CLARA and David Harris had the perfect life. They married on Valentine’s Day, worked in the same field, lived in an expensive home and were raising three beautiful children.
Then her husband cheated and she snapped. Fifteen years ago, Clara, a Texas-based dentist, was sent down for a crime that shocked America.
In the car park of a fancy hotel in Houston, she ran her husband down then whipped the car around and did it again. In total she struck him three times before getting out of the couple’s Mercedes Benz S-Class 430 and begging him to breathe.
Witnesses heard her apologise as he slipped away. “I’m so sorry,” she said.
This week, Clara walked from prison after serving 16 years of a maximum 20-year sentence. It would’ve been more but a jury found she acted under “sudden passion”, a distinction that spared her a much lengthier sentence.
Texas Monthly, which covered the case since Clara first went to trial, reported that her release followed four unsuccessful parole hearings between 2012 and 2017.
She’s a free woman now, loved by her children who acknowledge she took their father from them but who forgave her long ago.
The story made headlines around the world. Details of the case were salacious and tabloids revelled in the drama. They reported that in the foyer of the Hilton Hotel, Clara confronted David and his office receptionist, Gail Bridges.
She had tracked the pair down with the help of a private investigator and upon spotting them lashed out.
“You bitch, he’s my husband,” she shouted at Ms Bridges. Lindsey, David’s daughter from a previous marriage, told her father, “I hate you” over and over.
As the two parties went their separate ways — Clara and her stepdaughter returned to their vehicle and David and his mistress to her SUV — Clara made a decision that changed her family forever.
Lindsey told police on the night David was killed that Clara “stepped on the accelerator and went straight for him”. She testified that her stepmother said: “I’m going to hit him”, then did just that.
Clara, 45 at the time, discovered her husband was cheating a week earlier. David, 44, admitted he had been unfaithful but promised he would end it. The private investigator’s information revealed that to be untrue.
That same PI was filming outside the ritzy hotel when Clara, David, Gail and Lindsey emerged. His footage would become a key piece of evidence during trial. Shot in darkness, it showed Clara’s headlights darting around the car park but did not show the moment of impact.
At trial, Clara argued she never intended to kill her husband and that she was trying to stop Gail’s car from leaving the car park.
$AU6 million in a wrongful-death civil claim.
“The door is now shut,” David’s father Gerald said after a jury returned a unanimous verdict, according to the Houston Chronicle. “This gives us closure to the whole thing.”
Leaving prison this week, Clara smiled but refused to talk to reporters. She is 60 years old now and looking for a job. Her lawyer says she just wants to spend time with her family.
“All she wants to do is make up for lost time with her boys,” Kevin Stouwie said.