and yearned to work in genetics or sports medicine.

Galareka Harrison, “Reka” to friends and family, the track standout and rodeo girl who excelled in roping and dreamed of becoming a pharmacist.

On this remote stretch of land where kids sometimes have neither the means nor the desire to reach for something more, Henderson and Harrison stood out. They studied hard, played sports and won scholarships – then set out to make their mark at the University of Arizona, hundreds of miles and a world away from the rolling hills and hogans of home.

They were just 18, the kind of young people Navajo elders hope and pray will carry on for them.

Now one is dead. The other is charged with her murder. And a community struggles to understand.

The loss is felt so deeply here because it goes beyond one unfathomable act of violence. Among a people who consider life sacred and their ritual teachings the path to salvation, they wonder what this tragedy says about the survival of a belief system – and the next generation of Navajos.

Education seen as a hope

“We pray for our young to get knowledge,” says medicine man Wilbur Begay. “We pray for them so they can help our Indian people. They are our future leaders.”

His face hints at the despair that has pervaded the Navajo Nation since word spread of the Sept. 5 killing and arrest. His words ring of doubt.

“Did we do something wrong?” he asks. “Didn’t we pray hard enough?”

Life for the young has never been easy on the reservation that spans 27,000 square miles of Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. Poverty levels, dropout rates, teen pregnancies, suicides and violent crimes have long been higher here, along with substance abuse among teens and adults.

In the face of these challenges, Navajo leaders have long grappled with how to keep their heritage alive. They fight to instill the traditional principle of k’e – respect for yourself and others – as well as kinship, balance and harmony.

“We’re all family,” says Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. “We’re supposed to be getting along. We’re supposed to be looking out for each other.”

“In spite of us wanting to save the ways,” he adds, “we’re losing a lot of it.”

Education is meant to be part of the answer; only about 18 percent of the adult population on the reservation have earned a four-year degree, below the national average of 24 percent. So the tribe has worked to provide scholarships and other assistance to those who want to pursue a college degree.

Henderson, in fact, won a prestigious Chief Manuelito Scholarship, a $7,000-a-year, four-year award for college-bound Navajos named for a legendary chief who was dedicated to providing quality education for his people.

Henderson grew up in Tuba City on the western edge of the reservation, 85 miles north of Flagstaff and east of the Grand Canyon. Her father once worked as a principal and administrator for the Tuba City Unified School District, while her mother taught middle school.

Friends liked to call her “Princess,” though she used “Mighty Mia” for her e-mail address and MySpace page. At Tuba City High School, she excelled as an athlete and an academic, a National Honor Society member who graduated in May as one of the top 10 students in a class of 184.

Softball coach Flora Sombrero remembers her third baseman and team captain as sweet and humble, nurturing and analytical. Once, during a difficult at-bat, Sombrero instructed Henderson to step into the ball. The girl returned to the plate and swung.

It was her first grand slam.

“She ran around the bases with this big ol’ grin on her face,” Sombrero says. “She would listen and take things to heart. She got it.”

The summer before her senior year, Henderson was one of 25 Arizona students picked to spend seven weeks working on biomedical research projects at the University of Arizona. She worked eight hours a day, five days a week in a lab studying albinism in American Indians.

Henderson was “this incredible comet coming across the sky,” says program director Marlys Witte.

“There’s nothing she couldn’t have done,” Witte says. “She loved the reservation. She loved her culture. She loved her family. She loved her grandmother. But she saw something outside the reservation, as well, that she wanted to be a part of.”

Harrison, meanwhile, grew up 100 miles east of Tuba City in the reservation village of Chinle, a wind-swept slice of land where cows and horses graze along the highway.

One of seven children, she, too, was an accomplished athlete, a member of the track and field team at Many Farms High School. But the rodeo was her love, and she was especially good at breakaway roping, where a contestant on horseback attempts to rope a calf around the neck. Two years ago, the All Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association named her rookie of the year in the event.

Friends and relatives describe a good girl – “cool,” says 16-year-old Lavonne Yazzie, who competed against Harrison in rodeo events. “We both just like to laugh. We just go out there and give it everything we got.”

Her mother, Janice, says Galareka was a good student who won a full ride to UA. “The way I taught my kids, that’s the only way – to go to school,” she says.

The two girls – strangers until only a few weeks ago – were brought together under the University of Arizona’s First-Year Scholars Program, intended to help American Indians make the transition from home to campus, where 812 of nearly 37,000 students were American Indian in the 2006-2007 school year.

Fifty native students, most of them Navajo, were selected for this year’s program, which requires participants to live together in a wing of Graham-Greenlee Residence Hall called “O’odham Ki” – or The People’s House.

When school began Aug. 20, Harrison and Henderson were matched as roommates.

Things went wrong quickly. But the bare-bones police blotter account raises more questions than it answers.

On Aug. 28, Henderson filed a police report accusing Harrison of theft and forgery after she saw her Social Security card and a campus debit card sticking out of Harrison’s wallet, according to a court affidavit.

On Aug. 29, Harrison admitted in a police interview that she had stolen the cards and fraudulently bought a sweat shirt. She also admitted stealing Henderson’s checkbook and cashing a $500 check, and using another stolen ID as her own, according to the affidavit. University police declined to explain why Harrison wasn’t immediately arrested, citing an ongoing investigation.

Harrison then went home for a Labor Day weekend visit, returning to school Sept. 4.

At 5:45 the next morning, students called university police to report hearing screams in Graham-Greenlee. Police say Harrison bought a knife on her way back to campus, then wrote a note pretending to be Henderson. She had falsely accused her roommate, the note said, and she mentioned ending her own life.

Then, police say, Harrison stabbed Henderson numerous times as she slept.

University police Sgt. Eugene Mejia says Harrison had been accused by a second student of theft, but that there was no indication that she presented a physical threat. Harrison’s mother maintains that her daughter had no history of violence, and those who remember her from high school were stunned by her arrest.

“Our whole staff was just numb when we heard the news,” says Dave Lepkojus, an assistant principal at Many Farms High.

“Those who did know her just couldn’t imagine that she would be involved in anything like this. She was a good student, an honor student, was accepted to the university. She was just a really good kid.”

Tribal members concerned

A few days after Henderson’s death, Navajos gathered in Window Rock for the 61st annual Navajo Nation Fair.

Harrison was to have competed in the rodeo at the fair, along with her sister, Garveda. The family instead watched only one of the girls perform, sitting somberly in the grandstand. Harrison remains jailed on a first-degree murder charge as her family tries to raise the money for her $50,000 bond.

At the tribe’s biggest event of the year, pride and exultation were infused with concern as Navajos tried to make sense of what had happened.

“I think that people will start to wonder about Navajo Nation people, are we teaching our kids the values of our elders?” says Yvonne Kee-Billison, a program supervisor for the Navajo Office of Youth Development. “It just saddens everyone, that two of our young children are involved in something like this."



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