Harla was a beautiful, spirited, loving person. She had just
turned 41 years of age but had the zest for life of a 25 year
old. She was not blessed with children, but had a cocker spaniel
that was her baby. His name is Joshua Wayne. She loved
that dog. She was also very close with her three nephews and
three nieces. They thought she was cool, which she was.
My sister was honest
to a fault, couldn't keep a secret, loved chocolate milk, Dr. Peppers,
burritos from the Sonic, music, her family and friends. She was
a phone bug, stayed on it all the time. She had an infectious
laugh, good personality, quick wit and good outlook on life.
Harla would make her home available to her family or friends should
they need a place to stay, help monetarily if she could.
She had been through
her rough times in life, like we all do. Sometimes she handled
things better than other times, but she never gave up. She
believed in God and knew he would help her through whatever life put
on her plate. At times she had a very full plate.
I suppose she dreamed
what most of us dream. She wanted to be happy, find fulfillment
in love, be comfortable monetarily, and live her life to the
fullest. Unfortunately, that choice was taken away from her on
September 19, 1999, by someone else. She was shot and killed in
her home by her room mate.
I was phoned by her
friend of 23 years on that Sunday night and told that my sweet,
beloved sister had been shot. We didn't know the circumstances
at first. I didn't know if someone had broken into the house, if
she was outside, not at home, or what. I then called our other
sister, Jamie, and told her that Harla was dead. As she lived
closer to Freeport, she left immediately to speak with the police
there. She later called me with the circumstances surrounding
the death of our sister.
Harla and her on and
off-again room mate for the past nine years, David Andrew Smith, (no
kin to me), were home alone. A neighbor across the street later
told police he heard a gunshot while he was outside washing his
vehicle. He said he checked with his wife to see if everything
was alright in their house, then resumed washing the vehicle.
Several moments later,
he saw David come out the front door, walk to the neighbors' houses on
the right, knock on the door, and get no answer. He then angled
across the front yard toward the neighbor on the left, waved at the
neighbor washing his car, and continued to the neighbor on the left's
house. The man washing his vehicle noticed blood covering
David's hand, arm and clothing. He intercepted him and asked him
if he had injured himself. David told the man, "I can't
believe Harla shot herself." The neighbor went to his house
and told his wife to call 911 and then went with David back to Harla's
house. David sat on the porch and asked the neighbor to check on
Harla. The neighbor did.
When the police
arrived, my sister was dead from a single gun shot wound to the upper
chest area, just below the collar bone. She had bled to
death. The police believed foul play was involved. They
bagged David's hands and took him in for questioning. As I
understand it, they questioned him for approximately 10 hours.
They sent Harla's body off for an autopsy.
During the course of
his questioning, David kept changing his story. He told the
police he couldn't remember what happened. Later, he would
seemingly remember some details. Some of those details were, he
was in the bathroom but couldn't remember why; he never heard the shot
but saw Harla lying on the floor; he saw a flash from the gun,
etc. He stuck with his same basic story about not remembering
exactly what happened. The police released him from questioning
and told him to go to his brother's house a block over from Harla's
house. They arrested him later that evening, after receiving the
autopsy report saying that my sister had died from the result of a
gunshot wound, homicide.
The police gathered
blood spatter evidence, handwriting analysis, gunpowder tests,
evidence from the home, and took many, many statements.
They said there was no doubt in their minds that David had murdered
Harla. The information was presented to the criminal District
Attorney and she gave the go ahead for prosecuting this as a
It took 5 months of
going before a grand jury. Why so long, we don't know, and have
questioned. Ultimately, the grand jury no-billed David due to
lack of evidence. I still can't believe that. Now this
case is considered an inactive case. There is no statute of
limitations on murder in the state of Texas. The investigator on
this case assures me that she will continue to do everything in her
power to get this re-introduced to another grand jury. I
will help her in any way I can.
I guess you could say
this has become an obsession of mine. I think about my sister
and how she died every single day and night.