Lindsey's Loss

The wild ride of the teen who became a front-seat witness to her father's killing

And state District Judge Carol Davies had rejected Parnham's efforts to bar Lindsey's key statements from a deposition, when she quoted her stepmother as saying, "I could kill him and get away with it for all he's put me through."

On January 29, 2003, the bailiff in the criminal trial called the witness who would put the widow Harris in the penitentiary. Lindsey Harris came back to Houston with steely determination to imprison forever the woman who had killed her father. She was now 17, poised and articulate, the scars on her wrists healed.

Lindsey tried to commit suicide after her father's death.
Courtesy of Steven Long
Lindsey tried to commit suicide after her father's death.

Clara Harris came to court wearing a bright green suit. She greeted friends from Shadycrest Baptist Church as she walked down the right aisle. They were there as usual, there to show solidarity with the sister whom they all loved. Two of Clara's Colombian cousins sat against the wall.

Gerald and Millie Harris would not see their granddaughter testify because they had been sworn in as witnesses and barred from the courtroom. Lindsey was now estranged from them because of her civil suit and their unwavering support of Clara Harris.

At 1:28 p.m., Lindsey Harris took the stand. Clara looked at the stepdaughter she hadn't seen since July and smiled. The girl didn't smile back.

"Bring the jury in," Judge Davies told the bailiff.

Lindsey sat on the witness stand, weeping slightly, her straight hair parted down the middle, falling halfway down her chest, her oval face pretty.

Prosecutor Magness began quietly.

"How old were you when your parents got divorced?" she asked.

"I was four," Lindsey answered.

Lindsey settled in to her testimony more comfortably as she answered Magness's introductory questions, her speech clipped. The prosecutor turned to the previous July 17, the morning after the girl had played music with her father.

"I was on the computer," Lindsey began. "I heard yelling upstairs. Clara, I could hear her. At first I was really scared. They never yelled. They were in the bathroom."

"What did she say to you after the fight?" Magness asked.

"I have to tell you something; he is having an affair," Lindsey answered matter-of-factly.

The girl was shaken by what her stepmother was saying, despite what she had witnessed in the office between her father and his receptionist.

"He just wouldn't do anything like that," she continued. "He went to church. He loved Clara. I felt really bad for her."

Suddenly, there was a bond between the girl and her stepmother that hadn't been there before, Lindsey testified. "We became very close. We went shopping. She told me everything. It made me feel important."

Clara Harris immediately went on a crash diet to lose weight. Lindsey watched as her stepmother now concentrated on the new woman she would become, shopping with the girl at Victoria's Secret and Caché.

"He told her he loved her for the way she looked already," Lindsey said. "…I felt that he was going to give Gail up. I asked him and he said yes, and I was happy."

On Monday, Lindsey learned of the meeting David planned to have with Gail at Perry's steak house on Wednesday to break off the affair.

Despite Lindsey's hopes, things weren't okay. David Harris had told his wife that he missed Gail Bridges.

The courtroom attention was riveted on Lindsey as she began to tell her version of what happened when they arrived at the Hilton the following day. She detailed Clara's rage and vandalism of Gail's SUV, then the wild assault inside the hotel.

As she testified, Lindsey looked directly at Clara Harris, her hair in the trademark black bow, and her stepmother looking back at her.

"Outside, she told me that she could kill my father and get away with it for how he's been acting." Gasps emerged from spectators as they heard the words that would begin to seal Clara Harris's fate.

"When did she say that?" Magness asked.

"Thirty minutes before the fight."

When Clara assaulted Gail, Lindsey said, "I was standing back and asking people to help. I was really scared. I had never seen anything like this before."

Her testimony led up to the lethal moments when Clara aimed the Mercedes at her father. "She stepped on the accelerator and went straight for him. He pushed Gail out of the way. When she stepped on the accelerator, it threw me back in the seat."

Lindsey described the impact. "I felt the bump. I knew it was him. I said, 'You're killing him.' "

Magness asked about Clara's actions later, after, according to Lindsey, she ran over the body three times.

"Did she try to comfort you?" Magness asked.

"No," Lindsey answered.

Magness had a final question.

"Did you have any more contact with her?"

"She called two days later when I was at my grandparents'," the girl said. "She said she was so sorry. She said she wanted me to be an orthodontist and be a part of the business."

On cross-examination, Parnham began by gently questioning Lindsey about the closeness that developed between her and her stepmother after her father's affair was revealed.

"You had a shared relationship with your dad?" he asked.

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