Murder of David Lynn Harris
David Lynn Harris was an American orthodontist who owned a chain of orthodontist offices along with his wife, Clara Suarez 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. On July 24, 2002, Clara Harris confronted her husband in a hotel parking lot because of an affair he was having, struck him and ran over him multiple times with her car, killing him. She was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Clara Harris, a Colombian immigrant, was named "Miss Colombia Houston" and worked as a dentist. The couple married on February 14, 1992, at the Nassau Bay Hilton, and were raising three children, twin sons born in 1998 and David's daughter Lindsey from a previous marriage. During his marriage to Clara, David began having an affair with his former receptionist, Gail Bridges, who later admitted to the affair. Clara, who was suspicious, hired a private detective agency to spy on her husband, and on July 24, 2002, the agency notified Clara that her husband was at a hotel with his mistress.
Murder and trial
On July 24, 2002, when Clara Harris went to the Hilton Hotel in Nassau Bay, Texas, to confront her husband, she reportedly attacked her husband's mistress Gail Bridges. Hotel employees escorted Clara to her Mercedes-Benz. 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, they could only be certain there was one tire mark on the body, but Lindsey Harris, the stepdaughter, and eyewitnesses assert Clara ran over David 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 she told her to stop the vehicle. The prosecution claimed it was more than a crime of passion, that Clara "wanted to hurt him," as she was heard saying in a police interview. Also introduced at Clara's trial was an actual videotape of the crime, recorded by the detective agency Blue Moon Investigations out of Webster, Texas, that Clara had hired when she suspected David continued to see his mistress. The video was especially damning, as it showed her circling her silver Mercedes around the parking lot three times, although David is not clearly seen in the video. Clara then parks her car next to his body.
The defense's attempts to prove she only ran over David once crumbled when the judge ruled their re-creation of the scene and events by a private crime scene specialist inadmissible in court. The defense attorney explained what was in the report, using the private consultant as an expert on the stand. They argued that Clara could only have run over David once, and that the turning radius of her Mercedes would not have allowed for her to sharply turn and run over him again. The prosecution admitted that it was a good argument, but countered by bringing in a police officer who had been present at the scene who pointed out a fatal flaw in the defense's argument: another tire track on the pavement shown in a police photograph, the angle of which went directly to where David's body had been.Clara was advised not to take the stand. After watching days of testimony Clara decided she had to speak, and it was detrimental to her case. She spoke well, but being on the stand allowed for parts of her original interview that her attorneys had successfully had banned from jurors hearing to come into question. It was another huge blow to their argument, only part of the recording of Clara being interviewed by police was entered into evidence. The jury heard the statement by Clara that she "wanted to hurt" her husband, but not the part where she said later in the interview, "I didn't want to kill him." Her defense attorney actually collapsed from the stress at this point in the trial. Court went to recess and he was taken then released from the hospital shortly thereafter. Clara contends that she did not see her husband David when she ran into him with her car. Although the medical examiner's report stated that only one tire mark could be certain on David's body, the defense was unable to prove that she did not in fact run over him multiple times.
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' eleventh wedding anniversary.
Clara Harris is incarcerated at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas, where she converts school textbooks to Braille for blind students. Her sons, who are in the custody of family friends, visit about once a month. She was denied parole in her first attempt on April 11, 2013, by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. She will be eligible to file for parole again in two years.
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 Mexican series Mujeres Asesinas "Killer Women." The chapter title is Luz, overwhelming (Luz, arrolladora).
The case was profiled on the Oxygen Network series Snapped in 2004, by 20/20 with Diane Sawyer reporting in 2006, and Deadly Women in 2010. It was also the topic of a Lifetime Original movie, Suburban Madness, starring Elizabeth Peña and Brett Cullen.
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- Madigan, Nick (2003-02-12). "Trial in Killing of Orthodontist Goes to Jury". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- "Harris, Clara L" (Archive). Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on December 28, 2015.
- Glenn, Mike (2013-04-12). "Clara Harris denied parole in husband's death". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
- McDaniel, Mike (2004-09-15). "Clara Harris case come to television". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-06-09.