Thriller Thursday: Broken Heart or Calculated Murder?

Due to this post from Roni Loren (thank you for the warning, Roni) I’ve decided to remove most photos from Thriller Thursday. I hope you’re still able to enjoy them!

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned is an accurate cliché—every woman reading this is well aware of how vicious our kind can become. On On July 24, 2002, Clara Harris took revenge on her cheating husband by running him down with her car in a hotel parking lot.

She claimed it was an accident. Witnesses said she ran over him three times.

Clara and David Harris were prominent Houston residents, raising two twin sons along with David’s daughter from a previous marriage. After ten years of marriage, they had a successful dental practice, a beautiful mansion, and the perfect family.

Then Clara found out David had been having an affair with an office receptionist, Gail Bridges. She didn’t believe it when another dental employee told her about her husband’s adultery.

“I thought she was trying to destroy my marriage,” Clara told Oprah Winfrey in 2005. Then David admitted he’d been seeing receptionist Gail, but swore he’d done nothing more than kiss her hand. He insisted he would do anything he could to save the marriage.

“I said, ‘Okay,'” Clara told Oprah. “‘I want you to fire her today. I want us to go to marriage counseling. I want you to tell your parents. And I want you to tell the pastor.'”

Clara then found out David’s sixteen-year-old daughter knew about the affair. She informed Clara that all the girls in the office knew, and that David and Gail went to lunch every day.

Clara resolved to do whatever it would take to save her marriage. She worried her career ambitions had gotten in the way, that she and David had grown apart. On a date at a romantic piano bar, Clara asked David what the difference was between her and Gail.

David’s answer shattered Clara. Her husband told her his mistress “had zero fat,” and admitted to having sex with Gail, calling it a fantasy come true. Clara claimed David’s comments drove her to hire a personal trainer, purchase a tanning membership, and plan to have her hair and nails tended to every day. She also said she put down a deposit at the plastic surgeon for breast augmentation and liposuction, and then went shopping for sexy clothes.

Then, the woman who’d come from Columbia in her early twenties and achieved the American dream, told her husband she’d called the office and retired. She would dedicate herself to David and her family.

David told Clara he wanted to break things off with Gail in person. “I thought, he’s a man; he’s not a child,” Clara said in 2005. David met Gail at a restaurant while Clara waited in her car with David’s daughter Lindsey. She’d come along to give her stepmother emotional support.

Clara had sent a private investigator inside to listen to Gail and David’s conversation. David’s office manager was also in the restaurant, and Clara says the manager called her when she saw David wasn’t going in the direction of the restaurant.

David Harris had sealed his own fate.

First, Clara and Lindsey drove to Gail’s house, but David’s truck wasn’t there. They went back to the restaurant, and then received a call from the P.I. He told Clara that David and Gail were checking into the Hilton—the same hotel where David and Clara held their wedding reception.

I don’t condone Clara’s next actions, but I do understand them. She must have been humiliated and feeling utterly betrayed. The fact that her husband KNEW she was in the restaurant parking lot waiting and still chose to take his mistress to the Hilton is beyond callous.

Clara and Lindsay drove to the hotel. They checked the hotel restaurant and bathrooms. Clara claimed Lindsey called her Dad and made up a story one of her twin brothers was sick. Minutes later, a couple emerged from the elevator. David and Gail were holding hands.

“He’s holding her hand, like he held my hand so many times. And at that moment, what I felt is just—impossible. There was a complete disconnection between my mind—I stopped thinking—and my actions. There was no connection between my brain and my actions.” –Clara Harris to Oprah in 2005.

Clara attacked Gail. Security forced Clara and Lindsey to leave. As she went back to her car with Lindsey, Clara realized David must have ridden to the hotel with Gail. All she could think about was stopping him from leaving with his mistress.

She claims she didn’t mean to hit her husband. Clara drove her Mercedes straight toward Gail’s SUV. She turned to the side to avoid hitting the car head on.

“I expected the car to stop right there where you park—that concrete little thing—I thought the car was going to stop there, but obviously it didn’t. It picked up air.”

Clara claims David turned back to stop the car, and she hit him.

“I couldn’t believe David was on the floor—I had just seen him running. I couldn’t understand why he was just laying down, like nothing.” – Clara Harris

The medical examiner saw things differently. He insisted Clara ran over her husband three times. Clara Harris’s defense denied this, claiming the tire tracks told a different story.

But none of that mattered. Lindsey Harris sat helpless in the passenger seat as Clara Harris ran her father down. She described the attack in detail at trial.

“She went right through (a hotel employee) and straight for my dad. I was yelling, ‘Stop, don’t do that. Go the other way,'” Lindsey Harris testified.

“What did your dad do?” Prosecutor Mia Magness asked.

“He pushed Gail out of the way. When Clara went towards them. Clara said, ‘I’m going to hit him.’ (Dad) had his hands in front of the car. He yelled ‘stop’ and she didn’t. I didn’t know if she had run over him or if he had gotten away,” Lindsey Harris answered. “She went over the median, circled around and ran over him again.”

Magness then asked, “How do you know?”

“Because I heard the bump. I yelled, ‘Stop, you’re killing him.’ I could tell when we were going over the big concrete curve and when we were going over my dad, it felt different,'” Lindsey Harris said. “She ran over him the first time, then two more times. A total of three times.”

–Via the January 29th, 2003 Houston Chronicle.

If that weren’t enough, a videotape from the detective agency Clara had hired was entered as evidence. They’d recorded the entire thing.

Mistress Gail Bridges has stayed mostly out of sight. She did give an audio interview to a Houston television station.

“It’s hard to tell. I could hear someone yell at me to get away from my car … to get away and I didn’t quite understand why until I turned and looked. That was when she struck me on my leg with the vehicle. His last words to me were, ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry’ and then he lost his life shortly after that.” –Gail Bridges, David Harris’s mistress.

On Valentine’s Day, 2003, on what would have been her eleventh wedding anniversary, Clara Harris was sentenced to twenty years in prison. She’s eligible for parole in 2013. Her lighter sentence is due in part to hers being a crime of passion, and to the goodness of David Harris’s parents. They believed David would want Clara to have a chance to be with their sons instead of spending life in prison. They are currently being raised by friends of Clara’s and see her frequently.

In 2007 was ordered to pay her dead husband’s parents, Gerald and Mildred Harris, $3.75 million in a wrongful-death suit. Her requests for a new trial have been denied.

For more about Lindsey Harris’s horrible experience, go here.

What do you think? Was Clara Harris driven to her actions by her cheating husband? Does she deserve to be out of prison in 2013?

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About Stacy Green

Stacy Green is the best selling author of psychological thrillers and mystery with a dash of romance. As a stay at home mom, she's blessed with making writing a full-time career. She lives in Iowa with her supportive husband, daughter, and their three fur-babies.
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32 Responses to Thriller Thursday: Broken Heart or Calculated Murder?

  1. Fallon says:

    While I think his callousness towards her was terrible, I don’t think that is any excuse. Even if it was a crime of passion, she’s the one that made the decision to run him down. No, I don’t think she deserves to be released so soon.

    And I just want to say, I love reading your Thriller Thursday posts. Look forward to them every week.

    • Stacy Green says:

      No, it’s not. As I said to Kelly, I DO understand her state of mind to a point. But her running over him multiple times is what really gets to me. Wasn’t once enough to make her snap out of it?

      I’m so glad to hear that! I love writing them. Thanks!

  2. beverlydiehl says:

    This is why women (and men) should never totally wrap themselves up in a relationship – doing so can make you more than a little crazy.

    I remember when I first heard the story – a little part of me said “Good for her,” and it’s still there. I think it’s horrific for poor Lindsay, and the twins. Not feeling a lot of sympathy for the dead guy. While death is a really high price to pay for cheating, MEN have been shooting their cheating wives and getting away with it as a crime of passion for a very long time.

    • Stacy Green says:

      I agree, Beverly. We all need to define ourselves outside our significant others.

      There’s a part of me that agrees with her, too. He treated her so badly and said some awful things. Can’t imagine what it was like for Lindsey to be next to her and be able to do nothing had to have been awful.

      And what a good point about men vs. women. Yet another double standard.

      Thanks!

  3. I think this is proof of the saying, “There’s a thin line between love and hate.” He turned his wife’s love to hate with his hurtful comments and cheating. I don’t think that excuses what she did though.

  4. Hmm. I never know what to comment for Thriller Thursdays. From what I read, it sounded like her husband pulled the last straw and she got very very angry.

  5. Annie says:

    Wow…this story is riveting. In a way I can understand when she says there was a disconnect between her brain and actions. I think this is the same disconnect that happens to hardened criminals when they kill. To me the mistress has David’s blood on her hands. If she needed him, she should have waited until he got divorced. It’s messy and very sad. I feel very sorry for the children. This riled me up, Stacy!

    • Stacy Green says:

      I understand what she’s saying, too. And that’s a very cool point – it is that disconnect that enables killers to commit their murders. I think the most fascinating part is what causes that disconnect – it’s different for every killer. Thanks for bringing that up about the mistress – I really can’t feel too sorry for her. She certainly knew he was married.

      Glad to hear it. Thanks!

  6. Catie Rhodes says:

    This is terrible to admit, but I giggle every time I read this story. There’s nothing funny about it. But the idea of a woman rampaging around the Hilton parking lot in her fancy car is somehow humorous.

    Perhaps the lesson here is that sometimes it’s best to tell the truth and face the consequences. Had David told Clara, “I don’t want you anymore; it’s over,” she probably wouldn’t have run over him. But it seems like he was playing with her. Sort of like, “I’m going to do this, and there’s nothing you can do but sit back and take it.” People can only take so much.

    Ideally, as adults we should have enough self-control to walk away before things get to the point of running someone over. However, there is no guarantees in love or in war. And sometimes there’s a real thin line between those two extremes.

    • Stacy Green says:

      LOL. I will never understand David’s thinking: did some part of him want to eat his cake, too, or was it all about money? They were both successful dentists, so I’m not sure how much a divorce would have cost him. And yes, it does seem like he was playing with her. I suppose when she quit the practice he figured he had her where he wanted.

      So damned true about the thin line between love and war/hate. They blur a lot. Thanks:)

  7. Your blog beats SNAPPED, hands down. So glad to have found another sassy lady who dips into the dark side…as a protagonist, of course. 😉 Eager to stay tuned!

  8. What a horrible tragedy. I can imagine Clara lost it. Not that losing it excuses what happened but sometimes people can act in a rage. Although it’s interesting how stiff a penalty she got. There’ve been people that have committed more brutal murders that got less time. Not that I’m saying she should have gotten a lighter sentence.

    I love your Thriller Thursdays, Stacy. They’re always so well done. 😀

    • Stacy Green says:

      Exactly. I empathize with her losing it, but can’t condone it. Don’t get me started on the justice system in this country, lol. It’s amazing how many loopholes can be found to keep criminals from serving less time.

      Thanks so much! I love writing them:)

  9. Julie Glover says:

    This story hits me right where I am – geographically. This couple lived in my town and that hotel is about 20 minutes away. I have driven by that Hilton numerous times. As you can imagine, this case was discussed a lot around here.

    The prevailing opinion was that Clara Harris shouldn’t have done it, but then again David Harris kind of had it coming. The kicker was that he took his mistress to the place attached to his wedding memories. Really? How big a jerk can you be? Still, leave the idiot and make him pay out the wazoo post-divorce; don’t kill him. The person I really feel for here is that daughter who was so horribly caught in the middle.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Catie had mentioned this. I was going to ask if you could take pics of the house but I totally dismissed it. I agree with that prevailing opinion. I can’t believe he took his mistress there, when he knew (as I understood it) that Clara was in the parking lot. I think Clara’s is a true crime of passion, but running over him 3 times is unreal. Yes, what horrible memories for Lindsey.

      Thanks!

  10. Wow–that’s quite a story. Is it right? No. But can I understand where that rage came from that led to her actions–yo bet.

    Angela@ The Bookshelf Muse

    • Stacy Green says:

      Exactly, Angela. That’s how I feel. I can’t imagine what that night was like for her, especially after all the changes she’d made. But still … she’s where she belongs.

      Thanks!

  11. This story is horrifying. It reads like a thriller book but the fact it has really happen scares me. How crazy one has to be to take someone’s life? There are other ways to end an unhappy marriage.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Yes, it’s a very scary story, especially when you can empathize with her. She had to be out of her mind with anger, but there’s a part of me that can’t blame her.

      Thanks!

  12. Wow – incredible story. Can you imagine?!?!
    I feel terrible for her and what he put her through. She didn’t deserve to be disrespected that way. Obviously it pushed her over the edge but there’s no excuse for taking another’s life. And when you do, you should have to fulfill the full term of your sentence.

    • Stacy Green says:

      No, I really can’t. I do empathize with her, but she had no excuse. It’s the running over him three times that is the most awful. I don’t believe she should be out on parole, either. My heart hurts for Lindsey – I don’t know how a person gets past that.

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it:)

  13. P.S. LOVE your Thursday posts! 🙂

  14. Liz says:

    Excellent post! The guy was a bastard, there’s no doubt. She did the mistress a big favor by freeing her from this man who would have eventually destroyed her as well. Having said that the husband was a narcissistic jerk, however, does not change the fact that she committed murder. I feel sorry for her, but she’s where she needs to be. If you haven’t read it, I think you’d enjoy _Stalking the Soul_ by Hirigoyen. Excellent book on the emotional devastation committed by narcissists.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Thanks, Liz. True about the mistress, although I can’t feel too much sympathy for her since she knew he was married. And no, it definitely doesn’t qualify what she did. Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll definitely check it out!

  15. I have heard this story many, many times. I also don’t condone what Clara did, but have I wondered what it would feel like to get revenge this way? Who hasn’t? Now, I wouldn’t….. Another great True Crime post, Stacy!

  16. Kathie Morgan says:

    I remember this happening! I say good for her for running the creep down. I made her feel bad about herself and he deserved what he got. Just wished he had lived with some of disability (like no penis).

  17. nj says:

    Clara is a gentle and kind woman. She is up for parole and she will not re-offend, and since prison is supposed to rehabilitate there is no reason she shouldn’t be getting out. I hope she does.

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