Toronto Star

Aug. 6, 12:00 EDT

Death by car caught on camera

Wife suspected husband of cheating

Pam Easton
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Toronto Star

HOUSTON Suspecting her husband of having an affair, Clara Harris did what wealthy wives can afford to do: She hired an investigator. But what the private eye saw could become Exhibit A against Harris herself.

As the investigator's video camera rolled, an enraged Harris allegedly killed her husband in a parking lot by running him over three times with her silver Mercedes-Benz. The victim's 16-year-old daughter was in the passenger seat.

"It was an accident," Harris, a 44-year-old dentist, told reporters after her arrest on murder charges.

The episode happened July 24 outside a hotel after Harris confronted her orthodontist husband, David, and got into a screaming fight with the alleged other woman.

Bobbi Bacha of Blue Moon Investigations said the detective agency turned over to police a videotape with "all of the activities and movements of the subject to the very end."

Harris' attorney, George Parnham, said she'll plead innocent at her Aug. 23 arraignment. She remains free on $30,000 (U.S.) bail.

Parnham, who unsuccessfully defended Andrea Yates, the Houston mother who claimed insanity after drowning her five children in the bathtub, suggested that this case, too, would hinge on the defendant's state of mind.

"Obviously, something triggered what happened," he said. "This was not an act that was in any way akin to the mentality of Clara Harris. We have a professional person who is very intelligent. When you see the man that you love in the arms of someone else that has to have such a deep emotional impact on you."

Harris had hired Blue Moon Investigations on the very day her 44-year-old husband was killed. But before the investigator could confirm her suspicions, she showed up unexpectedly at the suburban hotel where her husband of 10 years had gone with one of his employees, Gail Bridges. The investigator had David Harris under surveillance at the time.

Witnesses said Clara Harris got into a fight with Bridges in the lobby, ripping off the woman's shirt, and announced to everyone her husband was having an affair with Bridges. David Harris and about 10 hotel employees tried to pull the two women apart.

Security guards escorted David Harris and Bridges outside. Clara Harris, meanwhile, got into her 2001 four-door Mercedes S-Class 430. With tires squealing, she headed toward a crowd in the parking lot as alarmed hotel employees banged on the hood and tried to get her to stop, witnesses said.

"She jumped the median and ran over him three times," Nassau Bay police Lt. Joe Cashiola told the Houston Chronicle. "I saw the daughter lying on the ground, crying uncontrollably and sobbing. She had to watch her dad five feet from her ... while they're putting her mom in handcuffs."

A witness, Angela Reyes, told the Chronicle David Harris' teenage daughter from a previous marriage jumped out of the car and punched Clara Harris in the face. Clara Harris yelled toward her husband: "I'm so sorry! I love you! Keep breathing!"

The Harrises lived with their 3-year-old twin sons in a $560,000 (U.S.) white stone and brick mansion with a winding driveway on 1.3 hectares in Friendswood suburb.

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