Our justice system has been touted as one of the most progressive in the world. Yet despite all it’s positive attributes and the amount of justice that is actually done, there are still many who find themselves victims of a system full of loopholes.
For the past 15 years, Cal felt like he was on the butt-end of a bad joke. Ever since September 11, the world hadn’t seemed to make any sense. It was a day that changed everything in his life and sent him down a path he never intended to walk…
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35-year-old mother-of-four Michele and her husband Cal lived in upstate New York. Overall, things were going fairly smoothly, but raising four children is never easy and eventually the stress took its toll on the Harris’ marriage. Cal and Michele decided the time had come to get a divorce.
Parting of the Ways
But what seemed on the surface like an amicable divorce was fixing to be a rough parting of the ways. Cal was not only going to lose $700,000 to his ex wife, but also custody of all four of his children. Before anything could be settled though, Michele disappeared. It was September 11, 2001…
Michele had vanished and it seemed the whole neighborhood was out looking for her. Right away, searchers found her minivan parked at the end of her driveway. The keys were still in the ignition. While the rest of the world was reeling from the terrorist attacks in NYC, this small, upstate community was trying to find one missing mother.
Why Kill Her?
It seemed that the only person with any motive for making Michele disappear was her husband: Cal Harris. Cal was arrested and put on trial. The prosecution and police alleged that the desperate dad fatally beat his wife with a hammer-like instrument and hid her body somewhere. The only problem with that scenario however, was that they hadn’t actually found Michele Harris’ body..
Four Years Later
Thus, Cal Harris wasn’t charged with her murder for a further four years. When he finally went to trial, Cal Harris denied that he played any sort of role in his wife’s disappearance and over the years, he has maintained his innocence. His children have maintained their father’s innocence as well.
At the same time, Cal’s defense lawyers countered the argument, stating that investigators had tagged the wrong man with the crime because he was an easy mark. They also alleged that the police had deliberately overlooked a Texas man that had been spotted near the home around the time of Michele’s disappearance. At the end of arguments, the judge rendered a startling verdict…
Judge Richard Mott had been put on the case when Cal Harris declined the right to a jury trial. After hearing eight weeks of arguments on both sides of the courtroom, the judge decided to clear Harris of all charges. Not to be deterred by the mere pronouncement of a government official, the district attorney tried Cal again.
In 2007, nearly seven years after his wife’s mysterious disappearance, Cal Harris was tried again. This time, the jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. Nevertheless, he was given the opportunity to have a third trial. It seemed that someone had come forward with new information about his wife on that fateful day…
Someone came forward with information pertaining to Michele Harris’ disappearance. He said that he’d seen Michele arguing with a man on the edge of the Harris’ driveway just hours before she was reported missing. It was enough to throw another wrench in the prosecution’s flimsy dream of a case. Then there was the fact that there were two prosecutorial errors in the previous case as well.
It took the jury 11 days to find consensus but ultimately none could be reached. There was just no definitive proof that Cal had done anything to his wife. In 2009, Cal Harris was declared not guilty, but that wasn’t the end to Cal Harris’ legal troubles. Before long, life would prove that Cal Harris may have been found innocent, but he was certainly no saint…
Civil Rights Violations
As expected, Harris’ defense team launched a civil lawsuit against the State of NY. It was their assertion that the veritable litany of alleged abuses and professional misconduct by both the police and prosecution, over nearly a decade, constituted clear civil rights violations.
Harris believed that the now-retired state police Investigator Sue Mulvey, who had supervised the criminal investigation against him, was only “coming after me” because her father had been fired from Harris’ employment some years before. This idea of vengeance and retribution was, ironically, what spurned Harris’ first actual crime…
It happened some years later, just as Cal Harris was getting his life back together after being acquitted of his wife’s murder four times, that he became embroiled in a new feud with state law enforcement. 15 years had elapsed since Harris’ wife Michele had vanished without a trace, but the repercussions still stung badly.
The 55-year-old Harris was now being accused of stalking by State police investigator Terry Schultz, who claims that he intended to harm her. Terry Shultz was not unknown to Harris as she had been called as a witness in his fourth and final murder trial. Was it possible that he was trying to get back at the police by threatening their officers?
The main incident occurred just outside of Shultz’s Oneonta residence. Cal Harris arrived and began yelling threatening statements at Terry while she was inside, but that wasn’t the worst of it. In fact, Harris had been videotaping Shultz, her house, her property, and her vehicles for some time.
On the day of the incident, Harris sat in front of Shultz’s house for over an hour. When Shultz finally noticed him, he yelled out: “I’m going to get all you guys. How’s your son? Maybe I will go drag him out of school. I have been following him around.” It was a statement that did not go over well…
“Everyone’s Against Me”
As expected, when you threaten a police officer’s kid, Cal Harris was promptly arrested and charged with harassment. It was a misdemeanor of course, but it was the icing on the cake as far as Harris was concerned. He held a press conference and defended himself by saying that the charge was just another example of state law enforcement’s abusive tactics against him.
Harris’ story was much different than Terry Schultz’. “I was on a public street, minding my own business,” he told reporters. “I almost think it was a setup by police.” He even added that the officer had provoked him on the street by asking him where he buried Michele. It would be the last straw for Cal Harris…
After that, the police began a full-scale investigation again. This time under the pretense of investigating the extent of his threats and surveillance. Police seized his Cadillac and found his wallet and cellphone inside, as well as an unloaded plastic BB pellet pistol which Harris claimed he only carried for protection since Michele’s disappearance.
Harris was arraigned in Oneonta Town Court, then released to await further court proceedings. If he is convicted he could face up to 90 days in jail. It seems that there is no rest for Cal Harris or his children, nor will there be, until someone eventually finds out what really happened to Michele.