Cal Harris Found Not Guilty in 4th Murder Trial Over Wife's Death

This was the fourth murder trial over the death of his wife, Michele Harris.

ByABC News
May 24, 2016, 2:37 PM

— -- Upstate New York businessman Cal Harris has been found not guilty in his fourth murder trial for the death of his estranged wife, Michele Harris.

For 15 years, Cal Harris has been adamant that he did not kill Michele Harris, who has been missing since 2001.

Cal Harris waived his right to be tried by a jury in this fourth trial. Schoharie County Judge Richard Mott delivered the verdict.

Harris’ first two guilty convictions were overturned, and his third trial ended in a hung jury. He faced second-degree murder charges at all his trials.

Michele Harris vanished in Tioga County, New York, the morning of Sept. 12, 2001. Her minivan was parked at the end of the Harrises’ long driveway, with the keys still in the ignition. She was 35 years old at the time, and she and Cal Harris were getting divorced, but they still lived under the same roof with their four children. Her body still has not been found.

Cal Harris’ attorney Bruce Barket told ABC News in March that the defense would present new evidence at the trial, including items found in an outdoor fire pit at a house not far from the Harrises’ that was once owned by another man. The defense claimed that that man was the last person seen with Michele Harris the day she went missing.

Among the items the defense says were found in the fire pit were a knife blade, a decorative button, part of a shoulder strap that could be from a bra, part of a woman’s bathing suit or purse and two fragments of charred fabric, one dark blue or black and the other light colored.

“Those colors match the coloring of the clothing that Michele Harris was wearing the night she disappeared,” Barket said at the time. “She had on, as it was described, a navy blue golf or polo shirt and a pair of khaki shorts.”

Cal Harris was first arrested and charged with Michele Harris’ murder four years after she disappeared. Prosecutors argued that blood found in the Harris home suggested she had been attacked by her husband and they had found a witness who said he heard Cal Harris threaten her. Cal Harris was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2007, even though much of the prosecutors’ case was based on circumstantial evidence.

But shortly after the verdict, a new witness, Kevin Tubbs, came forward and said he saw Michele Harris the morning after she was supposed to have been killed, arguing with another man at the foot of the Harrises’ driveway.

Cal Harris was granted a second trial and was found guilty of second-degree murder a second time in 2009, but the verdict was overturned on appeal because of two procedural errors, one regarding the impartiality of a juror and the other regarding insufficient instructions to the jury regarding hearsay testimony allowed during trial.

PHOTO: Calvin Harris listens during his trial at the Tioga County Court in Owego, New York, July 14, 2009.
Calvin Harris listens during his trial at the Tioga County Court in Owego, New York, July 14, 2009.

During the third murder trial in 2015, the judge allowed the jury to hear Tubbs’ testimony but did not allow the defense to present evidence related to new suspects, saying much of it was circumstantial and other portions were hearsay. On May 16, 2015, the jury came back deadlocked, and a mistrial was declared.

Harris has consistently maintained that he had nothing to do with his wife’s disappearance. “Absolutely not,” he told ABC News last year before his third trial. “And the fact that I’m sitting here and having to go through this is just a horror show.”

Authorities have said they ruled out any other suspects during their investigation. The district attorney previously declined a number of times to comment on the case.

Throughout this process, the Harrises’ four children have stood by their father and said they believe he is innocent.

“We didn’t have any doubt he wasn’t involved,” Taylor Harris told ABC News in an earlier interview. “He’s been there for us through everything and given us every opportunity we’ve ever asked for and had our backs, and now it’s kind of our turn to do the same for him.”

ABC News’ Matt Gutman, Lisa Soloway and Mike Repplier contributed to this report.