James Harris

From Real Life Villains Wiki
He's a monster. We're very happy to get him off the streets.
~ Homicide Captain James Clark[1]
James Harris was a rapist and murderer from the Unites States. His history of serious violence began in 1982 with the killing of his abusive father, and culminated in the 2015 rape and murder of Jasmine Wright in Philadelphia. Harris committed suicide in 2017.

Background

As a child Harris suffered violent beatings at the hands of his father, James Washington, who also abused his mother.[2] He suffered multiple head wounds, being shot twice in the head and receiving an arrow in the eye.[3] He dropped out of high school.[2] From age 13 to 18 he was detained at reform school St. Gabriel's Hall, where his parents sent him.[4] In 1982, shortly after returning from St. Gabriel's Hall,[4] he killed Washington and spent around five years imprisoned for voluntary manslaughter,[2] out of a sentence of three to seven years.[1] After his release he picked up convictions for drugs crimes and trespass.[5] Police called him a career criminal; he had faced allegations of sexual assaults, robberies, and burglaries.[1]

By 2015, at the age of 56, he was going by the name James Camp and employed as a handyman at an apartment at 50th and Locust, near West Philadelphia.[5] His mother died 43 days prior to the murder,[2] and shortly before the act he was fired.[5] Harris received a ban from the premises and an eviction from his home three doors from Wright.[1]

Victim

Jasmine Wright, 27, lived alone at the apartment building on the 200 block.[6] A New York City native, she had lived in Virginia.[7] She had recently graduated from Drexel University with a public health degree and was planning a further degree in law.[2] She was interested in African medical care and hoped to work in public health in her home nation.[2] Her apartment was on the third floor.[5] She graduated the university's School of Public Health in June 2015.[6] As well as that master's degree she also had a bachelor's degree in behavioral health from Pennsylvania State University where she had graduated in 2011.[7] She was described as quiet.[6]


Murder

Wright was last heard from at 5:29pm on July 15, 2015 when the phone went quiet during a call with her mother.[5] Harris let himself into her apartment.[5][6] She was beaten and strangled to death.[6] Wright inflicted four blows to the tops of her head and blunt force trauma to twelve other areas including her face.[5] She was also raped.[8] Her body was discovered by Mary Umbrell, an agent at building managers Realty World Properties, who entered the apartment on July 16 after a concerned phone call from the victim's father.[5] Tributes to the slain woman included one from Harris's brother, who held a similar job at a nearby building.[7]

Authorities found no break-in or obvious evidence of missing property.[6] Harris was quickly identified by DNA analysis on semen inside Wright and on a towel and pillow at the crime scene.[5] He was further incriminated by a witness, who saw him acting suspiciously at the building at around 5:45pm on the day of the murder.[5] A criminal trespass arrest was used to obtain his DNA, which matched the offender's.[1] Based on the evidence of Wright's conversation with her mother it is thought he had been in the apartment waiting for her to get home.[1]

Legal process

Harris was committed for trial on October 13, 2015 by which time he was claiming a consensual sexual relationship with Wright and that after having sex with her an unknown assailant had killed her.[5] He struck a deal that dropped the death penalty in exchange for waiving his right to a jury trial, but rejected a plea deal offering a sentence of 50 to 100 years in custody.[2] As a result in March 2017 he faced a 2½ day trial before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd and was convicted of murder, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and burglary.[8] He received a mandatory life without parole sentence as the murder charge was in the first degree, plus a consecutive total of 30 to 60 years for the other crimes.[2] At sentencing he remained defiantly claiming Wright was his lover and her loss was as painful as that of his mother.[3]

Aftermath

On April 13, 2017 Harris was found hanging in his state prison cell in Graterford, and died despite being rushed to hospital.[2][9] Wright's family sued Realty World Properties and building owner Harold Murray, alongside Harris himself, arguing a lack of background checks on Harris contributed to the death. The case is ongoing.[2]

References