A Carlsbad woman who admitted to killing her husband continued testifying in her retrial Wednesday, recounting the exact moment when she shot her husband to death in their home as their children watched cartoons in another room.
“I turned around and saw him coming toward me. He said, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ I told him to stop. I heard a loud noise and felt [the gun] jerk. He froze, stopped and fell forward,” Julie Harper testified, recalling how she killed her husband, Jason Harper, on Aug. 27, 2012, after an intense argument.
“I ran into the bathroom because I thought he would come after me. [He was] completely still – no movement. I began shaking him and felt no movement,” she continued.
Julie said she called his name, but got no response. She said their children then came to the door to ask what was happening.
“I went to the door and cracked it. They asked what was going on and I told them, ‘Daddy fell off a chair,’” she recalled. “I went back again and there was no movement, no breath. I grabbed a blanket and covered him up, and put a few other things around the body. I didn't want the children to see him.”
“I was in complete shock. I didn’t know what to do – how to tell them that their dad was dead,” she added. "All I could think about was them."
Julie testified that she and Jason had gotten into an argument about a computer on the day she killed him. It allegedly escalated into him throwing things around their bedroom before she told him she had filed for divorce. Julie said Jason then began yelling about how they would have to pay for attorneys.
“I was so scared,” Julie said. “We took vows for better or worse, and he hadn’t been there for me. He was exploding.”
She claimed Jason shook and grabbed before she grabbed her gun and pulled the trigger. She said he also yanked her pants off, and she thought he was going to rape her.
On the stand, Julie claimed she had become afraid of Jason – so much so that she had packed a getaway bag, put cash aside for an escape and had taken her Derringer gun out of a safe and put it under her pillow in case she needed to protect herself from him.
After an acquittal on first-degree murder charges in her first trial last October, Julie now faces second-degree murder charges in her retrial, which continued Wednesday in north San Diego.
On Tuesday, a visibly nervous Julie took the stand for the first time in the retrial, recounting just how allegedly toxic and abusive her marriage had become in the years leading up to Jason’s murder.
Julie testified that she and Jason – who worked as a high school teacher – had major differences from the start of their relationship, but they still decided to get married.
Once they were married, Julie claimed Jason would often lose his temper over small things, frequently screaming at her, criticizing her and calling her names. She said he called her lazy and fat, among other things, and would curse at her in front of their kids.
Julie testified the verbal abuse eventually turned physical. She claimed her husband forced himself on her during times of rage and raped her about 30 times before she killed him.
She said she began to keep a journal recording the times he’d get angry or the times he allegedly attacked or raped her.
Julie also talked about her medical conditions, including how she suffers from several forms of arthritis such as Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). She said the medications she has taken over the years have caused side effects, including weight gain.
Julie testified that Jason thought she was faking her medical problems and expressed little concern
about her well-being.
The North County mother’s retrial began two weeks ago and since then, many witnesses have taken the stand, including Jason’s mother and brother, as well as neighbors who lived near the Harpers.
Much of that testimony has been emotional, including Jason’s younger brother, Brian Harper, who broke down in court recounting the day he learned Jason had been shot to death.
Last week, the couple’s two young children also took the stand, at times fighting back tears.
The couple’s son recounted how he and his sister were watching television in another room when they suddenly heard a “thud” on the day their father was killed.
The couple’s daughter recalled similar details on the stand, saying that when they went to check on their parents in the other room, her mother told them their father was dead.
Though Julie admits she killed her husband in self-defense because she was afraid he would kill or rape her, the prosecution says Julie added to the couple’s tumultuous family life by frivolously spending money when the couple was experiencing financial problems.
Julie testified that after she killed Jason, she dropped their kids off at her sister's house and went to a coffee shop. After that, she said she went to her father's office and told him Jason was dead. He suggested calling the police and said she would need a lawyer, Julie said in court.
She said she then buried the gun she used in the murder somewhere near her father's office.
Julie testified that she never reported that Jason had raped her to police because she was “embarrassed” and didn’t want her family to find out. She claimed she was afraid Jason would lose his job if she reported the rapes, which meant their family’s livelihood would be impacted.
The prosecution argued that writings in Julie’s journal included complaints from her about a lack of foreplay in her sex life with Jason.
Her testimony is expected to last all day.