A car wash worker told a jury today that he arrived at work last March to find six co-workers lying in bloody puddles in a lobby and an office, with Robert Wayne Harris standing nearby.
Five of those co-workers were dead or dying.
“They were all lying, face down I believe, in a pool of blood,” said Jason Shields, 21, of the scene when he entered the car wash lobby. “They were still trying to breathe.”
Shields, who broke down in sobs at the sight of crime scene photos, was a key witness prosecutors called in Harris’ capital murder trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the 28-year-old defendant, who had been fired from the car wash a few days before the killings.
Bad Vibes With three bloody bodies in the lobby of the Mi-T-Fine Car Wash in Irving on March 20, Shields said he looked at Harris, who told him he thought the business had been robbed.
Shields told the state district court jury that Harris directed him to three more bodies in the office. Harris then reached for a knife on a bookshelf, Shields said.
“I got a vibe, ‘I’d better get out of here before something happens to me,’ “ Shields said.
Harris, 28, has been charged in the five deaths at the Mi-T-Fine Car Wash in Irving and the unrelated slaying of an Irving woman several months earlier. However, prosecutors are trying Harris only in the slayings of cashier Rhoda Wheeler, 45, and assistant manager Augustin Villasenor, 36.
Killing more than one person in the same crime allows capital murder charges, and prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.
Lost ‘Sense of Being’ or Greed? Harris, who has confessed to police, his brother and at least one television reporter, pleaded innocent at the start of the trial today.
Detective Jeff Spivey testified that Harris gave two statements to police when he was arrested the day after the slayings. In the first, he said he walked into the car wash and found the carnage. He later gave another statement saying he killed the six after he was assaulted by Villasenor.
“I lost all sense of being,” he wrote in the statement. “I pulled out my gun and started firing.”
Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis said “greed and hatred were the reasons for that shooting that morning.”
“The evidence will show that six good innocent people were gunned down at the Mi-T-Fine Car Wash,” he said during opening statements.
Defense attorneys declined to give an opening statement.
Fired Days Before Harris was fired March 17 after he was arrested for exposing himself in a car wash restroom with the door open. Davis told jurors that Harris returned before the car wash opened three days later to confront manager Dennis Lee, 48, and try to get his job back.
At gunpoint, he forced Wheeler to remove $4,000 in weekend receipts from the safe. Afterward, he made Wheeler, Lee and Villasenor lie on the floor in the office, and he shot them each in the back of the head, Davis said.
Three more employees walked into the lobby—Villasenor’s brother, Benjamin Villasenor, 32; Roberto Jimenez Jr., 15, and Octavio Ramos, 36. Harris made them lie on the floor in the lobby and he shot them each in the back of the head as well, Davis said.
After shooting the employees, Harris went to his car, retrieved a knife and slit Lee’s throat, Davis said.
Ramos was critically wounded. Harris has been indicted in his attempted capital murder in his shooting.
911 Tape Awaits JurorsShields told of running to a nearby doughnut shop and calling police.
In a 911 recording not heard by jurors today, Shields tells a dispatcher, “My dad just dropped me off, and everybody in there has been cut up and is dead.”
Moments later, in a chilling portion of the five-minute tape, Shields tells the operator that Harris is coming into the doughnut shop.
“Oh … here he is, right here,” Shields is heard saying before asking someone in the shop: “Could you lock the door? Lock the door. Hurry up and lock the door.”
A stuttering Harris picks up the telephone several seconds later and identifies himself by name to the dispatcher.
“The only thing I know is … I just lost my job and I went to talk to my manager, and instead I walked in and there’s blood everywhere,” Harris said.
Harris fled the scene and was captured the next day at a friend’s house in Dallas. The next day, he directed authorities to the body of Sandra Estes Scott, a 37-year-old Irving woman who had disappeared Nov. 29. He later admitted shooting her after an argument, according to court records.
Another prosecution witness, Deon Bell, testified today that he gave a 9mm handgun to his stepfather, Billy Brooks, and Harris the night before the slayings.
He said he didn’t see them again until the next morning, when he came home and saw them with a duffle bag and stacks of cash. Bell testified he and the other two got in a car and drove to a South Dallas park, where Harris and Brooks left contents of the bag.
Bell testified that, en route, he heard Harris tell Brooks he shot three people, then shot three more when they walked in on the scene.
Bell did not say what was in the bag, but prosecutors have said it contained such items as a knife, a crowbar, and a cellular telephone that had belonged to one of the car wash victims.
Bell said Harris returned the handgun, which he then sold.