The man accused of killing his girlfriend and her 6-year-old son took the witness stand Tuesday in his double murder trial as attorneys delved into his busy personal life.
Vince Harris is facing two murder charges in the Feb. 24, 2012, fatal shootings of 47-year-old Tina Green Hall and her son, Jeremy, whom Harris reporting finding dead in Hall’s 2352 Howe Ave. home, where he was living at the time.
He was living there because another woman had kicked him out of a house he owned in Harris County after he added her name to the deed. Investigators said he was furious about that, about the alimony he had to pay his second wife, and about the alimony his third wife was demanding.
Harris claimed he was helping support Hall and her son, but prosecutor George Lipscomb questioned the extent of that support Tuesday, noting Harris told a detective that after giving Hall money for car payments and electric bills in 2010 or 2011, he provided only what little he had cash for.
He also was having sex with another woman he had met at a New Year’s Eve party, he acknowledged during his testimony Tuesday, saying Hall was aware of this other relationship.
He said he first dated Hall in March 2011, and gave her $850 for a car payment. Later they broke up, and he dated another woman whose first name he could not recall. Then he moved into Hall’s Oakland Park home in October 2011 after he was kicked out of his Harris County house, which went into foreclosure.
On Feb. 22, 2012, the Wednesday before the Friday the mother and son died, Harris had a hearing in civil court, where a judge told him he would be jailed if he didn’t pay $471 in alimony.
The prosecution’s theory
Police and prosecutors have theorized Harris was so angry at the women he felt were taking advantage of him that he snapped upon learning that Hall wanted him to move out. A friend earlier in the trial testified Harris once told her he would never let another woman put him out, and he would kill her first.
Harris maintained Hall killed her son, Jeremy, and then herself because she did not want to be a burden on him.
“Yes, sir, I do believe that,” he answered when Lipscomb asked whether that still was his contention, later adding, “She wanted to be self-sufficient, sir.”
She was in financial distress because she had quit a full-time hospital job while expecting to get disability aid for a chronic hip ailment. She took on a part-time job at the Fort Benning Burger King, which left her more time to spend with her son.
But the Social Security aid didn’t come through, leaving her income inadequate for her expenses.
Harris testified he told her of the challenges she faced, saying, “It’s going to be a struggle.” To Lipscomb he said, “Her reply to me was, ‘I’m not going to struggle.’”
But Hall seemed happy the week before she died, he testified.
That Friday morning they had sex, and she was smiling as he left for work about 5:30 a.m., he said. She was lying in bed in the master bedroom watching TV.
He went to his job driving a bus at Columbus State University, got off work about 12:40 p.m. and got home about 1. He found two deadbolts on the door still locked when he arrived, and walked in to see the bed in the master bedroom had been made, and a container of keys had been emptied onto it.
He saw also that a lock box in which Hall kept a revolver was open and empty, he said.
He walked to the son’s room, opened the door and saw Hall lying half-off the bed, with Jeremy dead on the other side. Finding she had no pulse, he called 911.
Authorities initially ruled the case a murder-suicide, though friends and family said Hall would never hurt her son, to whom she was devoted.
Later a cold-case investigator re-examined the evidence and decided Harris was the likely suspect.
The cold-case evidence
That officer, Sgt. Randy Long, testified Monday he found it odd that Hall would empty the container of keys onto the bed in the master bedroom to find the key to the gun box, as she presumably would know which key fit. Harris did not, however, and would have had to try each key until he found the right one.
A police technician dusting the box for fingerprints said he found a pattern fitting dishwashing gloves.
Also an autopsy revealed the bullet that killed Hall traveled from left to right and downward. That was odd because she was right-handed, so it should have come from the other direction, investigators said.
The .38-caliber revolver that killed the two was found at the foot of the bed, not next to Hall’s body, and her hands had no visible gunshot residue, police said.
For the deaths to be a murder-suicide, Hall had to shoot her son first and then herself. But when she was shot and slipped partly off the bed’s right side, she dragged the bed covers with her, displacing a fitted sheet beneath her.
At the edge of that dislodged sheet was the hole from the bullet that killed Jeremy. That evidence indicated Hall already was partially off the bed when the boy was shot, so she must have been shot first, police said.
Both the prosecution and defense finished presenting their cases Tuesday. Defense attorney Stacey Jackson then asked Judge Ron Mullins for a directed verdict of acquittal, arguing no eyewitnesses or forensic evidence tied Harris to the crime.
Lipscomb countered that the evidence was sufficient to proceed, particularly the estimated time of death, which a medical examiner said was likely eight hours or more before Harris reported finding the bodies. Lipscomb maintains Harris killed the two before he left for work that morning.
Closing arguments are expected Wednesday in Mullins’ 10th floor Government Center courtroom. If convicted, Harris faces life in prison.