Murder of David Lynn Harris

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David Lynn Harris was an American orthodontist who owned a chain of offices along with his wife, Clara Suarez Harris. The chain was particularly successful, and the couple were able to afford an upscale home and lifestyle in Friendswood, Texas. On July 24, 2002, Clara Harris confronted her husband in a hotel parking lot because of his extramarital affair, then struck and ran over him with her Mercedes-Benz, killing him. She was convicted of sudden passion and sentenced to twenty years in prison.[1]

Marriage[edit]

Clara Harris, a Colombian immigrant, was named "Mrs Colombia Houston" and worked as a dentist. She married David Harris on February 14, 1992, at the Nassau Bay Hilton, and raised three children: twin sons born in 1998 and David's daughter Lindsey from a previous marriage.[2] During his marriage to Harris, David began to have an affair with his former receptionist, Gail Bridges.[3] Clara, who was suspicious, hired a private detective agency to spy on her husband, and on July 24, 2002, the agency notified Harris that her husband was at a hotel with his mistress.[4]

Murder and trial[edit]

That evening, Harris went to the Hilton Hotel in Nassau Bay, Texas to confront her husband and reportedly attacked Bridges. Hotel employees escorted Harris to her Mercedes-Benz. When David and Bridges came out of the hotel, Harris struck down her husband in the parking lot as her teenaged stepdaughter Lindsey 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 and eyewitnesses assert Harris ran over David three times.[5] David was dead at the scene, and Harris was charged with first-degree murder.[6]

Harris' trial began the following February. Lindsey testified against her stepmother, claiming she told her to stop the vehicle.[1][7] The prosecution claimed Harris' actions were more than a crime of passion, but that she "wanted to hurt" David, as she was heard saying in a police interview. Also introduced at Harris' trial was a videotape of the crime, recorded by the detective agency Harris had hired when she suspected David continued to see his mistress. The video was especially damning, as it showed her circling her Mercedes around the parking lot three times, although David is not clearly seen in the video. Harris then parks her car next to his body.

The defense's attempts to prove Harris only ran over David once crumbled when the judge ruled their re-creation of the crime by a private consultant inadmissible in court. Her attorney explained what was in the report, using the consultant as an expert on the stand. They argued that Harris 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 another tire track on the pavement shown in a police photograph, the angle of which went directly to where David's body had been.

Harris was advised not to take the stand. However, after watching days of testimony, she decided she had to speak. Taking the stand allowed parts of Harris' original interview, which her attorneys had previously gotten inadmissible, to come into question. Only part of the interview was played; the jury heard Harris state that she "wanted to hurt" her husband, but not the portion where she said later in the interview, "I didn't want to kill him." This caused Harris' attorney to collapse from the stress, causing the court to go to recess as he was taken to the hospital and later released. Harris contends that she did not see David when she ran into him with her car. Despite the medical examiner's report, the defense was unable to prove that she did not in fact run over him multiple times.

Harris was found guilty of murdering her husband and on February 14, 2003, was sentenced to twenty years in prison – the maximum sentence allowed by the jury's "sudden passion" finding – and fined $10,000. She was incarcerated at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas,[8] where she converted school textbooks to Braille for blind students. Her sons, who are in the custody of family friends, were said to 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.[9] Her second parole request was denied in September 2016.[10] She was granted parole in November 2017.[11]

Aftermath[edit]

She was released on parole on May 11, 2018, and will remain on parole until February 2023.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

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.[13] 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, on 20/20 with Diane Sawyer reporting in 2006, Deadly Women in 2010, and the Corrupt Crimes episode "Murder by Mercedes" in 2016 (Season 1, episode 88). It was also the topic of Suburban Madness, a Lifetime Original movie, starring Elizabeth Peña and Brett Cullen.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Harris gets 20 years for Mercedes murder". CNN Justice. 2003-02-14. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
  2. ^ Zernike, Kate. "A Wife Betrayed Finds Sympathy at Murder Trial" (Archive). The New York Times. January 24, 2003. Retrieved on March 12, 2016.
  3. ^ Hollandsworth, Skip (1 November 2002). "Suburban Madness". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  4. ^ "Private Investigators, Police Testify at Dentist's Trial". Fox News. HOUSTON (TX): FOX News Network, LLC. Associated Press. 27 January 2003. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  5. ^ Rogers, Patrick (19 August 2002). "Murder by Mercedes? – Vol. 58 No. 9". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  6. ^ Madigan, Nick (2003-02-12). "Trial in Killing of Orthodontist Goes to Jury". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
  7. ^ Hart, Lianne (30 January 2003). "Victim's Daughter Testifies at Murder-by-Car Trial". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  8. ^ "Harris, Clara L" (Archive). Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on December 28, 2015.
  9. ^ Glenn, Mike (2013-04-12). "Clara Harris denied parole in husband's death". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
  10. ^ "TDCJ Offender Details". offender.tdcj.texas.gov. Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  11. ^ Rogers, Bryan (2017-11-06). "Clara Harris, infamous Houston dentist who ran over husband, released from prison". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  12. ^ Brian Rogers (16 April 2018). "Clara Harris released from prison after 15 years". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  13. ^ Steven Long (2004). Out of Control. St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN 9780312990275. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  14. ^ McDaniel, Mike (2004-09-15). "Clara Harris case come to television". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-06-09.