Jury finds Harris guilty of girls’ murders
SIOUX CITY — Marla Stroman let out a joyful whoop, ran down the street and nearly tackled several family members who were standing outside the Woodbury County Courthouse in Sioux City.
Stroman, her teenage son and other family members locked arms in a group hug, happy that Lawrence Douglas Harris — Stroman’s former husband — had just been convicted of murdering her daughters.
“(I’m) just happy that he’s finally getting the justice that he deserves,” Stroman said.
She’d been waiting more than a year since the girls, Kendra Suing, 10, and Alysha Suing, 8, were found stabbed and strangled to death inside their Sioux City home.
Harris, 26, who had an interest in witchcraft, told police the girls had died when a spell he cast to protect their teenage brother reversed itself, killing them. His attorneys attempted to prove he was legally insane.
(Article continues below this ad)
But after two weeks of testimony, jurors took only a couple of hours Thursday to find Harris guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.
During closing arguments in court Thursday, the prosecution said Harris killed the girls to enact revenge on his wife for a suspected affair, setting a fire in the basement to cover up his actions and faking mental illness in an attempt to avoid conviction.
Alysha Suing’s blood was found on Harris’ fingers and body and on the tip of a long knife Harris called his “ritual knife,” which police found tucked inside his spell notebook.
Kendra Suing’s blood was found on one of Harris’ shoes.
In videos shown in court, Harris told a Sioux City police detective that he was responsible for the girls’ deaths because he had cast the spell, but he denied murdering them and said he had a “memory hole” and didn’t remember what had happened.
After the verdict was read, Stroman told reporters she believed there never was a spell. Harris killed her daughters to hurt her, she said, and knew he’d accomplished his goal when he saw her reaction.
“He shows no sign of remorse, and that again goes to he wanted to hurt me and him seeing my reaction I think it, basically … as much as I tried holding it back, it gave him the satisfaction he was wanting,” Stroman said. “He knew he hurt me in the worst possible way by taking my kids.”
While attempting to prove insanity during closing arguments, Assistant Public Defender Mike Williams emphasized that two highly respected forensic psychiatrists — among the best in their field, he said — testified that Harris was legally insane when he attempted to cast a spell the day the girls died.
In the end, the jury did not agree.
AP reports that Lawrence Harris will be sentenced on Feb. 18.