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Thursday, April 21, 2011

[CA] The stolen life of police officer's wife, Judith Lynne Harris (Nov. 7, 1997)

"She was a very joyful,
light-hearted, wonderful,
warm-hearted person."

I have tried to trim the violent details out of these articles in respect for the families.

San Framcisco Chronicle
Manny Fernandez
November 10, 1997
[Excerpts] The wife of a San Jose police officer who disappeared mysteriously three days ago was found dead yesterday morning, her body stuffed inside the trunk of a car parked behind a Santa Clara County medical complex. Judith Harris, 48, disappeared Friday morning while on a shopping trip in Hayward. Her disappearance had puzzled family members, police officers and neighbors, who held a candlelight vigil for Harris the day before her body was discovered. The cause of death had not been determined late last night, but Santa Clara County sheriff's officials said they were investigating the case as a homicide. Harris' body had suffered major blows to the head, possibly from hands or a fist... Her husband, San Jose police officer Thomas Harris, last saw her at 10:30 a.m. Friday, when she left their San Jose home alone to visit relatives in Hayward, sheriff's officials said. She was believed to have stopped at a Price-Costco store in Hayward to do some shopping... Investigators were at the scene until late last night, examining the parking lot for any piece of evidence, from scraps of paper to cigarette butts. The car was towed to the county crime lab in San Jose, where inspectors will examine the the contents of the car in detail... "She always had a smile on her face," said Jim Schachner, who lives a few doors from the Harris family. "They were just good neighbors and good people to be around" [Full article here]

POLICE LOOK AT HUSBAND IN SLAYING: He's 15-year veteran of San Jose force
San Framcisco Chronicle
By Carolyne Zinko, Stacy Finz
November 11, 1997
[Excerpts] A San Jose police officer has emerged as a suspect in the slaying of his wife [Judith Lynne Harris... Her husband called several police agencies to report her missing that night after she failed to come home, and on Saturday he followed up in person. Harris and sons Scott, 23, also a San Jose police officer, and Matthew, a West Valley College student, distributed flyers and contacted the media. But yesterday, members of the household kept to themselves, assisted by protective neighbors who parked six sport-utility vehicles bumper to bumper in front of the home to block the driveway. Neighbors also stood watch outside the house, while a San Jose police officer also briefly barred the driveway... Neighbors on Saturday held a candlelight vigil for the popular woman. "We wanted our prayers to reach Judith wherever she was and for God to give her peace and comfort," Maria Bratton, a longtime friend, said yesterday. "She was a very joyful, light-hearted, wonderful, warm-hearted person"... [Full article here]

CORONER SAYS COP'S WIFE BLED TO DEATH: Victim's family may make statement today
San Framcisco Chronicle
By Stacy Finz
November 12, 1997
[Excerpts] article in The Chronicle yesterday in which unnamed law enforcement sources said Harris' husband, Thomas, was a suspect in her slaying. Thomas Harris has worked for the department for 15 years as a patrol officer. Previously, he was a sergeant in the Campbell Police Department. Spokesman John Carrillo called the article "totally premature and without factual basis." He would not, however, say it was wrong... Matt Elvander, vice president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association, would not discuss reports that Harris is a suspect, saying only, "To us, this is a big tragedy. "The bottom line is, one of our officers lost his wife. We're grieving with him and for him." [Full article here]

SLAIN WIFE GAGGED, CORONER REPORTS: Harris family member speaks out for first time
San Framcisco Chronicle
By Stacy Finz
November 13, 1997
[Excerpts] ...As new information in the slaying of Judith Lynne Harris surfaced, a family member spoke at length for the first time since the 48-year-old homemaker's body was found Sunday in Los Gatos. "The entire family is having extreme difficulty coming to grips with the loss of Judy," said Lee P. Harris, the victim's brother-in-law... The weeping brother-in-law addressed a crowd of reporters in front of the building of the San Jose Police Officers Association. His brother Thomas Harris is a member of the association and a 15-year veteran with the San Jose Police Department. Thomas and Judith Harris were to celebrate their 29th anniversary on Sunday. Lee Harris read from a long statement in which he described Judith Harris as a loving and devoted mother and wife. "She was always there when (Thomas) came home, with a kiss, a hug and a sigh of relief," he said, "for she certainly understood the dangers involved in Tom being a police officer." When he was finished reading, Lee Harris turned from the crowd and walked into the building before being barraged with questions... [Full article here]

San Francisco Examiner
Malcolm Glover
Nov 13, 1997
[Excerpts] The body of a San Jose police officer was found Thursday in the Santa Cruz Mountains, four days after his wife's body was found in the trunk of her car... The crew of a news helicopter spotted the body of Tom Harris in a grassy field in the area of a large-scale search for him that was launched at daybreak Thursday... Santa Clara County Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Arata said that no warrant had been issued and that Harris was not a suspect in his wife's murder... Harris was a 15-year member of the San Jose Police Department. His son, Scott, is also a member of the department... [Full article here]

SAN JOSE COP APPARENT SUICIDE: Officer found dead days after wife slain
San Framcisco Chronicle
By Stacy Finz, Carolyne Zinko
November 14, 1997
[Excerpts] ...Friends described the Harris family as close-knit with ties to the San Jose Police Department. Thomas and Judith Harris's 23 year-old son, Scott, has been a patrol officer with the San Jose Police Department for more than a year. Their other son, Matthew, is a student at West Valley College. Thomas Harris's brother, Dale, is a veteran officer with the San Jose police force. "We're in shock," said Matt Elvander, vice president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association. "One of our officers has lost a mother and now a father. Another one of our officers has lost a sister- in-law and now a brother. And all of us have lost a fellow officer. It's a tragedy"... His death came as new details emerged about Harris' police background. Before joining the San Jose Police Department 15 years ago, Harris served for 12 years in the Campbell Police Department before leaving under strange circumstances. Investigators at the Campbell department said they believed Harris might have fabricated a story in the early 1980s about being overpowered by two burglars. Harris contended that two men snatched his gun, knocked him unconscious and tied him to a chain-link fence, said Jim Cost, former chief of Campbell police and who now is a commander at the San Carlos Police Department. "Investigators found it was suspicious and likely not to have occurred," Cost said. "They found inconsistencies in the story that caused doubts." After the incident, Harris resigned from the department, where he had held the rank of sergeant, and quickly took a job with San Jose as a patrol officer. [Full article here]

Los Angeles Times
Nov 14, 1997. pg. 38
[Excerpts] ...Investigators had insisted for days that the officer was not a suspect in the death of his wife, Judith Lynne Harris, as earlier reports had suggested. "We have mounted a search because we want to find out if he's all right," [Santa Clara County sheriff's spokesman Jim] Arata said before a news helicopter spotted the body lying in a field of grass with a gun nearby. There were no keys in Harris' car, which was found on fog-shrouded Mount Umunhum Road the previous night... [Full article here]

San Francisco Examiner.
Eve Mitchell
Nov 14, 1997. pg. A.27
[Excerpts] When police Officer Tom Harris failed to show for a meeting with relatives to discuss funeral plans for his slain wife, family members became worried. "They felt this wasn't the normal, reliable behavior of Tom Harris," Assistant Police Chief Walt Adkins said. Relatives indicated he was despondent... An autopsy was performed Thursday and on Friday, a coroner's department official reported Harris died of a gunshot wound to the head. Investigators "have indicated a strong likelihood that Mr. Harris took his own life by his own hand," Arata said. Harris' apparent suicide does not close the books on the slaying of his wife... Arata stressed that Harris was no more of a suspect in his wife's murder than anybody else. "Investigation of a victim's family is a normal (investigative) process"... Several police officers attended Thursday's news conference. "We all feel the pain that (Harris family members) are feeling," said Adkins... While acknowledging the existence of rumors about an extramarital affair by Tom Harris, Arata said he could not confirm or deny their veracity... Before joining the San Jose Police Department in 1982, Harris worked for the Campbell police from 1972 to 1980... No suicide note was found on Harris' body or in the car... Funeral arrangements for Judith and Tom Harris are pending... [Full article here]

San Framcisco Chronicle
By Stacy Finz
November 15, 1997
[Excerpts] ...Few details of the couple's deaths were released yesterday. Santa Clara County Sheriff's officials did not return numerous calls from The Chronicle. But rumors and speculation in the mysterious case continued to swirl. The San Jose Police Department, where Harris worked for 15 years, remained in shock. His brother Dale and son Scott are also members of the force... Authorities found Harris Thursday lying face up, clutching a gun in his right hand... "The inside of the mouth appeared traumatized," wrote coroner investigator, Marie Robinson... Officials from the Police Department would not confirm or deny rumors that Harris may have been having an affair with another woman at the time of his wife's death. Nor would they substantiate a new rumor that Judith Harris was struck by a car before someone slashed her throat... [Full article here]

STUDY FINDS COPS TWICE AS LIKELY TO ABUSE FAMILYl What makes a good officer may not make a good mate
Jim Herron Zamora
Monday, November 17, 1997
[Excerpts] ... And while no one yet knows who murdered the wife of San Jose Officer Tom Harris, authorities are investigating the possibility that he killed her... In the population in general, studies indicate that between 5 percent and 20 percent of women are victims of domestic violence. But several studies, including one by the Southwestern Law Enforcement Institute, indicate police officers are twice as likely to assault their loved ones. "One of the great paradoxes of police work is that those same habits that often make for being a good cop make for being a poor mate or parent," said Dr. Ellen Kirschman, author of the book "I Love A Cop: What Police Families Need To Know" and consulting psychologist to numerous police departments... Police accused of domestic violence tend to blame it on the incredible stress of the job. But researchers say that is only part of the problem. "If it was just stress, they would be assaulting their supervisors" or members of the public, said Gary Sykes, director of the Southwestern Law Enforcement Institute... In San Francisco, police have developed an early warning program for potential problem officers, monitoring complaints about behavior on the job or at home. The department also provides confidential counseling for officers having difficulty at home, with the promise it will not hurt their chances for promotion, according to the police chief's office.... In Chicago, the police department has a special unit staffed with civilians to investigate officers accused of family violence. In Nashville, police have a special internal affairs unit that handles only reports of domestic violence among officers... "You've got to have a zero-tolerance policy," said Kirschman. "If someone's job is on the line, they will be more motivated"... [Full article here]

400 MOURN AS SAN JOSE COP, SLAIN WIFE LAID TO REST: Eulogy dwells on happy times, not violent deaths
San Framcisco Chronicle
By Stacy Finz
November 19, 1997
[Excerpts] Mourners at the funeral of Thomas and Judith Harris struggled yesterday to reconcile their memories of a dream marriage with its violent, nightmarish ending... More than 400 family members, friends and police officers gathered at the First Baptist Church yesterday to remember only the love story. No mention of their violent deaths was made... Despite his 15 years with the department, Tom Harris was not given an official police funeral. Cobarruviaz said police ceremonies are reserved for officers killed in the line of duty, although officers were permitted to attend the funeral on department time. More than 100 police, some in uniform and others in plainclothes, were at the service. Police chaplain Dave Bridgen addressed the mourners, recounting warm anecdotes of the couple's innocent courtship and their long marriage. Tom Harris was smitten from the first day he laid eyes on Judy... [Full article here]

COP'S WIFE FOUGHT FOR LIFE, REPORT SAYS: Husband who killed self seen as main suspect
San Framcisco Chronicle
By Stacy Finz
December 10, 1997
[Excerpts] The wife of a San Jose police officer fought desperately for her life... In her last minutes of life, Judith Harris fought her killer last month with her arms and hands, said Deputy Coroner Massoud Vamoghi, who wrote the autopsy report released yesterday... "She fought hard," he said... Sheriff's investigators have remained tight-lipped about the case. Police have yet to determine who killed Judith Harris. However, sources close to the case say it is looking more and more like her husband, Thomas Harris, is the main suspect... [Full article here]

POLICE SAY COP LIKELY KILLED WIFE: Witnesses saw him where body found
San Framcisco Chronicle
By Stacy Finz
December 13, 1997
[Excerpts] San Jose police officer Thomas Harris probably killed his wife on the morning of November 7 in a rural area and tried to cover his tracks before killing himself, sheriff's officials said yesterday. Detectives broke their monthlong silence on the case at a San Jose news conference, disclosing a string of circumstantial evidence... Sheriff's Sergeant Steve Angus said the strongest evidence against Harris is that witnesses placed him at the parking lot where his wife's body was later found on the day she was reported missing. Detectives also found inconsistencies in Harris' version of events the day of his wife's death... Furthermore, investigators believe the veteran officer tried to cover his tracks by moving Judith Harris' body from the area where she was killed so it would look like a kidnapping... They did reveal that months before her death, Judith Harris had confronted her husband about possible infidelities. A private investigator had been hired by an undisclosed person that summer to follow Harris... After her body was discovered, detectives immediately turned to Harris. They became suspicious when he couldn't account for five hours on the day his wife disappeared. They were scheduled to talk to him at the end of the week to clear up inconsistencies in his stories... Judith Harris' brother, Doug James, told reporters yesterday that the family is dealing with the tragedy by focusing on the couple's "29 years of a beautiful marriage," and not dwelling on "the five days of hell" that started with Judith Harris' disappearance and ended with Tom Harris' suicide. [Full article here]

San Jose Names New Police Chief / Veteran headed Richmond force
San Framcisco Chronicle
By Maria Alicia Gaura
August 05, 1998
[Excerpts] San Jose officials named a new Chief of Police yesterday, choosing Richmond Police Chief William Lansdowne from a field of more than 40 applicants for the job... Although about 40 applicants sought the chief's job, only five were considered finalists... Among the finalists who did not make the cut was Acting Police Chief Walt Adkins, who stepped in to run the 1,300-officer department in March after the retirement of Chief Louis Cobarruviaz. Adkins, a 28-year veteran and the highest-ranking African American in the department's history, was initially considered a strong candidate for the top job. But law enforcement insiders say his candidacy was derailed by several well-publicized and embarrassing blunders. Shortly before Adkins was named acting chief, he was the target of complaints by an emergency dispatcher who said that Adkins tried to dissuade her from filing domestic violence charges against her boyfriend - a San Jose cop. A criminal probe by the district attorney found that Adkins' conduct "did not rise to the level of criminal dissuading of a witness," according to Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu. Then, in June, Adkins awarded a posthumous hazardous duty award to Tom Harris -- a veteran officer who killed himself in November, days after slashing his wife's throat, beating her severely and cramming her body into the trunk of a car. Adkins publicly defended the award, saying that Harris' murderous rampage did not erase his previous heroism. But the decision outraged many in law enforcement... [Full article here]

AUTHORITIES CLOSE PROBE INTO MURDER: Cop killed wife, then himself, detectives say
San Framcisco Chronicle
By Stacy Finz
October 30, 1998
[Excerpts] After nearly a year of questions, South Bay law enforcement closed the book yesterday on a high-profile murder-suicide involving a fellow police officer and his wife. Detectives for the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department said their investigation left no doubt that Thomas Harris, a San Jose Police officer, killed his wife of 28 years... In the heat of passion, Harris slashed his wife's throat and stuffed her in the trunk of her car November 7... "We have nothing to lead us to any other conclusions," said Santa Clara County Sheriff's Sergeant Jim Arata... But it is time to bring closure to this whole event, which has torn apart the police department and members of the Harris family"... [Full article here]
[police officer involved domestic violence oidv intimate partner violence ipv abuse law enforcement public safety lethal fatality fatalities murder suicide california state politics]


  1. This is my family it was a very sad thing that happen it hurt my family like know one can image but I thank you for posting the information if you have any ? Please email me at Thanks Eric Decker

  2. OIDV- Officer Involved Domestic Violence- Is real and it is happening across the US. Victims of OIDV have the least support network of all victims of violent crimes, and, we have the highest murder rate. It's hard for one's voice to be heard when you are hiding- or dead.

    I wrote my escape story from the "underground" to inspire, educate, assist other domestic violence victims and their advocates, and to reveal the personal Armageddon that high profile victims endure to stay alive. I have been an "invisible woman" for almost 4 years.

    Along my dark journey, I have included hints on how to begin an exit strategy from an abusive relationship; how to save critical documentation,coping with trauma and PTSD, tips for keeping invisible and off the grid, and encouragement to regain your life.
    Please help me spread my story: Share/Promote through your website/Purchase, "The Blue Abyss" available through


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