Updated August 5, 2002, 10:30 a.m. ET
Murder by MercedesCourt TV
HOUSTON (AP) 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 that contains "all of the activities and movements of the subject to the very end."
Harris' attorney, George Parnham, said last week that she will plead innocent at her Aug. 23 arraignment. She remains free on $30,000 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," Parnham said. "This was not an act that was anyway 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 the woman's shirt off, and announced to anyone within earshot that her husband was sleeping 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 M. Cashiola told the Houston Chronicle. "I saw the daughter lying on the ground, crying uncontrollably and sobbing. She had to watch her dad 5 feet from her, underneath the car, while they're putting her mom in handcuffs."
A witness, Angela Reyes, told the Chronicle that 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!"
Last week, the teenager's mother went to court to ask that David Harris' estate be placed in a trust for his children so it cannot be used by Clara Harris to defend herself or to profit from her husband's death.
Bridges' lawyer had no comment last week. At Bridges' two-story brown brick home, the shades were drawn and signs were posted along its walkway and driveway warning against trespassing.
The Harrises lived with their 3-year-old twin sons in a $560,000 white stone and brick mansion with a long, winding driveway on nearly four acres in the suburb of Friendswood. A woman who answered the door last week said Clara Harris had no comment.
Her dental office has reopened, but another dentist is seeing patients in her place.
©2002 Courtroom Television Network LLC.