Skip to comments.Mistress: David Harris said he had open marriage - mistress testifies in Clara Harris murder trial
Posted on 02/04/2003 5:29:56 PM PST by MeekOneGOP
Feb. 4, 2003, 6:11PM
Clara Harris is accused of running over her husband after catching him with his former receptionist at a hotel.
From the arrest to the trial
What we know about them
The experts: Why they're split over jurors
Preparing for the trial: Video report from Jan. 19.
From the Chronicle's archives:
The story of Clara and David Harris: They epitomized success and happiness, but underneath the facade... - Jan. 19
The wife: Mother of twins kept to herself - Aug. 4
The mistress: Mistress not a stranger to the spotlight - Aug. 4
The married couple: Victim wanted to end marriage - July 27
The mistress of slain orthodontist David Harris testified today that Harris had told her that he and Clara Harris had an open marriage and that they each could date other people.
Gail Bridges told the jurors that she believed this was true because she was told that Clara Harris had had a previous affair herself.
Clara Harris is accused of deliberately running over her husband with her Mercedes-Benz in a fit of jealous rage after finding him at a Clear Lake City hotel with Bridges. The fatal incident happened July 24 after a violent confrontation in the hotel lobby.
Bridges testified today that she went to work in David Harris' office in August 2001. She said she began dating him in the springtime of 2002 and first had sex with him in May of that year during what started out as a Galleria shopping trip.
On July 24, she was standing in the open door of her Navigator when Clara Harris sideswiped the car with her Mercedes. Bridges said she was "in a fog for several days" and could not testify as to any of the events that happened with the Mercedes except that it hit her car.
The slender 39-year-old divorced mother of three choked up several times during her testimony as Clara Harris stared stonily into the gallery and never made eye contact with Bridges.
Bridges said that she did not blame Clara Harris for being angry with her. At the July 24 rendezvous that ended in David Harris' death, Bridges said she was unaware that he had told his wife that he was going to end the affair.
Asked directly, "You thought you (and David Harris) had a future together?" she responded, "Yes."
In testimony earlier today, a nanny employed by the Harris family said she observed changes in David Harris' behavior beginning in May 2002 when his wife was away on a trip to her native Colombia.
Maria Gonzalez, who had worked for the family for about three years, said David Harris began dressing more "impeccably," and using more "perfume and lotion."
"He did a lot of exercises and lost a lot of weight," said Gonzalez, who spoke in Spanish through an interpreter.
Gonzalez said that prior to Clara Harris' departure, David Harris would arrived home around 6 p.m. After Clara Harris left, he began arriving home about 7:30 p.m.
Gonzalez testified that she received a phone call from Clara Harris on July 24 in which Harris told her that she had been out looking for her husband at restaurants in Clear Lake and had determined that he was at the hotel with former receptionist Gail Bridges.
Clara Harris told Gonzalez to put a week's worth of David's clothes in the oldest suitcase in the house and put it on the doorstep and to throw the rest of his clothes away, Gonzalez said.
On cross-examination, prosecutor Mia Magness asked Gonzalez if Clara Harris seemed upset when she made the call.
"No," said Gonzalez.
"Was the conversation in a normal voice?," Magness asked.
The nanny testified that she had only seen Clara Harris mad twice in the time she had worked for the family.
One of those times was on the morning of July 17, when David Harris had admitted his affair with Bridges to his wife.
Gonzalez said she heard the couple yelling at each other in their bedroom and that when she went up to check, she saw Clara Harris getting up off the bathroom floor.
In testimony Monday, witnesses testified that as hanky-panky between orthodontist David Harris and his office receptionist became more obvious, other workers fretted that his judgment might be slipping and his dental practice might be swamped by scandal.
Dental public relations woman Diana Sherrill testified that the entire staff of David Harris' Space Center Orthodontics was suspicious about their boss' relationship with Bridges.
"You could almost feel the chemistry between them," Sherrill said. " ... All the other office workers were nice, but they'd be physically ill by the time they left for the day. They didn't say anything for fear of losing their jobs."
Before Bridges joined the clinic in mid-2001, Harris gave all appearances of being a devoted family man, Sherrill said.
He and his wife, who had a dental practice in Lake Jackson, owned six dental offices in the Houston area and frequently saw each other's patients.
"He was very proud of Clara," she recalled. "He said he wished he could clone her and put her in every single office."
Office manager Cathey Davis testified that Clara Harris was madly in love with her husband.
"He was the love of her life, and it was very obvious," she said.
But with Bridges' arrival, the two witnesses told jurors, things quickly went downhill. Sherrill said David Harris, who once had spent free time making business deals over a back-office telephone, now hung around the front desk flirting with Bridges.
"He wasn't in love," she testified. "He was just infatuated."
Susan Hanson, a dental clinic executive, noted that "Clara had taken a back seat in his relationship."
"She was no longer No. 1," Hanson said. "In the past, he would always run to the phone when she called. Now he started saying he'd call her back or leaving her on hold."
Office workers were struck by Bridges' boldness in the office and out, the witnesses said. Hanson testified about comforting the orthodontist's teenage daughter, Lindsey, after she witnessed Bridges provocatively bending over in her father's presence.
Sherrill testified about how Bridges, accompanying Harris and office workers to lunch at a nearby restaurant, bolted to join their boss on the front seat of his truck. Then she twice laughingly patted his chest and fumbled with coins in the vehicle's console.
"I had worked for him four years," Sherrill said, "and I didn't know where things were in his truck."
On July 16, Sherrill told jurors, she finally shared her suspicions with Clara Harris.
"I told her she needed to protect her marriage -- not to ignore anything out of the ordinary, maybe go to counseling to get help," Sherrill said. "Sometimes men go through change of life, and maybe that's what was happening to David."
Clara Harris responded with concern.
"She was frightened a little," Sherrill said.
Then, she said, she and the defendant went to a salon, where Harris had her hair cut and colored.
In cross-examination, assistant District Attorney Mia Magness suggested through questioning that the women's testimony may have been rooted in a personal dislike for Bridges. She suggested that Bridges threatened their job security by usurping their responsibilities and becoming friendly with their boss.
"She didn't help me much," Davis said.
Then came questions about the defendant handling anger.
"My question," Magness said to Davis, "is: You've never seen her angry?"
"No," came the response.
In a lightning-fast barrage of questions, Magness asked whether the witness had seen how Harris looked and behaved when angry.
"You don't know what she's capable of doing when angry?"
"No," the witness acknowledged.
"You've never seen that side of the defendant?"
"No," the answer came again.
I have an open marriage.
My mail is opened. My wallet is opened...
The question of whether she was acting in a "sudden passion" or whether there were other mitigating factors only applies to the penalty portion of the case, AFTER she's been found guilty of murder. We don't have second degree murder in Texas. It's murder or capital murder, and capital murder doesn't apply here.
The defense attorney is deliberately trying to blur that distinction so that the jury will find that she's not guilty of murder, and the judge should not let him get away with it.
(top left to right) Clara Harris / David Harris
Chuck Knight / Julie Knight
Steve Wells / Laurie Wells
Steve Bridges / Gail Bridges
He should have been an eye doctor - not a dentist.
His wife gives new meaning to the Dickensian phrase, "You must be firm with the boy, Clara." This woman smacked into him, throwing him in the air and hitting him again before he even hit the ground. Then she spun the car around and ran over him twice. Incredibly, the judge lets her roam the community on $30,000 bail (which she could easily afford to skip out on).
Thanks for the pix. Makes it more interesting to see who we are reading about. Nothing in our local papers - so this is much appreciated.
Think he'll get a divorce or run over her with an SUV??
Should be the quote of the day!
I mispelled her name and called her Bridge instead of Bridges! That was a typo. *S*
For all of Texas's tough reputation, capital murder (which means murder for which you may receive the death penalty) is fairly restrictive. It's not the equivalent of First Degree murder in some other states, or even premeditated murder. It's restricted to murder in connection with another specific crime, or multiple murders. Simply killing your spouse doesn't qualify.
Gail Bridges and Julie Knight are both completely off their rockers. Here they are in wigs on the Sally show not even one week after the murder --