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Updated Saturday, May 09, 2009 9:46 PM

Bonham woman's death still a mystery 7 years later


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Jennifer Harris

BY JERRIE WHITELEY

HERALD DEMOCRAT

Seven years after fishermen pulled her body from the dark waters of the Red River, the mystery of who killed Jennifer Harris of Bonham remains unsolved.

May 12, 2002, Jennifer Harris left a friend's house promising to return in a few hours, but she didn't get to keep that promise.

Police found her green 2000 Jeep Wrangler a few hours later near Lake Bonham. Twenty-four hours later, police declared Jennifer missing and six days later, officials told her father, Jerry Harris, his daughter had died.

Jerry Harris said he almost didn't want to talk about the anniversary this year. In the past the family has held vigils or issued statements. Jerry Harris said his reluctance to do those things this year had nothing do with healing from the pain of grieving for his daughter. It sprang from frustration that has reached a point beyond expression, almost.

"The reality is, if you loved the person, (losing them in such a way) is a horrible nightmare that simply shatters your life," Jerry Harris said. That pain that entered his world in May  2002 has been his constant companion.

When asked about the case and any new developments, Jerry Harris sighed deeply and sat quietly for a long moment before saying there really haven't been in any in a while, at least none that he knows about.

Weary of the slow nature of the case, Jennifer' Harris' family decided to put up a Web site. A selection of pictures of a vivacious young woman, her red locks cascading in curls down her back, greets visitors to the page, with the words,

"There's an empty chair at our table now ...

A voice unheard and yet somehow

In the quiet stillness of the night

She calls to us to make things right."

It is the first stanza of the poem written by Jennifer's Aunt Sandra Schneider. It continues:

"We take comfort that the gorgeous red glow

Has now moved ahead to a bright halo.

In a place more fair than earth had to offer

She has joined her mother, daddy Red and her Papa."

Harris said he really hasn't had a lot to do with putting the page together. His sister asked if it would be okay with him, and he agreed.

"I look at it as more of a tribute to Jennifer and (a way) to make a public display of the fact that she is not forgotten," Harris said.

"But maybe by some outrageous stroke of luck we might get someone to remember something that they heard or something that they know that might lead to the killer," he continued.

The Web site is called justice4jennifer.org, but Harris said that notion of justice is something of misnomer in his opinion.

"Justice can never be done in Jennifer's murder because nothing can ever bring Jennifer back to us," her father said.

It is still important, he added, that the person responsible for killing his daughter be found, prosecuted and punished.

"I happen to think that the person who killed my daughter may go on to kill others and very well may already have done so."

Law enforcement authorities have spent countless hours working on the case, but still can't point to any particular person as a suspect.

Fannin County Sheriff Kenneth Moore said this week that his office has some information it didn't have a year ago and that might lead somewhere.

"There are three people that we are going to speak with in the very near future,'' he said. But he said he would have to stop short of calling those people suspects.

"There is an individual out there somewhere that knows what happened. To me that person is a psychopath ... almost seven years have gone by and that person has not said one word (about the crime) to anyone ... that is odd even in today's world," Moore said and then stressed that it's only his opinion.

"Opinions are like ears, most people have at least one."

"Every lead we get, no matter how we get it, we follow it up," Moore said before adding that he looks at some part of the case file every day at work.

He can't help but look at it because two-thirds of the case sits stacked on his desk and the rest of it occupies a chunk of space nearby.

"We want to solve this. This case is solvable," he said before acknowledging that the statement will make more than one person ask, "Then why hasn't it been solved?"

The answer, he said, is complicated and frustrating.

"We are pulling from every resource and following every lead we get trying to solve it."

And still, he said, he can almost understand Harris' heartbreak about the slow road the case has traveled so far.

"I hope I never know (the feeling of) how heartbroken he is. I am sure every waking moment of his life he thinks about her."

Jerry Harris said most of his thoughts about Jennifer bring back happy memories, but talking about them, he said, just makes him miss her even more.

However, he said he hopes people continue to talk and think about what happened to Jennifer until someone, somewhere remembers something. And the memory provides that one clue that opens the whole thing up and brings to justice the person who ripped his world apart.

Talking about Jennifer's case is good, Moore said, noting that, "the more people that know about a problem law enforcement has," adds to the likelihood that the case will get solved.

Moore stressed, however, that some of what has been said about the case is just talk or rumor or gossip ... whichever word one chooses.

One such report is the claim that Jennifer was pregnant when she died.

"I heard that from the start ... and as recently as a few months ago."

He said there is nothing in the case that points to her being pregnant. It is just speculation. But even that speculation has been investigated.

"If we don't follow up (on every lead) it could come back to haunt us."

He said he doesn't want to end up on a witness stand trying to convict someone for the crime and have the investigation questioned.

Another person who is eager to get the case to the point of a witness stand is Fannin County District Attorney Richard Glaser. He said the case will remain open until it is solved, and his office looks forward to being able to prosecute the person responsible for taking Jennifer away from her family and friends.

On the Web: www.fanninso.org/jenniferharrishomicide.html

Comments ... 10 found!

Help find Killer! : 8/16/2010
You need to look harder and find who killed this beautiful woman. You really need to look who she was last seen with and question them. By reading about the case and statements, something is being hidden. I can feel it and it seems like nobody wants to talk. Well its been to long, its time for some answers.

Justice Now!

Look Harder : 8/16/2010
You need to look harder and find who killed this beautiful woman. You really need to look who she was last seen with and question them. By reading about the case and statements, something is being hidden. I can feel it and it seems like nobody wants to talk. Well its been to long, its time for some answers.

Justice Now!

Mike McClellan : 5/12/2009
Just wanted to add that Mike DID NOT move out of town hours after this story broke. He spent many months and hours working on it. The comment that he left town after this are false. He did move, but it had nothing to do with this case.

Irritated

Coincidence? : 5/12/2009
People thought it was strangely coincidental that the former lead investigator Mike McClellen, resigned from his job and moved out of town within hours of this story breaking.

Former Fannin Citizen #2

Gossip Mongers : 5/11/2009
If you know something about this case then call the police. If you heard something at the beauty shop, coffee shop, wal-mart, etc... read first Timothy 5:13 and find better things to do with your time.

Ed in Telephone

Help This Family!! : 5/11/2009
Someone knows something that could help solve this case!! Please help this family find out who took their beautiful, vibrant daughter from them. I watched this mischievous little girl grow into a wonderful, loving young lady and I can't believe whoever did this can live with not letting her family and friends know what happened. Please look in your heart and do the right thing. If you know anything that could help give an anonymous tip & HELP FIND THIS KILLER!!!!

A Concerned Mom

Comments? : 5/11/2009
Although I have heard the gossip, I have no knowledge that the former DA had anything to do with this case but again, I know little about it. Regardless, while gossip is not good and doesn't help any casue, I'm not sure how any comments can "keep this case from being solved" if there is any evidence. They solicited the help of the Texas Rangers and I can assure you that the Texas Rangers don't care "who is who" in Fannin County. Regardless, there are people who DO know what happened to her. I would ask them to help in some way, make an anonymous tip, give some details, whatever. What goes around comes around and this could be YOUR daughter or sister (or whoever) someday! PLEASE HELP GIVE HER FAMILY CLOSURE!

Heard Different

DA : 5/11/2009
Former DA had nothing to do with this case. Rumors, all rumors. Comments like this are what keep this case from being solved.

Concerned

Amen Heard : 5/10/2009
Ask the former DA of Fannin County!

Former Fannin Citzen

A Mystery? : 5/10/2009
Is this really a mystery or were there people involved who need to be "kept out" of it?

Heard Different
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