Rapist accused of lying about origins of his home decor, abusing ex-wife
Sept. 28, 2011 at 4:28 a.m.
EDNA - Billy Joe Harris was a liar, cheater and a wife beater, who was particularly fond of animals, according to testimony by the women in the defendant's life.
The testimony was part of the sentencing hearing for Harris, 54, of Missouri City.
Dubbed the Twilight Rapist, Harris was convicted last week by a Jackson County jury for the January sexual assault of a disabled Edna woman.
Authorities say they have linked Harris, who is accused of being a serial rapist, by DNA and other evidence to more than 10 sexual assaults in the Crossroads area and Central Texas since 2009.
The Advocate does not name sexual assault victims or their relatives to protect the victims' identities.
Darlene Harris, the defendant's wife, was the first of the women in Billy Joe Harris' life who testified.
A witness for the state, Darlene Harris, who has a 9-year-old son, previously testified that she met her spouse through an online dating service in April 2010 and married less than two months later.
Harris' wife told jurors her husband had given her various explanations for the fancy items he brought into their home during the marriage, which she later learned were stolen from his victims.
The defendant supposedly told his wife that he had purchased their silverware, which he polished at least twice during their marriage, for $8,000 while he was in Germany.
He also told his wife that he had shot the two deer mounts that were stored in their garage, which he had actually stolen from a 79-year-old Marquez woman who he had sexually assaulted.
Additionally, Harris was found to be in possession of several clocks, guns, a computer, a computer stand, and keys, none of which legally belonged to Harris.
A seemingly loving husband, Harris lavished his wife with fine things including a fur coat, which Harris said his ex-wife had left behind.
In reality, Harris had actually stolen the coat from a 93-year-old Zabcikville woman who he also had sexually assaulted.
"He was a loving father to my son. He treated me with respect and he took care of us," said Darlene Harris. "That's all I know."
Darlene Harris said she never saw the side of her husband that has been detailed in court and in the news.
"I was totally taken aback, surprised, hurt," she said.
When asked by Jackson County District Attorney Bobby Bell whether it was safe to say that she wasn't the type of woman who could be easily manipulated or controlled, Darlene Harris responded, "You can say that."
Jutta Harris, a state witness, told a different, darker story about the man she shared her life with for 24 years and 11 months.
Jutta Harris and her ex met in Germany.
Harris, a soldier, and Jutta Harris, a cook, worked at the same U.S. Army base.
They married in the country where they fell in love.
However, their newlywed bliss ended shortly thereafter.
Jutta Harris alleged that her husband began beating her during their first year of marriage.
The physical and mental abuse continued throughout their marriage, she said.
Jutta Harris, who grew up in an abusive home, described her ex-husband as controlling, detailing how he did not allow her to spend time with her friends or much time outside of the house.
The two did not have children on account of Harris' low sperm count, she said.
The abused spouse said she found short periods of relief from her husband's tyrant behavior when he would leave on the weekends for what he said were "job-related" trips.
Jutta Harris said her breaking point came when her husband locked her outside their house for 30 minutes while he spent time inside with another woman.
When Harris finished with his female guest, Jutta Harris said Harris opened the door laughing because he said he had been watching her crying and pleading to be let in from the security monitors inside of the house.
When asked why she stayed in the marriage for so long, Jutta Harris, who now works as prison guard in Gainesville, said, "You stick with marriage no matter what."
"That's how I was raised, but I just couldn't do it anymore," she said, as a scowl formed on her face while glaring across the courtroom in the direction of her ex.
The testimony Harris' sister gave about the siblings' childhood failed to provide any blatantly obvious explanation for her brother's behavior.
The 46-year-old woman, who testified for the defense, said she and Harris were the youngest of four children mostly raised by a single mother in Houston.
Although their mother often worked double shifts, other family members stepped in to help take care of the children.
From an early age, Harris displayed questionable personality traits, she said.
"Billy had split personalities," she said. "One minute he wanted to play with me, the next minute, he'd change like Jekyll and Hyde."
During the conviction phase of the trial, Alan Cohen, Harris' attorney, argued that his client suffered from multiple personality disorder.
Harris' sister described her brother as a loner who had no friends and opted to sleep and spend all of his time alone in an empty attic rather than a furnished bedroom.
Tragedy struck the Harris family in 1960 when the oldest girl of the four siblings died in a house fire.
Harris and his older brother, Tommy Harris, both of whom were in the house at the time of the fire, survived.
The three surviving siblings took their sister's death hard, but it did not bring all of them closer together.
The surviving sister accused Tommy Harris, who she said Harris was afraid of, of molesting her at the age of 15.
Fed up with seeing his mother being abused by a boyfriend, Harris eventually moved to Grapeland to live with his grandparents.
His sister followed shortly afterward.
His sister said their grandparents provided them with a loving home.
Loud gasps escaped from the mouths of those in the courtroom when Harris brought the court proceedings to a screeching halt by jumping up from his seat and struggling with officers as his sister shared details about the siblings' lives.
Harris left for the military at the age of 17.
Throughout Harris' 22 years in the Army, his sister said she regularly communicated with Harris.
The two developed a good relationship even trusting her children with Harris.
She also described her brother as being an animal lover, especially dogs.
Cohen questioned Harris' sister about her brother's interest in his animals and whether she had ever witnessed any "weird behavior" between him and the animals, hinting at the occurrence of bestiality.
"He was fond of animals," his sister responded, denying knowledge of any odd behavior between her brother and his pets. "He kept them up."
She said the news of her brother's criminal activity was shocking.
"When I saw him on the news, it's like it wasn't true. Like I was in another dimension or something," she said. "I still can't believe it."
Additionally, more of Harris' victims took the stand during the proceedings, including an 88-year-old Moody woman.
The woman said she "kicked (Harris) where it hurt" after he had broken into her home and tried to attack her one night in February 2010.
She was awakened by a noise, but thought she was sleep walking because of medication she started taking after her husband died 10 years ago.
"The Lord was with me. I did things in that room that I didn't even tell them (DA's office)," she said as she detailed locking doors after the attack.
She also said the phone line to her home was cut, light bulbs were unscrewed and items from her home were taken - a common occurrence in other attacks.
The jury also watched a video of a person, believed to be Harris, cutting phone lines to a home of one of the Yoakum women who was sexually assaulted.
Because of the quality of the video, officers could not tell for sure if it was Harris.
Jurors also heard testimony about threats Harris had made to courtroom bailiffs as well as a letter he sent to the NAACP although details of the letter were not discussed.
A probation officer also testified for the defense about the restrictions Harris would have to abide by if the jury grants him probation, which include mandatory sex offender registration, polygraphs, housing restrictions and no Internet usage.
Both the state and defense rested.
Closing arguments and jury deliberations are expected to begin at 9 a.m. Friday.