Cold Case 2002: Family Seeks Justice After Woman Found Dead in Red River - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Cold Case Files

Cold Case Files

NBC 5 revisits cold cases, renewing attention in investigations where the are few leads

Cold Case 2002: Family Seeks Justice After Woman Found Dead in Red River

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It's been nearly 15 years since Jennifer Harris was murdered. The 28-year-old's naked body was found in the Red River, and her uterus had been removed. (Published Friday, March 3, 2017)

    Bonham, Texas, sits a stone's throw from the Oklahoma border, nestled in a landscape as picturesque and peaceful as the water that flows between them. Only echoes of passing cars and gentle breaks in the wake fill the air.

    It's the kind of place to watch a serene sunset. But as time passes in the border town, there's one family that feels lost in time.

    "It's something that weighs heavily on you constantly. You just don't forget it. It doesn't go away," said Jeff Schneider.

    Schneider remembers the day his sweet niece, Jennifer Harris, came into the world.

    "We were standing out in the lobby area and they wheeled her and her mother out, and the fire-engine hair, she was making the world known that she was here she was sounding off," he said.

    Ironically, in the Red River, that fire-engine red color would also be what alerted a fisherman 28 years later.

    Harris had a bright future. She was a high school cheerleader, tennis player and in a strange twist, felt most comfortable in the water. She had her master's degree in marine biology and a whole career ahead of her until Mother's Day 2002.

    "She met somebody out there that she knew and trusted, and so that person that she knew and trusted that did this is just beyond any imagination," Schneider said.

    Harris's uncle recalled what seemed like never-ending search efforts after the night she went to meet that unknown person near Lake Bonham.

    "It's a horrible thing to be out there walking up and down on the creek bottoms and ditches and back roads, and knowing if you find what you're looking for it's going to be a horrible thing to find," he said.

    Six agonizing days passed before a fisherman discovered Harris's body floating in the Red River. If that wasn't horrific enough, the medical examiner discovered that her uterus was missing.

    "If she was pregnant the killer murdered two people instead of one. It's very sickening," said her father, Jerry Harris.

    Jennifer Harris was possibly strangled, officials determined, and her death was ruled "violent and unnatural."

    Over the years there have been many theories and questions raised. Were her organs intentionally removed, or was it the result of freshwater life? There was no way to prove either, because her body was so badly decomposed.

    What about the evidence? Her father says shortly after her murder, a person of interest was named by the Texas Rangers, but most of the evidence went missing from the Fannin County Sheriff's Office shortly thereafter.

    "Lost evidence, lost her car keys, lost her clothes, lost her laptop computer, haven't followed up on DNA evidence," Jerry Harris said.

    But all hope isn't lost now. Jennifer Harris's family says the case is in the hands of a new sheriff, who's helping them raise awareness through social media.

    "There's somebody that knows what happened," Schneider said. "I do not think this was a one-man deal. I think there was somebody who assisted in it and somebody knows."

    And to that person, it's about justice for Jennifer Harris in a quiet community where unanswered questions loom in the dark shadows.

    Jennifer Harris's family is working to offer a $50,000 reward that leads to an arrest in the cold case. For more information on how you can help donate, visit Red Rabbit Productions.

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