Texas man suspected of series of rapes testifies

AP News
Posted: Sep 19, 2011 6:30 PM
Texas man suspected of series of rapes testifies

A Texas man suspected of being a serial rapist who targeted older women told jurors Monday that he was sexually abused as a child, suffers from multiple personality disorder and has been visited by aliens.

Billy Joe Harris, 54, then verbally sparred with a prosecutor who tried to convince jurors that Harris' claims were simply attempts to manipulate the justice system. Harris, his body twitching and shaking, took the stand to testify in his own defense after prosecutors rested their case earlier Monday.

Harris, a former Texas prison employee who is on trial for allegedly raping a disabled woman on Jan. 8, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He told jurors he has three other personalities inside of him, including one named Bobby, whom he described as a "bad, bad person" and David, a black Great Dane.

Authorities allege DNA samples also link Harris to five other assaults or attempted assaults over two years in Central and Southeast Texas. Authorities believe Harris is "The Twilight Rapist," so dubbed because most of the attacks happened just before dawn. The attacks rattled so many women that older volunteers at a Yoakum library in Southeast Texas began locking the doors during business hours and organizers at one community meeting gave away pepper spray as door prizes.

Investigators found evidence of careful planning at the many crime scenes, including cut phone lines outside homes.

Harris' testimony Monday included graphic accounts of alleged abuse by a former teacher and of bestiality. Many jurors did not look at Harris during his testimony, which at times was manic and rambling. He often stuttered and paused. And at one point, he jumped out of his seat after removing earplugs that his attorney, Alan Cohen, said help Harris "keep the voices from speaking to him."

Harris told jurors that in addition to Bobby and David, he recently discovered he has a third personality, someone named Thomas Simpson.

As Harris testified, Jackson County District Attorney Bobby Bell asked if he could speak to Bobby.

In a deeper voice, Harris responded, "What do you need? I didn't rape any women. You haven't proved nothing yet," before he lowered his head and then resumed responding in his normal voice.

But Bell described Harris' testimony as a "circus" and a "con."

"You're just making up all this to try to avoid criminal responsibility," Bell said as he questioned Harris.

"No sir. I wish it was," Harris said when asked by Bell if his claims were an act.

Bell suggested Harris' reaction after removing his earplugs had been staged by Cohen.

"That was no staged demonstration," Cohen said.

Harris wore handcuffs and chains in the courtroom, as well as a belt that can shock him. District Judge Skipper Koetter ordered the restraints because of Harris' history of disruptive behavior in court since his arrest. Koetter threatened to use the belt on Harris if he continued to be disruptive during his testimony. Two deputies stood behind Harris while he was on the witness stand.

Harris told the jury he had been abused by his sixth grade teacher and her husband in Houston when he was 12 or 13 years old. He told jurors he was forced to wear a dress and makeup and have sex with his teacher and watch as she had sex with a dog.

Bell told jurors there were no records of the teacher whom Harris claimed had abused him.

Harris said he was sexually abused by another older woman after he and his mother went to live with his grandmother in East Texas.

Harris said that when he served in the U.S. military in Germany, he had contact five or six times with aliens. He claimed the aliens removed part of his genitals.

Bell told jurors that Harris' military medical records show that part of the genitals were removed because of a hernia and that Harris gets monthly disability benefits as a result.

Bell said that authorities found inside Harris' house various items, including guns and computers, which had been stolen from the homes of several of the women Harris is accused of assaulting. Harris told jurors he had bought the items from someone else.

Bell also said Harris' military records also show he has "no presence of psychosis."

Testimony was to resume Tuesday with two medical experts testifying on behalf of Harris.

Harris worked in several prisons around the state, mostly in food service. Background checks before his hiring revealed no prior criminal history, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.