By Mary Alys Cherry
On July 24, the Clear Lake area marked the 10th anniversary of a crime that made headlines around the world and is still often the topic of conversation today – the crime known as Murder by Mercedes.
On that date in 2002, Dr. Clara Harris ran down her husband, Dr. David Harris, with her $70,000 Mercedes in the parking lot of the Nassau Bay Hilton, where she caught him with another woman.
Then on Valentine’s Day in 2011, when the two dentists normally would have been celebrating their 11th wedding anniversary, a Harris County judge sentenced her to 20 years in prison – sending shock waves through the community that had expected a lesser sentence in which the jury determined was a “crime of passion.”
The sentencing came a day after the jury, composed of nine women and three men, found her guilty of murder.
Most damning testimony came from videos of her driving around the parking lot and running over her husband at least twice and from her stepdaughter Lindsey Harris, who was in the car when she ran over her husband.
Even though she was in prison, Harris, a native of Colombia, continued to make headlines as she was involved in a battle with her in-laws, Gerald and Mildred Harris – who stood by her the entire trial — over custody of her twin boys, who were only 4 years old at the time of her sentencing.
Harris wanted her friends, Ana and Dr. Pat Jones, to raise her boys with their own twin boys in Friendswood.
Finally, a custody agreement was reached with the twins living primarily with the Joneses and visiting the grandparents every other weekend.
Harris was back in the headlines again in 2007, when the inlaws sued her and won a $3.75 million settlement for the pain and suffering of losing their son. They said their son, a Clear Lake orthodontist had promised to provide for them financially in their senior years.
It is not known if they were able to collect.
Harris went to the hotel after an employee of Blue Moon Investigations, which she had hired to follow her husband, called her to report that he was at the hotel, court testimony revealed. As she and her stepdaughter walked through the lobby, David Harris and his alleged mistress, Gail Bridges, stepped out of the elevator together, setting off a melee in the lobby before moving outside, where he soon met his death.