Renewed interest in Fannin County cold case - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Renewed interest in Fannin County cold case

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Jennifer Harris was murdered in 2002. Jennifer Harris was murdered in 2002.

FANNIN COUNTY, Texas -- May 12 will mark 16 years since the day Jennifer Harris disappeared. Her body was found six days later, but no one was ever convicted for her murder.

"She was intelligent, she was ambitious, she was very full of life," said Jerry Harris, her father. "Jennifer was just a wonderful person in every way, as far as I'm concerned."

It's a cold case that Fannin County has not forgotten.

"It's very important to the community, the daddy... it would mean the world to him if we could bring some closure to it," said Sheriff Mark Johnson.

Fishermen found Jennifer’s naked body in the Red River. Her uterus had been removed. She was 28 years old.

"Makes you mad, cause that poor girl was discarded like a piece of trash,” Johnson said. 

While Harris' body was found in the Red River -- which is in Oklahoma -- it was believed that she died in Fannin County. So the Fannin County Sheriff's Office took the case. At the time, a quick resolution was expected.

"Here we are 16 years later, and we're no closer to solving the case than we were 16 years ago," Sheriff Johnson said.

Johnson was sworn in more than a year ago. One of his biggest goals was to bring justice for Jennifer Harris. He read her case on his first day as sheriff. He keeps it in his office and says he thinks about her every day.

"It's very frustrating," he said. "When I came in and pulled that case out and started going through it, I wanted to sit down and cry... that was my first thought. The basics didn't even appear in this case. It's probably some of the sloppiest police work I've ever seen. And that really shocked me when I started looking at it."

Somehow, crucial evidence went missing.

"They lost her keys to her car; they lost her laptop; they lost her clothing that was found in a creek near the river," Jerry Harris said. "It’s been very frustrating to know all of that was lost.”

The victim's father said she had a meeting with someone on the night of May 12, 2002 -- Mother's Day.

"I think during the course of that meeting with a person she knew and trusted, that she was struck a blow that made her unconscious, and then she was strangled to death,” Jerry Harris said.

While Sheriff Johnson thinks he knows who murdered Jennifer Harris, there's not enough evidence to convict.

"I've had other people to read that thing and to work with me on it. We all come to the same conclusion: We know, but we just don't have the magic card," he said. 

So is this a case that can be solved?

"I can’t say that wholeheartedly," Johnson said. "Until I can find all the other stuff I need to put it together, no."

Jerry Harris said he’s hoping someone will still come forward with the necessary information.

“The odds are that somebody out there knows something. There’s no way to prove that, but somebody knows something,” he said.

"They're out there now, but they aren't free," Sheriff Johnson added. "There's always that question: 'Are they going to get me today?' And as long as I have that, I'll feel good about it."

The Harris family has raised $25,000 as a reward for any information leading to an arrest and indictment in this case. They say their goal is to eventually increase the reward to $50,000.

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