[…] Marla and Larry met in September 2005. Marla was working as a personal care attendant at a group foster home in Alexandria, Minn. Larry was living in the home with his infant son, clean for six months after a history of drug abuse.
Methamphetamine and marijuana were the drugs of choice for Larry and his ex-wife, who had left the family. Now, Larry was trying to learn to become a better parent for his son. He often sought out Marla with questions about parenting. The two started talking more and more.
“We would take the kids for walks and just talk,” she said. “We could sit there and talk about anything and everything. He understood what being a single parent was about.”
Marla fell in love with Larry’s sense of humor and his love for children.
A month later, Larry left the foster home and moved in with Marla, who was living in Sauk Centre, Minn. Marla said Larry felt that he couldn’t parent his son in the type of setting the Alexandria foster home offered, so he let his son return to a previous foster home.
While living in Marla’s house, Larry volunteered to watch her children so she wouldn’t have to leave them with a baby-sitter. He would get down on the floor and play with the children, read to them, take them to the park and walk them to school. He gave them kisses every night and told them he loved them.
Since Larry was “great with the kids,” she encouraged him to regain custody of his son. He contacted social services, and Marla helped him with the custody process. Within a year, the boy was back with his father.
In July 2006, Marla and Larry married. Early on, family life was good.
“We hardly ever fought. The kids were happy,” she said.
Marla said she thought Larry was casting “love spells,” which Wiccans use to do good.
Although Marla wasn’t a practicing pagan herself, she said she knew a little about it from other family members who were. She told Larry not to cast spells when the children were home because it was against what she and the children believed.
“I didn’t want them getting curious,” she said. “I guess he didn’t follow my instructions. But I knew that paganism isn’t for harming people.”
Marla said the man she loved changed after he got a copy of “The Satanic Bible.” He even asked her to read it. But after making it through the first two pages, Marla said she told Larry she didn’t like the book because it contradicted the Bible.
Larry brought red, white and black candles into their home, drew a sigil of Baphomet in crayon on a dresser and used a kitchen knife to draw his own blood, according to Marla. He would walk into the woods, cast his spells and return with cuts on his hands. She admits Larry’s behavior scared her.
“I stayed away from it,” she said. “I don’t know what it does. I don’t know the effects of it.”
In June 2007, Marla said Larry, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, stopped taking his medication. After that, they fought often about everything, from the severity of disciplining the children to doing dishes and laundry. Whenever Marla went out with her friends, who she said are mostly male, Larry thought she was cheating on him. She took her children or female friends along to put him at ease.
Finally, Marla gave Larry an ultimatum. He had to take his medication and attend counseling with her, or she would leave him. Although Marla didn’t want to go through another divorce, she said she didn’t want the kids to see her fight with Larry anymore.
After Thanksgiving, Larry saw a physician at Siouxland Metal Health. The doctor wanted to conduct additional tests before prescribing his medication. Marla said Larry never made a follow-up appointment.
Two weeks before the killings, Marla said Larry told her something chilling. He said he could “hurt her in the worst possible way without touching her.” Though alarmed, she believed the comment was the result of Larry’s anger toward her about the ultimatum.
The 911 call comes into the city-county Communications Center at 4:19 p.m. Larry does not identify himself but reports a fire at his home.
Moments later, firefighters arrive to find the house engulfed in smoke. Inside, they discover Kendra and Alysha dead in their bedroom. Neighbors watch from their porches as firefighters carry the naked body of one of the girls from the porch roof, down a ladder and into a waiting ambulance.
Although the girls are already dead, paramedics perform first aid all the way to St. Luke’s, where they are officially pronounced dead: Kendra of asphyxiation and Alysha of asphyxiation due to ligature strangulation with a neck fracture.
At the house, police immediately begin questioning Larry, who tells them he was practicing witchcraft. The girls died, he tells them, while he was casting a spell that “had gone bad” and that “could have had severe consequences.”
There’s blood on his hands.
In the basement, officers find candles, Larry’s ritual knife, stained with DNA from one of the girls, a symbol of Baphomet, representing Satan and believed to have occult power, bells and an amulet with an inverted pentagram — all items used in rituals described in “The Satanic Bible.”
Larry tells police he has a spell notebook in his and Marla’s bedroom closet. The notebook contains drawings from the book “Pagan Ways,” references found in the occult fiction book “Necronomicom” and page numbers corresponding to “The Satanic Bible,” including one specific spell.
The 13 steps outlined in “The Satanic Bible” for performing a ritual call for the symbol of Baphomet to be placed against the west wall, above an altar. In satanic ritual, a naked woman serves as the altar, head pointing south and feet to the north. The person conducting the spell rings a bell to purify the air at the start of the ritual and lights candles, all black except for a single white one “used for destruction of enemies.” A sword, or in this case perhaps a knife, is pointed toward the symbol of Baphomet during an invocation to Satan.
Larry tells police he was possessed by Kali, the Hindu goddess of time and change. If so, he might have given the “Invocation Employed Towards The Conjuration of Destruction,” which includes the plea to “rend that gaggling tongue and close his (her) throat, Oh Kali!”
“I call upon the messengers of doom to slash with grim delight this victim I hath chosen.”
About 5 p.m. another police officer comes to the hospital and takes Marla to police headquarters. A detective questions her for four hours.
Finally, at 11:30 p.m., a detective tells her that Larry is accused of strangling both of the girls to death and setting a fire in the basement. He tells her Larry cut Kendra’s arm and shows her a photo of Alysha and the brown nylon belt Larry allegedly used to end her life.
[Read the full story at the Sioux City Journal]
Note to our readers:
This story represents the events of Sunday, Jan. 6, 2008, as they were told to the Journal by Marla Stroman and other family members and friends close to the case. The Journal also used court documents, other public records and observations from the Journal reporter and photographer on the scene on Jan. 6 in an attempt to reconstruct what happened the day Kendra and Alysha Suing died. The accusations made in the story about the defendant in this case, Lawrence Douglas Harris Sr., come from court and police documents, Marla Stroman’s recollections and statements made to the media by police. The state’s case against Harris begins on Tuesday with jury selection. That jury will be charged with determining if Harris is guilty of first-degree murder.
— Mitch Pugh, editor, Sioux City Journal