The man dubbed "the Twilight Rapist" is on trial in Huntsville for a home invasion in Marquez back in 2009. Billy Joe Harris has already been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the sexual assault of a disabled woman in South Texas. Evidence from three separate crime scenes link Billy Joe Harris to Leon County and the first victim gave an emotional testimony Monday afternoon.
You could hear a pin drop on the third floor of the Walker County Courthouse Monday afternoon as an 80-year-old widow, burglary and assault victim, recalled the vivid memories from July 2, and July 20, 2009 – two days that she says -- changed her life forever.
Harris is accused of burglarizing the woman’s Marquez home twice in one month. The first burglary on July 2nd occurred while the victim was sleeping. “I woke up because I heard a noise, and then didn’t see anything so I went back to bed,” she said.
Her husband of what would be 64 years today, died in 2006. She claims every night since his death, she hangs her purse on the same chair, and every morning when she wakes up, she picks up her purse from the chair and then takes it into her bedroom. However, when she woke up the following morning, it wasn’t in the same place she had left it. In fact, her son found it in the front yard, with her address book and several hundred dollars of cash missing. The woman also learned her phone line was intentionally cut and the phone jack intentionally unplugged from the box located in the back of her home.
Due to the evidence recovered from the scene – investigators believe both burglaries were pre-meditated.
During the burglaries, Harris allegedly stole an address book, hundreds of dollars in cash and took a tower computer that was filled with important financial information regarding the family’s mineral rights.
One of the significant arguments in Monday’s courtroom was the main “point of entry” into the home during the burglary. A key was found lodged inside the doorknob of the front door of the home – a door that the victim claims she never uses for entry.
Evidence taken on the morning of July 20th proved the suspect entered the home through an unlocked window located on the west side of the house. Investigators believe Harris unlocked the window during the first break-in with the intent of coming back in the future – and he did. A footprint was located on the windowsill. This window was located in a room that, at the time, was used for storage during the home remodel. Since the room was packed with belongings, Harris’ attorney argued it would be impossible to enter through this very window without being heard.
While Harris was allegedly breaking into the home around 6 that morning -- the victim says she was taking a bath. “I heard a nose while I was in the bath and it sounded like, ice breaking up in the freezer,” she said.
She got out of the bath tub and got dressed -- as soon as she came out of the bathroom, “Someone came up from behind me, grabbed me, and all I can remember is that it was a man and he was really sweaty. He put his right arm across my chest and he covered my face and nose with his left arm and I couldn’t move my head or anything. He threw me on the bed and we just struggled. He slapped me in the face twice, really, really hard and I just screamed, ‘Why are you doing this to me? I’m an old woman, I have a heart condition and I will probably die here if you keep doing this to me,’ he then told me ‘Give me all of your money or else you’re going to get it.’ “
She says he walked out of the room and she attempted to call police, but her phone was disconnected. She was finally able to run across the street to her neighbor's home and call police.
While on the stand Monday afternoon, the victim was forced to relive those painful memories all over again. Prosecutors presented pictures from her injuries she sustained after being slapped in the face and smothered by Harris before he pushed her on the bed and attempted the assault.
For two years, the woman who was beat, burglarized and left a victim of attempted rape -- the man responsible had moved on to other victims including Edna, Texas. However, he got caught in the midst of a sexual assault in Edna – and the Twilight Rapist was finally apprehended. Harris’ arrest gave Leon County Investigators the break they were looking for. They obtained a search warrant to obtain DNA from Harris. His DNA matched the DNA found in the 80-year-old victim’s urine that morning he attempted to sexually assault her.
The trial will resume Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. News 3’s Nicole Morten will be sitting in the trial and will bring live updates during the newscast throughout the day.