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Harris' Assets to Remain Frozen / Contact Between Wife, Daughter Unresolved

A federal judge Friday let stand a temporary restraining order freezing the assets of slain orthodontist David Harris, but refused to block the man's wife from contacting his daughter.

U.S. District Judge Sam Kent declined to rule on a request from attorney Tony Buzbee to keep Clara Harris from contacting her 16-year-old stepdaughter, Lindsey Harris, who lives in Ohio.

The judge said the matter should be handled by the Harris County court in which Clara Harris is charged with murdering her husband.

"Mrs. Harris has tried to contact Lindsey," Buzbee told the judge during a brief hearing attended by David Harris' parents and his ex-wife, Debra Shank.

Clara Harris, a 44-year-old dentist, remains free on bond after being accused of repeatedly running over her husband with her Mercedes-Benz on July 24. Accompanied by Lindsey, her husband's daughter from a previous marriage, she confronted her husband of 10 years after discovering him with another woman in the lobby of a Nassau Bay hotel.

Clara Harris and the other woman, Gail Bridges, were involved in a scuffle before going to the parking lot.

Witnesses said David Harris, 44, had escorted Bridges to her sport utility vehicle when his wife ran her car into him and the vehicle. Lindsey Harris was in the Mercedes as it ran over her father several times.

A federal lawsuit filed by Shank, the girl's mother, asserts that the teen tried to stop her stepmother and also tried to get out of the car.

Buzbee said he may ask state District Judge Carol Davies and the Harris County District Attorney's Office to make it a condition of Harris' bond that she not contact the teen.

She already is forbidden from contacting or approaching Bridges.

Friday's hearing was scheduled after Shank filed the lawsuit on her daughter's behalf. She asked that David Harris' assets, including any life insurance payments, be frozen and placed in a constructive trust for Lindsey and his twin 3 -year-old sons from his second marriage.

The lawsuit expresses concern that Harris could profit from the death or use all of the assets to pay for her defense. Her husband's will names her as his sole beneficiary.

Attorneys for both sides met before the hearing and Buzbee later told Judge Kent that they had agreed on the handling of the assets.

The agreement calls for them to be frozen until the will is probated, except for expenses, such as payroll, that are associated with operating the businesses owned by David and Clara Harris.

Kent noted that any money left over after claims are paid using Harris' life insurance policies should revert to the estate. He extended the restraining order he granted Wednesday until a Galveston County probate court takes control of the estate case.

In court filings Friday, attorney Patrick J. Pacheco asked a Galveston County probate court to name a temporary and independent executor for the estate, whose value is not indicated.

David and Clara Harris operated numerous dental practices in the Houston area and owned commercial property in Harris, Brazoria and Galveston counties as well as vacation homes in Texas and Colorado.

 

Ruth Rendon
The Houston Chronicle
August 3, 2002
Galveston