His defense attorney has described the crimes as violent, sadistic and disgusting -- and this week we've heard testimony from several victims, including two elderly women from Leon County, who claim they were burglarized and sexually assaulted in 2009 by the Twilight Rapist -- a man who is pleading not guilty by insanity because he says he suffers from multiple personality disorder. The Leon County District Attorney believes those claims -- are a bluff.
Underneath his dark brown suit and button-up shirt, you'll find a belt wrapped around Billy Joe Harris' torso. It's not just any old belt -- in fact, Alan Cohen, Harris’ defense attorney says it's a belt filled with electricity and at the push of a button can send a shock that would render anyone helpless. The 'stun belt' is required for his client after several outbursts and physical disruptions he caused during his first trial in Edna, Texas in 2010.
Since the start of what has become his second trial, of potentially many more to come, Billy Joe Harris’ demeanor has been far from disruptive. In fact, the only movement is demonstrated as his head occasionally twitches and trembles; or if the shackled and chained convicted felon is being personally escorted out of the courtroom by security during recess.
As each victim took an oath of honesty before testifying, Harris appeared alert and attentive while sitting in a wooden chair. But that changed at 2:15 Wednesday as witness number 46 took the stand – Harris lowered his head and didn’t raise it back up until her 47 minute testimony was over.
Witness number 46 is more than just a number. She is an 82-year-old woman from Yoakum, Texas who dropped out of school in 7th grade to help her family earn money on their chicken farm. "Me and my mom, we had a whole lot of eggs to clean, 2,000 eggs at that, and we had to clean them really thoroughly," she said.
Her whole life she’s taken care of people; growing up she took care of 28 children at a local nursery and as an adult, till this very day, she works for home healthcare, caring for the elderly. She admits she’s never ridden or driven a car in her life – but that all changed after the events that allegedly took place on November 9, 2009.
“He walked right through my front door like he owned the place, and I was just sitting at the edge of my couch and I just said, ‘Who are you, what do you want?’ He was wearing all black, with black gloves and he pushed me on the ground and I could hardly breathe. He was pushing on my rib cage so hard I thought they were going to crack; his hand was trembling and he forced my clothes off,” she recalled. “I asked him, 'Why are you doing this to me?’ and he said in a very menacing voice, ‘I like little old ladies.' "
The woman moved several blocks away shortly after the alleged assault. But Harris allegedly found his way back to her new home two weeks later. “I woke up around 5 that morning to the sound of something rocking a chair, and he was in my room naked, and he said, 'Remember me? Did you miss me?’ And I told him that my son was on his way and he was going to get caught, and he said ‘No, you’re lying, you don’t have no kids.’”
She didn't have kids, nor was she ever married. But the victim admitted she would make up information during the alleged assault to distract him, but he would always correct her. "It was like he knew everything about me," she said. "He knew where everything was in my house too, every single small detail."
Questions surrounding the validity of Harris’ claims of schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder surfaced after being convicted to life in prison in 2010. According to a testimony from a state psychiatrist Thursday, Harris never sought treatment for these medical conditions he claimed to have since the death of his dog in the early 1990’s.
The Leon County District Attorney asked the psychiatrist if it was common for inmates to fake illnesses or mental disorders in prison. He responded, “Yes – absolutely. They do this as a secondary gain; to get medication to help them sleep, to go to sky-view for air-conditioning, to avoid field work.”
The psychiatrist said Harris showed symptoms of depression, not schizophrenia. “If you take psychosis medication and you do not mentally need the medication, then the affects would make that person very calm, and sleepy.”
He said schizophrenia symptoms are distorted thoughts and hallucinations and usually start at a young age, "Typically in your early 20’s," he said.
“In my experience, although not impossible, it is uncommon for an adult, age 40, to show symptoms of schizophrenia,” he said.
Harris' defense attorney has argued his client's condition was brought on during childhood after being exposed to pornography, bestiality as a teen, and child abuse.
In the Edna courtroom in 2010, Harris’ defense attorney said his client has at least four different personalities: “David the dog” is the personality who commits the crime; and “Bobby” is the mastermind.
Earlier this week during testimony from an 80-year-old Marquez victim, she claimed while Harris was sexually assaulting her, “I said to him, ‘Why are you doing this to me, I’m an old woman,’ and he said, ‘I know all about you, I’m Bobby Dawn, I’m 70-years-old and I live right behind you,’ and I just started screaming and fighting back,” she said. "I don't have a neighbor named Bobby, and this man that was doing this to me, wasn't 70-years-old."
Prosecutors Question Harris' Motive
Harris’ motive for these alleged crimes has been a significant debate during the trial in Walker County. During each alleged sexual assault, each victim claims he broke into their home twice in a two week period. The first time, they say, he would steal money, personal belongings such as deer-mounts, clocks, keys, computers, firearms, and checkbooks.
Those items, Texas Rangers say, were found inside Harris’ vehicle and many inside his Missouri City home where his wife and step-son lived.
The stolen items were strategically placed inside his home; an FBI agent who testified Wednesday said “Being able to see these items inside the home would conceivably be a reminder of the sexual assault,” the FBI agent said. “They get to relive the memories over and over again, so, in some cases, it’s not economic gain, rather fulfilling pride each time they see the victims’ belongings . The items resemble ‘trophies’ or ‘souvenirs’ to this individual.”
Investigators say dozens of keys to the homes of many of the victims were located inside a wooden box inside Harris’ home.
A Yoakum victim who claims Harris sexually assaulted her twice -- on two different occasions -- testified Wednesday saying Harris stole her entire life savings of $11,000. During a testimony later that day, Harris’ former roommate claimed he asked her to deposit three increments of $4,000 inside his bank account. The Leon County District Attorney asked her if she ever questioned how he got the money, and she replied, “He would never tell me, so I just did what he told me."
The Yoakum victim says she never got her money back.
Trial will resume Monday. News 3’s Nicole Morten will bring you the latest information from the Twilight Rapist Trial.
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