NY man found not guilty of wife's death in 4th murder trial

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Posted: May 24, 2016 5:03 PM
NY man found not guilty of wife's death in 4th murder trial

SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (AP) — A wealthy man on trial for a fourth time since his estranged wife disappeared in 2001 was found not guilty of murder Tuesday.

The ruling for Calvin Harris came almost eight weeks after Judge Richard Mott began hearing the nonjury trial. Harris' 35-year-old wife, Michele, disappeared on the night of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Prosecutors argued that Calvin Harris killed her when she came home to the Southern Tier estate they shared with their four children. Two previous guilty verdicts against Harris were overturned, and a third jury trial last year ended in a mistrial.

Harris told reporters Tuesday that he was relieved that a long series of trials and imprisonments he described as abusive were finally over.

"We can now finally move forward and make plans in our lives as normal people do," he said. "But I can tell you there will be no celebration at our house tonight. There are no winners in this case. Everybody loses."

Defense lawyers argued that authorities overlooked another suspect in the area from Texas as the couple's marriage broke up. Attorney Bruce Barket said after the verdict that they were still developing leads in Michele Harris' disappearance. He added that his client is considering suing authorities who pursued Harris for more than a decade.

Michele Harris' empty minivan was found the morning of Sept. 12, 2001, with the keys still in the ignition at the end of the couple's long driveway. Her body was never found, and prosecutors have relied on a largely circumstantial case, along with a small amount of blood stains found in the home.

Tioga County District Attorney Kirk Martin, in terse comments after the verdict, said prosecutors presented the available evidence as best they could.

Calvin Harris, 55, was wealthy from his family's car dealerships, and court papers say he told people his wife would not get half his business as divorce loomed.

A 2007 conviction against Harris was set aside when a new witness potentially helpful to the defense belatedly came forward. A second guilty verdict in 2009 was overturned based on trial-court errors. Jurors in the third trial last year failed to reach a verdict after 11 days of deliberations.

This was the second trial held in rural Schoharie, more than 100 miles from where the highly publicized case originated.