Michigan man accused of killing wife with heroin-laced cereal in 2014

FLINT, Mich. — When Christina Ann-Thompson “Christy” Harris died of a heroin overdose in her Michigan home in 2014, she left behind her husband and two children, including a 4-month-old daughter.

Genesee County authorities on Tuesday announced that the 36-year-old mother's death was not an accident, but an intentional overdose administered by her husband, Jason Thomas Harris. Jason Harris, 44, of Davison, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder, solicitation of murder and delivery of a controlled substance causing death.

"We believe Jason Harris murdered his wife," Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said during a news conference. "We believe he put heroin in her cereal and milk the night she died."

Christy Harris died overnight Sept. 28, 2014. Her death was initially blamed on an accidental overdose.

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Jason Harris told investigators that his wife, who he said had asthma, had slept poorly the night she died due to a cold, for which she was taking cold medication. Christy Harris’ mother, Kathy Mays, had been on hand at the couple’s home for most of the day, however, and said her daughter was in good health and good spirits.

Jason Harris claimed that when he left for work, his wife was asleep, but was coughing and tossing and turning in her sleep, Leyton said.

Around 10 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 29, Jason Harris called a neighbor and asked her to check on his wife.

"She, the neighbor, thought that was unusual," Leyton said Tuesday.

When the neighbor went into the Harris home, which was unlocked, she found Christy Harris unresponsive in bed. The woman summoned a second neighbor, who is a nurse.

The second neighbor confirmed Christy Harris was dead and they called 911.

Watch prosecutor David Leyton discuss the Harris case below, courtesy of ABC 12 in Flint.

WATCH LIVE — Genesee Co Prosecutor David Leyton details the cold case arrest of Jason Harris https://www.abc12.com/content/news/Husband-charged-with-murder-nearly-5-years-after-wifes-death-558440531.html

Posted by ABC12: Your Trusted Source! WJRT-TV on Tuesday, August 27, 2019

One of the neighbors told authorities Jason Harris said he’d given his wife a bowl of cereal the night before, but that in the middle of eating it, she dropped it unexpectedly on the floor and passed out.

That same neighbor would later prove crucial to investigators’ case.

‘An incredibly loving mother’

Leyton said Tuesday that Jason and Christy Harris dated for about five years before marrying in 2003. Their first daughter, identified in Christy Harris' obituary as Hailey James Harris, was born in 2009.

The couple’s second daughter, Kaliann Jay Harris, was born in May 2014, the prosecutor said.

The newborn, and the breast milk with which she was fed, would also prove crucial to the case investigators were slowly building against her father.

"By all accounts, Christina Harris was an incredibly loving mother," Leyton said. "She breastfed her child and cared for her every need."

Christy Harris was also good at her job, Leyton said. She had just been promoted to manager of the Subway sandwich shop inside Ascension Genesys Hospital in nearby Grand Blanc Township. The shop is the busiest in Genesee County.

“She was a mentor to her coworkers. She was a leader,” the prosecutor said. “Most importantly to many there, she was an enduring friend.”

Christy Harris’ coworkers were some of the first people to sound the alarm after her death, saying she would never have used illegal drugs, Leyton said.

The victim’s coworkers weren’t the only people to find her use of heroin improbable. Jason Harris’ brother and sister went to the Davison Police Department days after their sister-in-law’s death and told investigators their brother had talked of “getting rid of Christina,” Leyton said.

"Both brother and sister felt Jason Harris was seeing other women outside of the marriage prior to Christina's death," the prosecutor said.

Christy Harris’ mother told police her daughter’s relationship with her husband was a rocky one. Investigators learned that Jason Harris had been corresponding via emails and photos with other women before and after his wife’s death.

Investigators also learned that Jason Harris bought an airline ticket to Providence, Rhode Island, to visit another woman nine days after his wife died, Leyton said. According to witnesses they spoke to, Christy Harris had discovered texts to the woman on her husband's cellphone prior to her death.

Police uncovered a total of 5,881 texts to that woman on Jason Harris’ phone, the prosecutor said.

The neighbor who had found Christy Harris unresponsive the morning of Sept. 29 told detectives Jason Harris had moved his girlfriend and her daughter into his home two months after his wife’s death.

‘What pills are tasteless?’

More than half a dozen of Jason Harris' coworkers also reported troubling statements he made, including comments in which he said he wanted to be rid of his wife. According to Leyton, Jason Harris told them he didn't want to get a divorce because he would have to pay alimony and child support and would have to fight for custody of his daughters.

Jason Harris also received $100,000 in life insurance money the month after Christy Harris died, the prosecutor said. That payout was from Christy Harris’ policy through Subway; he received another $20,000 in life insurance money through his own employer.

Leyton said Jason Harris was later fired by his employer because of a “pattern of positive drug testing.”

One coworker told authorities Jason Harris asked him for Xanax, an anxiety medication, about a month before Christy Harris died. The man said he gave Jason Harris five of the pills.

"This coworker then said Jason told him he put the Xanax pills in Christina's water, but after tasting it, she wouldn't drink it anymore," Leyton said. "So, this coworker said Jason asked him, 'Well, what pills are tasteless?'"

Another coworker said Jason Harris also quizzed him on what drugs are odorless and tasteless. The man said prior to Christy Harris’ death, Jason Harris told him about previously putting pills in his wife’s food and drinks to “knock her out.”

The same coworker told investigators Jason Harris told him he’d hired a hit man in August 2014, the month before his wife’s death. The hit never happened because the alleged hit man, who was on parole, was arrested for carrying a gun charges while he was doing surveillance on Christy Harris, Jason Harris told the man.

Harris then asked the coworker to kill his wife, offering him $5,000 for the hit, Leyton said.

It was not clear Tuesday why none of the coworkers alerted authorities about Jason Harris' alleged plans.

Analysts at the Michigan State Police crime lab were able to establish that Christy Harris was not a regular heroin user. According to Leyton, all her prenatal blood work showed she was clean of any drugs.

The crime lab also tested three packages of breast milk Christy Harris had expressed and frozen for her infant daughter in the days before her death. There were no traces of heroin in any of the containers.

Leyton credited Christy Harris’ family with preserving the breast milk and the evidence it contained -- or, rather, didn’t contain.

"This is the first time in the history of the state of Michigan that a prosecutor has asked the crime lab to test breast milk," Leyton said.

The Genesee County medical examiner last week amended Christy Harris’ death certificate to show she died of a homicide, the prosecutor said.

Christy Harris was described in her obituary as someone who enjoyed crafting, scrapbooking, swimming, spending time with her children and family and watching the Detroit Tigers play baseball. Her stepfather wrote in a September 2016 Facebook post that the family misses her more with each passing day.

“You would be so proud of your girls,” Mays wrote. “Hailey saw a butterfly and said, 'That was my momma saying hello.' They both see your picture and know that's their momma.”

Jason Harris faces life in prison without parole if convicted of his wife's slaying.