Harris rejectsplea deal inmurder case


Paige Harris

James Harris

ROCKINGHAM — A woman facing a murder charge in the death of her mother-in-law has refused a plea deal.

Dean Bowman, a special prosecutor from the N.C. Attorney General’s Office, told Superior Court Judge Gale M. Adams Thursday afternoon that the state had offered a deal to Paige Shelton Harris, which she rejected.

The judge asked for the plea offer to be read into the record, but the matter was dropped after a brief bench conference.

Harris pleaded not guilty to all charges against her: first-degree murder, domestic abuse of a disabled or elderly person inflicting serious injury, insurance fraud and two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.

‘SEVERE MALNOURISHMENT’

Paige Shelton Harris called deputies April 26, 2010 to report the death of her mother-in-law, Myra Hockaday Harris, according to court documents.

The deceased had been living with and was being cared for by Harris and her husband, James Phillip Harris, in their Hoffman home.

An autopsy performed two days later noted “blunt-force injuries resulting in areas of contusions on the face, forehead and neck of Myra Harris, along with ‘ligature marks around the wrists, consisting of predominantly linear bands of skin blistering, skin avulsion and red contusions of the skin.”

The autopsy also found that the cause of death was “complications from severe malnourishment and acute pneumonia, which was likely the result of a combination of factors, including dementia and inadequate care.”

The injuries to her head, neck and chest were also considered to have contributed to her death.

Medical records mentioned in court documents showed Myra Harris weighed 158.4 pounds when she was seen by her doctor Aug. 27, 2009. At the time of her autopsy, her body weighed 78 pounds.

Paige and James Harris were arrested Oct. 14, 2010, charged with first-degree murder and placed under a $100,000 secured bond.

Documents show Paige Harris was bailed out the following day.

MANSLAUGHTER CONVICTION

Bowman told the judge about James Harris being a co-defendant, but said his case was disposed of late last year.

James Harris was convicted Dec. 4, 2014 on felony counts of involuntary manslaughter, domestic abuse of a disabled or elderly person and obtaining property by false pretenses, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety Division of Adult Correction.

Prison records show he is expected to be released July 20.

Paige Harris’ next court date is scheduled for July 13 for the judge to hear motions and possibly set a date for trial.

Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.

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