HoustonChronicle.com

Feb. 7, 2003, 10:34PM

Harris doesn't recall hitting her husband

By ALLAN TURNER
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

Shocked by the sight of her husband strolling hand in hand with his mistress -- and wearing a "Mona Lisa" smile after an evening tryst -- Clara Harris sped through a hotel parking lot to smash her rival's auto with her Mercedes-Benz, Harris testified Friday.

But, the murder defendant told jurors, she instantly slipped into a dreamlike state and cannot recall whether she hit the Lincoln Navigator or anything else.

In cross-examination, however, she later admitted that she remembered some of the night's events, but denied that she ran over her husband, Clear Lake orthodontist David Harris.

After her car turned circles in the parking lot and then stopped, she said, she recognized a man lying on the ground as her husband.

"I couldn't understand why he was there," she said. "I held his face. There was a little line of blood coming from his ear. I said, `David, David, talk to me.' His eyes were half open. His mouth was halfway open. He seemed to be in and out of consciousness.

"I saw a shadow behind his head, but I didn't want to look at it. I know now that it was blood."

Friday marked the second day of testimony from Harris, who is accused of deliberately running over her husband July 24 in a fit of jealous rage outside a Nassau Bay hotel.

As jurors listened without apparent emotion, Harris, 45, punctuated her tale of marital betrayal with weeping, sometimes burying her face in her hands. She recounted her desperate efforts to save her marriage -- including planned breast enlargement surgery -- and told of how her anxiety lingered even after her husband promised to end an affair with Gail Bridges, his office receptionist.

Harris testified that when she became convinced that her husband had not met Bridges to call off the affair, she and her teenage stepdaughter, Lindsey, traveled to at least four area restaurants in an unsuccessful hunt for the pair.

A private investigator's telephone tip took them to the Nassau Bay Hilton, where after a lengthy search, they found Bridges' sport utility vehicle.

"I grabbed the windshield wiper in back," Harris told jurors. "I bent it so many times. It was so painful in my hand, but it was more painful in my heart. I bent the wipers in front and scratched the paint with my fingernails ... I kept looking at the hotel windows, thinking he could see me."

Then Harris and the teen returned to the hotel, prowling through the lobby in a vain search.

"We loved David," she said, "and we wanted him to come home."

The pair called Harris on his cell phone, urging him in a fabricated story to come home because one of his 3-year-old twin sons was ill.

Reassured by his claim to be at a restaurant, they waited outside, expecting the orthodontist to return his mistress to her car.

Then they saw the pair walking from an elevator.

"He was holding Gail's hand the way he held mine when I was special to him," she testified. "He had kind of a Mona Lisa smile on his face."

Bridges, she said, was smiling.

"She was very happy," Harris told jurors. "I grabbed her by the hair and called her a son of a bitch. David came behind me and said, `Oh, no, no, no, no.' He grabbed me by the back, but I still had her hair. We ended up on the floor."

Harris said she was escorted from the hotel after the melee but could not remember how she got outside. "I backed out (in the car), and suddenly thought I'd smash Gail's car," she said.

As she gained speed and rounded a corner, she testified, "I saw three people standing by the (Navigator's) driver's door. Two were running toward the front and I thought I saw surprised eyes -- David -- in front of the car. I didn't expect the impact with the median, it was so high.

"I think I closed my eyes. After that I didn't know who was driving. Everything was like a dream ... Everything was in slow motion."

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Mia Magness challenged Harris' account, reminding her of statements she made to police after her arrest.

"On the night of your arrest, you talked to the police and said you saw them standing there, he was about to put her into the seat, and that you wanted to separate them?" Magness said.

"If that's what the tapes said and it was in my voice. I don't remember," Harris replied.

"Didn't you make those statements?" asked Magness.

"Yes, but they didn't make any sense," Harris responded.

For about half an hour, Magness questioned Harris in an attempt to clarify whether she denied making statements reported by police, didn't remember making them or didn't remember what happened at the hotel.

Magness suggested that the defendant had spent the week since she had learned of her husband's affairs contriving ways to win him back.

"Hair, workouts, talking -- now it was clear none of those were successful," she said. "So you used what was available. You were going to separate him with your car."

"No," Harris answered. "You got it all wrong."

Magness also questioned Harris about statements she made to police about wanting to hurt her husband, and hammered at the defendant's claim that she had suffered a blackout.

"Did you hit him with the car?" Magness asked.

"I didn't see that happening, I swear to God," Harris said.

Then Magness reminded Harris of eyewitness accounts of her husband being run over two or more times.

"I didn't even see hitting him," Harris said. "I did not run over him. I never felt running over him."

Earlier Friday, Harris continued her testimony concerning David Harris' point-by-point comparison between his wife and his mistress. The defendant jotted notes from the conversation on two cocktail napkins, which were admitted as evidence.

Harris testified that her husband told her Bridges was "petite," with a "perfect fit to sleep with holding her all night."

"I couldn't believe it," Harris said. "Holding her all night -- we never slept like that, ever."

The napkins also revealed that David Harris thought Bridges had "big boobs."

The defendant noted on the napkins that she would soon have larger breasts.

The orthodontist additionally told his wife that both women had good values.

"I agreed with that," Harris told jurors. "When I saw her with the children at a May 16 party -- two girls and one boy -- I didn't think the bad comments about her were true. They were so gracious and well-dressed.

"She was such a good mother."



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