Just Another Guy with Opinions

Kids Murdered and Dad Commits Suicide

Posted by shadmia on April 6, 2009

James Harrison, 34, of Graham Wash. was found dead from an apparent rifle-shot to the head in his car, with the engine still running. His five children were also found dead – four of them in their bedrooms and one in a bathroom – from gunshot wounds. Neighbors identified the children as Maxine, 16; Samantha, 14 or 15; Jamie, 11; Heather, 8; and James, 7. The police are calling it a murder, suicide.

“This was not a tragedy. It was a rotten murder,” said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor. “This appears to be the terrible work of the biological father. If that doesn’t break your heart, I don’t know what does.”

Police were called to the mobile home of James Harrison on Saturday, April 4, after a visiting relative found nobody answered the door and saw a child’s body through a window.

Angela Harrison, Mr. Harrison’s wife, was not in the home at the time of the shootings. She had told her husband the day before that she was leaving him and she had left the house. Harrison and one of his daughters, Maxine, were able to track her to a convenience store in Auburn. Angela Harrison was there with the other man.

Both her husband and daughter confronted Angela and they began to quarrel. Angela refused to return to her family, saying that the man with her was her new boyfriend. James Harrison and his daughter returned home.

According to Detective Ed Troyer of the Sheriff’s Department, Mr. Harrison shot his children early Saturday. He then drove to an area near the convenience store in Auburn, where he shot himself. Sheriff Paul Pastor said late Saturday that the shooting was the worst in the history of Pierce County.

Ms. Harrison worked at a smoke shop and Mr. Harrison at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, possibly as a security guard. Neighbors said that the Harrison’s largely kept to themselves but argued frequently and loudly, and that Mr. Harrison could be heard threatening his children.

Carolyn Bader, who said she lived a few houses down from the Harrison’s until January 2008, said she and her husband, Raymond, called the police and state child protection officials more than once because they were worried that the children were being abused.

“We’d be in our home with the doors and windows shut,” Ms. Bader said, “and they would be inside their house and we could hear him yelling at the kids. It was out of control,” she added. “We would hear kids screaming in the house. I don’t mean playing screaming. I mean screaming.”

A neighbor, Ryan Peden, 16, said he had exchanged text messages with Maxine Harrison up until about 11 p.m. Friday. In the last text message he received from Maxine, Ryan said, “Maxine told me, ‘I’m tired of crying. I’m going to bed. I’ll talk to you in the morning.’ ”

Ryan said he knew Maxine from talking with her at a school bus stop. He said they were not particularly close but had been in contact more frequently recently. He said that she was a good student but that neither she nor the other children appeared to have been involved with many activities beyond school.

Another neighbor, Trisha Lund, said that her son, Robert, 8, sometimes played with James and that the two were in the same second-grade class this year at Orting Primary School. The boys also shared a regular session with a speech therapist at school. Ms. Lund said she and her parents had struggled to explain the shooting to Robert.

“I asked him how he felt about it,” Ms. Lund said. “He said, ‘I’m mad at his dad.’ ”

Both the State Children’s Administration and the police were investigating charges of child abuse against James Harrison. Spokeswoman, Sherry Hill, said Sunday that Mr. Harrison had been found to have physically abused one of the children in February 2007. She said it was not yet clear who had called the agency to the house or whether the state had taken action against Mr. Harrison, but none of the children were removed from the home.

This latest episode in Washington State caps off a week of extraordinary violence with gunmen committing mass murders in New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and California.

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