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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Guilty verdict concludes year-long puzzle

    The jury in the first-degree murder trial of former UA freshman Galareka Harrison took a cue from the case’s defense Friday.

    Only 24 hours after public defender John O’Brien took just enough time to submit a later-rejected mistrial request before the defense rested, jurors followed the time-crunch suit, needing less than a day to deliver a guilty verdict.

    The court found Harrison guilty of one count of first-degree murder, three counts of forgery and one count of identity theft. According to Pima County Superior Court records, the forgery and theft charges carry sentences less than four years long and the murder charge will send Harrison to prison either for the rest of her life, or until she has served 25 years.

    Judge Nanette Warner will decide Harrison’s sentence on Nov. 25.

    Harrison was convicted in the Sept. 5, 2007, murder of her roommate Mia Henderson in their Graham-Greenlee Residence Hall room.

    The conflict between Harrison and Henderson began on Aug. 28, 2007, when Henderson suspected Harrison of stealing her CatCard, Social Security card and $500. UA pre-business sophomore Analisa Valencia later testified that Harrison stole her wallet Aug. 27 and then called her pretending to be a Wells Fargo Bank employee.

    Officers from the University of Arizona Police Department found Valencia’s wallet in Harrison’s possession the next day.

    Harrison and Henderson continued to clash, which eventually led Henderson to seek help from the UAPD and the Dean of Students Office. The murder victim’s pleas went unanswered, though, as UA officials laughed at her, testified Londynn Young, one of Henderson’s best friends.

    The weekend before the fatal stabbing, Yolanda Nez, an acquaintance of Harrison’s, gave Harrison a ride to a rodeo event in Window Rock. During the road trip, Harrison told Nez she was struggling to adapt to the university lifestyle. Harrison also asked Nez if she thought police and forensics specialists could lift fingerprints from the inside of gloves, Nez testified.

    On the way back to Tucson a few days later, Harrison asked Nez to stop at a department store so she could purchase “”school supplies.”” Harrison then emerged from a local Target store with an eight-inch kitchen knife and a pack of bubble gum, Nez said.

    The night before Henderson was stabbed to death, Harrison went to the UA science library, where she spent several hours crafting a suicide note she would later pass off as having been written by Henderson, prosecutors said.

    While at the library, Harrison also disposed of the kitchen knife’s packaging, surveillance footage showed.

    The suicide note explained that Henderson was unhappy with dorm life and that stealing money was her only way to gain satisfaction.

    “”I’ve thought over the whole weekend of just putting an end to life,”” the note read. “”I didn’t know how to tell my parents about the situation. I felt completely lost. I felt crazy.””

    The letter also said that Henderson was jealous of Harrison and other students in the residence hall.

    “”Galareka, she’s a nice enough girl,”” the note read. “”I could not take how much her family loves her.””

    After coming back to Graham-Greenlee from the science library, Harrison waited in another student’s room for Henderson to fall asleep. When Harrison entered the room, she saw Henderson sleeping in her bed, Harrison said in a taped interview with police the day after the slaying.

    Harrison would later tell police that a man attacked the two women and jumped out the room’s window. In another version of the story, she also said that when she walked into the room, she found Henderson with a gun.

    When residence assistant Diane Povatah awoke to screaming early on the morning of Henderson’s murder, she ran into the victim’s blood-covered room to find Henderson kneeling on the ground and bleeding from her back, Povatah testified.

    While Povatah tended to Henderson, Harrison sat nearby in the hallway, curled up and crying, Povatah said.

    Henderson died shortly afterward, and Harrison was rushed to the hospital where she confessed to killing Henderson on audio provided by UAPD.

    Almost a year later, Harrison’s first-degree murder trial began. Following a week-long case from the prosecution which saw 15 witnesses, the defense rested without calling a single witness Friday.

    In the closing arguments, prosecutor Rick Unklesbay cited testimony and common sense as all the evidence the jury would need to convict Harrison.

    O’Brien, on the other hand, thought outside of the box and said that a woman who would kill her roommate would not leave “”such a long trail of lies.”” O’Brien asserted that there was enough reasonable doubt to find Harrison not guilty, a notion the jury rejected when they returned their verdict on Friday.

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