Back to: Opinion
January 14, 2013
Follow Opinion

Former Nevada County man murdered

The 72-year-old victim of a sordid murder called western Nevada County home for much of his career in the U.S. Forest Service.

Robert Harris, who was living in Placerville, was allegedly killed by a 12-gauge shotgun blast fired by his ex-wife, Colleen Ann Harris, 70. Colleen Harris, who was being held in an El Dorado County without bail, according to the Associated Press, has faced murder charges before.

In 1985, Colleen Harris was accused of killing her then-husband, 46-year-old James Batten, but was later acquitted by a jury, which was convinced by the defense’s argument that Colleen Harris committed the murder out of self-defense after years of abuse. Colleen Harris’ attorney claimed that she suffered from traumatic amnesia and had no recollection of the killing during the 1986 murder trial that created sensational news coverage in the local Mountain Democrat newspaper, according to a Sunday report by the Sacramento Bee.

On Jan. 6, authorities received a phone call from an attorney representing Colleen Harris, according to the Bee, and responding officers found Robert Harris dead.

Robert Harris was remembered fondly by his colleagues in the forest service, who noted that he worked as a forest engineer in the Tahoe National Forest from 1975, according to a joint email authored by Don Lane of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Frank Mosbacher of the Eldorado National Forest and Ann Westling of the Tahoe National Forest. Robert Harris was the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Forest Supervisor from 1988 until he retired from the forest service in 1997, according to the email.

“Bob was known for his love for Lake Tahoe and for his passion for creating consensus among the agencies in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” the email states.

Robert Harris’ son Andy Harris, 48, a Grass Valley attorney, is one of three surviving children, including Pam, 47, who lives in South Pasadena, Calif., and Scott, 43, who lives in St. Louis, Mo., according to an obituary submitted to The Union by Andy Harris’ wife, Michelle.

Robert Harris was a volunteer at the El Dorado Sheriff’s Office at the time of his death. He is remembered as an active member of local Little League activities and was recalled as an instrumental part of introducing several environmental initiatives in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“(Bob was) instrumental in helping to secure the first funding for Environmental Improvement Programs in 1997 following President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore’s visit to the Lake Tahoe basin,” Westling, Mosbacher and Lane wrote in an email. As an engineer in the TNF, Robert Harris helped effect the completion of a bridge over Love’s Falls in Sierra County along the Pacific Crest Trail, the trio stated.

After making her initial appearance Jan. 9, Harris was ordered to return to court Jan. 16, according to the Associated Press.

“She definitely wants to present a defense at the proper time and in the proper manner,” attorney Dain Weiner, told The Bee.

Weiner’s father, David, represented Harris in the earlier shooting trial.

If convicted of the latest charges, Harris could be sentenced to 25 years to life.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.


Explore Related Articles

The Union Updated Jan 15, 2013 08:41AM Published Jan 21, 2013 12:34PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.