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Death by Mercedes-Benz: The Story of David and Clara Harris of Texas

Kim Bryan has experience as a waitress in a diner. She's sharing her tips (that will hopefully result in big tips!).

When David Harris wed Columbia-born beauty queen Clara Suarez in a Valentine’s Day 1992 ceremony becoming of royalty at the Nassau Bay Hilton Hotel, he had no way of knowing his loving bride would end his life here some ten years later.

Dr. & Dr. Harris

Clara and husband David were both respected dental practitioners in Houston with their shared office in the shadow of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Clara had a lucrative practice as a dentist, while David’s specialty was orthodontia.

Clara and David Harris

Clara and David Harris

In short time, the Harrises were showing signs of success with a half million dollar home (mid-1990s) and high-dollar import vehicles.

Clara was helping David raise his daughter from a previous marriage. Although Clara loved Lindsey like her own, she was desperate to be a mother instead of just a stepmother. Clara struggled to get pregnant but, after undergoing fertility treatments, she gave birth to twin boys, Brian and Bradley in 1998.

It seemed that life was perfect and complete for the Harrises. What more could anyone want?

David apparently wanted another woman.

She's Not Just the Receptionist

David Harris’ primary office was in Clear Lake, while he worked from the office shared with Clara in Lake Jackson only two days each week.

At the Clear Lake office, he employed a married woman by the name of Gail Bridges as his receptionist. Before long, however, she and David began having an affair. As a result, David began spending more time away from home and longer hours at his office, as well as spending large amounts of money as he lavished gifts on his mistress along with paying for lavish hotel rooms for their couplings.

Truth be told, it wasn’t David’s first affair. He openly flirted with women everywhere he went, even showing his wife notes scribbled by waitresses at Hooter’s. When they were together, Gail felt special nonetheless.

Although his Clear Lake staff, and even some at the Lake Jackson office, were aware of David’s infidelity, Clara seemingly had no idea.

That would change sometime in June 2002, and Clara hired the services of Blue Moon Investigations. They entered into a contract for services with Clara, which outline standard provisions of any decent agency; one of those provisions being, essentially, the client was not to interfere with the detectives’ work. Clients were advised to let the investigators do the work and simply wait for the report upon completion.

And so Clara, heartbroken and dreading confirmation of suspicions, tried to carry on with business as usual.

She Saw Red Then She Gassed It

Blue Moon investigators would make a very deadly mistake when it came to their client Clara Harris. When the anxious wife called their offices on July 24, 2002, for an update, they told her they had a detective watching David and Gail, whom were currently checked-in at the Nassau Bay Hilton Hotel.

Clara Harris

Clara Harris

Enraged, Clara ordered her teenage stepdaughter into her Mercedes-Benz and headed for the hotel; the very same hotel in which she and David had promised to love one another only ten short years ago.

When she arrived, Clara found Gail’s Lincoln Navigator parked in the hotel’s parking garage and she set about vandalizing the car by bending windshield wipers and keying the paint. Then she went inside looking for David. Her behavior was erratic and her speech loud and angry as she demanded to know which room her husband and his mistress were. Hotel security was called and Clara was escorted from the building and told to leave the premises.

Clara had no such intention.

Clara returned to her car to wait. Sitting in her car with only a teen for company, Clara raged against the indecency of it all as only a woman who has been on cheated on by her husband can understand. She cried. She screamed. The longer she sat in the parking lot, staring at the hotel where she knew her husband was making love to his mistress, the greater her rage became.

Finally David and Gail exited the hotel, obviously unaware of his wife’s presence or even the scene she had created in the hotel earlier. As the naughty couple approached Gail’s car, the Blue Moon detective tasked with capturing the marital indiscretions of David was shocked as he witnessed, through the lens of his video camera, Clara behind the wheel of her Mercedes-Benz, speed toward the other woman’s car in a direct path toward the husband.

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The investigator's camera was rolling as Clara's car made contact with David’s body and he was tossed into the air. When he landed, it was approximately 30 feet from where seconds before he had been standing.

The worst was yet to come, however. Well aware she had run over her husband, Clara circled around, crossing two grassy medians according to witnesses, and ran over David’s un-moving body; then circled around to run over him again. A total of three times, Clara ran the two ton car over her husband. Gail Bridges stood watching, too stunned to move.

All the while, Lindsey sat screaming at her stepmother from the Mercedes’ passenger side; begging Clara to stop. When it was over, the young girl was traumatized and frightened for her own life. She'd never seen her stepmother behave this way before. She couldn't fully grasp everything that was happening.

David was declared dead at 9:48 p.m. that evening. Clara was arrested for murder.

Murder? It's Debatable

When the story about the scorned woman who used her Mercedes to extract revenge on her cheating husband made national headlines, Americans suddenly found themselves embroiled in a debate: was it really murder?

Some argued yes, it was murder, even first degree murder and warranted the death penalty. On the other side of the aisle, with a majority made up of women - especially those whose husbands or exes had cheated on them, insisted it was a crime of passion and David got what he deserved. Mistresses everywhere were warned to take note: next time it could be them.

A Harris County, Texas, jury would have the official and final say. On February 14, 2003, which ironically would have been David and Clara’s eleventh anniversary, the jury found her guilty of second degree murder.

Clara Harris was sentenced to twenty years behind bars. She first became eligible for parole in 2013 but her request was denied. She was eligible again in 2017 but her request has been denied.

The Aftermath

Lindsey Harris, along with her mother (David’s first wife), quickly filed suit against Clara Harris in hopes of claiming David’s insurance proceeds and inheriting his portion of the estate. During hearings on the matter, Lindsey Harris testified she was severely traumatized from her stepmother’s actions. Only sixteen at the time she witnessed her father's traumatic death, Lindsey stated she had since attempted suicide on at least four occasions.

Although David’s parents and brother had testified during the sentencing phase of the trial they had forgiven Clara for murdering their son and brother, they too filed suit against the estate; including Brian and Bradley as Petitioners in their claim.

In the end, Galveston County Probate Judge Gladys Burwell ruled David’s three children would receive almost $2 million each while Clara was allowed to retain roughly $1.2 million in assets. This was said to be the equivelant of David’s half of the estate plus a little over 50 percent of Clara’s half. Friends and family of David Harris publicly criticized the ruling.

Clara and David’s twin sons continue to live Texas with David’s parents, Gerald and Mildred Harris. It’s been reported they regularly visit their mother at the Mountain View women’s prison in Gatesville, Texas.

In the Media

A couple of books have been written about Clara Harris, but the best one is Steven Long's Out of Control published in 2004.

The 1995 move Suburban Madness starring Selma Ward is loosely based on the Clara Harris case.

© 2016 Kim Bryan


Betsy Weathers on August 18, 2020:

I believe anyone can be driven to do what Ms Harris did when they are pushed far enough. Her husband drove her to kill him. She should not have been given 20 years. She suffered plenty without going to prison. I wish her nothing but the best for the rest of her life.

Suzie from Carson City on October 07, 2017:

Triple J....I'm quite aware of my friend's name. His close buddies call him, "Val." Next time, make a comment of some substance or utter something interesting regarding the article. Most of all, mind your own damned business. Who the hell are you, the Name Police?

Charli on July 24, 2017:

David Harris was a narcissist who bullied his wife into believing she wasn't good enough. She changed so many times to appease him, but it was never good enough. I'm sure she suspected his infidelity, but could never prove it - hence hiring a PI. She probably hoped she could become what he wanted her to be and change him.

He and Gail both contributed to the situation.

20 years was extremely unfair. They should've paroled her the first time she was up for parole.

David pushed her to the brink of insanity. Most women in her shoes would've snapped. She has no history of violent behavior. She has no history of trouble with the law or of misbehavior I need society. She was in her 40s when she was arrested. Clearly, this is a woman who is extremely unlikely to reoffend.

They paroled OJ, clearly someone who cannot stay out of trouble.

Clara Harris still rotting in prison is a waste of taxpayer money. Send the woman home for crying out loud. She already missed out raising her boys. David was consciously and purposely careless with his family. He clearly did not make them a priority. Clara suffered from a temporary moment of insanity brought on by sudden passion. Her actions, in the years leading up to the event, indicate she did everything she possibly could to save her marriage and preserve her family. She lost everything because of what he put her through. It's time to send her home.

Kharmyn on May 18, 2017:

This is a sad story all around. I have followed the story since the beginning, and I my feelings are still the same. I don't believe she should have been sent to jail for 20 years. Probation and therapy would have been the better option because she has no history of this behavior and no criminal behavior on her record prior to this. The thing that made me upset about this case, is that no one ever touched on the fact that David caused his own death due to his own foul behavior. The man was a bully and terrible husband, he broke her spirit, soul and eventually her mind. I wish Clara would have been stronger, but unfortunately she wasn't . I pray for her continuously and I am glad she will have something to come home to, her twin boys.

Triple J on May 18, 2017:

Its Vlad not Val

Suzie from Carson City on April 17, 2016:

Val.....I would agree with you about Clara's reaction & out of control behavior, but as you can see from my comment~ I firmly believe she allowed her husband's infidelity to literally drive her to the brink of insanity. Selfish? perhaps in a way. However, when your mind has been overtaken by grief, depression & severe stress, it's not possible to THINK rationally about anything.

I also understand what you say about her naivety. It's highly unlikely Clara was not "aware" of her husband's cheating ways. Sadly, like too many women, she refused to face this and went into a total denial....This whole story is sad as can be Val.....several LIVES destroyed.

ValKaras on April 17, 2016:

There are no words to justify David's infidelity. However, on a rational side, what bothers the most is Clara's not being aware through all those years that her husband was a cheating type - despite the fact that he didn't even particularly hide it. Her devastation is understandable, but comparing to many broken-hearted women who just leave their cheating husbands, she went to an extreme. I am tempted to call it "selfish", as she couldn't care less about the screaming kid beside her whose father she was killing, and so traumatizing her for life. Not to mention destroying so many other lives. Was her love "above" everybody else's wellbeing?

Suzie from Carson City on April 16, 2016:

I'm very familiar of this extremely high-profile case. It was not only shocking but IMO, really sad. This beautiful & intelligent woman seemed to crack & fall apart completely due to her narcissistic husband's selfish behavior & infidelity. Clara Harris went totally berserk & lost all control & sense of reality. She ultimately destroyed her own life & lost everything because of the nasty bastard she was married to.

His slut of a receptionist was complicate in his demise but of course I'm sure she lives her life guilt-free. If she was cheap enough to carry on with a married man, she's cheap enough to have no remorse.

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