Angela Harrison said Monday that her husband, James, always wanted her and their children to stay home. "I had enough," she said. "I couldn't take it anymore."
Maxine, Jayme, Samantha, Heather, James Jr.
Until he killed all five of his children, Angela Harrison thought her husband, James, loved them. Harrison, who tearfully talked with reporters Monday outside the mobile home where her children died, said she last saw them at home Thursday night — after feeding them dinner and listening to music.
By Steve Miletich
Seattle Times staff reporter
GRAHAM, Pierce County -- Until he killed all five of his children, Angela Harrison thought her husband, James, loved them.
"My thought is, if you love your children you wouldn't do that to your children," she said.
Harrison, who tearfully talked with reporters Monday outside the mobile home where her children died, said she last saw them at home Thursday night -- after feeding them dinner and listening to music.
On Friday morning, she left for work at the Indian Country Store in Puyallup, where a male co-worker urged her to get away from her husband. She said she had told him previously about years of physical and verbal abuse she and the children had endured at her husband's hands.
"For the longest time," she said, "I've tried and tried and tried to leave."
But the children always begged her to stay, she said, because they wanted to remain a family.
Friday night, she didn't go home from work, but instead went to the Muckleshoot Casino with the male co-worker and after that to a convenience store. She had decided her marriage was over.
Meanwhile, James Harrison, 34, took all the children with him to look for his wife, she said. He tracked her to the convenience store in Auburn through a cellphone global-positioning system, Angela Harrison said.
When he found her, James Harrison, as he had on previous occasions, begged her to stay with him, saying, "I'll change. I'll change."
But Angela Harrison, 30, had reached the breaking point, she said. She knew if she went home at that point, "he would hurt me."
She said her husband was controlling, always wanting her and the children to remain at home.
"I had enough," she said. "I couldn't take it anymore."
Before driving away from the store about 7:30 p.m., Angela Harrison said, she spoke to her 16-year-old daughter, Maxine, who had gotten out of her father's car.
She said she told Maxine she loved her and would come home at some point to get her and the other kids.
She then left the store with her co-worker, whom she described as a friend. She said reports she'd told her husband she was leaving him for another man were incorrect.
However, Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer told The Associated Press on Monday that investigators believe Angela Harrison, indeed, was leaving her husband for another man, based on interviews with relatives who spoke with James Harrison before he killed himself.
After failing to persuade his wife to come home with him, James Harrison returned home and methodically shot the children, ages 7 to 16, in their bedrooms and a bathroom, including one child who fought with him, investigators said.
He then drove to Auburn and killed himself with a rifle.
Saturday morning, Harrison said, she went to work at the store. Later in the day, she learned from a sheriff's detective that her husband's body had been found.
Her first reaction: "Where are my kids?"
It would take about four hours -- after frantic calling among relatives and no response at the mobile home -- before sheriff's deputies found the children's bodies.
Told by a sheriff's chaplain what had happened, Harrison said, "I wanted to die."
She asked a sheriff's deputy to shoot her, she said.
"I figured he [her husband] took everything. What did I have to live for?"
But now, after praying, she said she wants to live to honor her children.
She described each one:
• James Jr., 7, was "the Energizer Bunny. He just kept going and going and going." He was a stay-at-home type and "extreme [video] gamer" except when he went out to ride his dirt bike.
• Heather, 8, was a "second Maxine." "Everything Maxine did, she wanted to do." Both sisters were big readers.
• Samantha, 12, was the family comedian. "She always had something funny to say," including when others in the family were down. "Always just dancing around, goofy."
• Jayme, 14, "pretty much kept to herself." She loved video games and took in stray cats.
• Maxine was "the big reader." Her favorite books were science fiction. "If she wasn't reading, she was sleeping."
Harrison said it was always her plan to retrieve the children as she had told Maxine at the convenience store.
Maxine was born when Angela Harrison was just 13.
The next four children came over nine years as James and Angela Harrison worked different jobs and tried to make a life.
They had met when she was in junior high and he was in high school in Orting.
Angela Harrison said she stayed with her husband because, like her children, she thought it was important to be a family.
Over the years, the Harrison family's troubles came to the attention of the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
In 2007, records show, James Harrison was found to have physically abused one of his children in a slapping incident. Angela Harrison said it followed a report of Jayme's misbehavior at school. The girl was not removed from the home.
There were four other complaints dating to 2001, according to Nancy Sutton, regional administrator of DSHS in the Pierce County area.
One, alleging neglect, was "founded," she said. Another was "unfounded." Two did not rise to the level of abuse or neglect, and indicated only that the family needed help; they were referred to community providers.
All five complaints were made by mandatory reporters, Sutton said -- people such as nurses or teachers who, by virtue of their jobs are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
DSHS is conducting a full review of records and cooperating with law enforcement, said Sherry Hill, a spokeswoman for the Children's Administration in DSHS.
Late Monday, Angela Harrison stood outside the mobile home recounting all that had happened and reflecting on her nearly two-decade relationship with her husband.
She said she married him in 2001 because the kids wanted her to have his last name. But, she said, there had been years of abuse.
She offered this advice to others in her situation: "Get out."
Seattle Times staff reporter Maureen O'Hagan contributed to this report.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Local News Slain children's mother says husband was abusive for years Seattle Times Newspaper
I have so many thoughts racing through my head right now that it'll take a dollar fifth worth today forget my two cents.. that wont cut it!
(1) My heart is sick enough to want to vomit - these poor kids!
(2) This woman is going to claim victim? She would have had my sympathy IF -
She left him and took her kids! But she decided it was ok to not come home..
"Friday night, she didn't go home from work, but instead went to the Muckleshoot Casino with the male co-worker and after that to a convenience store. She had decided her marriage was over."
Did this woman ever consider what an alleged abuser would do when she didn't return home and instead went out gambling (or whatever) all nite with another man?? IS SHE INSANE?? DOES SHE HAVE SHIT FOR BRAINS? WHAT WAS SHE THINKING??
NOOO I'M SORRY SHE IS NO VICTIM! WHAT'S HER ROLE IN THIS?
(1) She antagonized an alleged abuser- like HELLO!!!!
You see this is why I feel the domestic violence industry is failing women!!
I'm a survivor - and I've gotten into the head of abusers by education on the who what when and why of the whole abuser profile[s] and if this woman had any hint into what goes on inside abusers minds she would have NEVER LEFT HER CHILDREN HOME WITH AN ABUSER AND GONE OUT ALL NITE WITH ANOTHER MAN!!!
If they ran programs to EDUCATE victims.. instead of worrying about saving face with PAS they would or could have given this woman a heads up and she would have KNOWN BETTER THAN TO DO WHAT SHE DID!
When I was married to my (admitted on the record) abuser - I wasn't allowed to even look in another man's direction!
For those of you that may be thinking .. I agree with that kind of submissive behavior - of allowing anyone to tell you who you can look at .. talk to ... or hang out with .. don't be putting words into my mouth!
All I'm saying is SHE ANTAGONIZED AN ABUSER without safeguarding her children!
Every situation is different.. I admit this.. however.. her case was blatant stupidity!
She had a choice .. she chose to go party all nite with another man - friend or lover - it didn't matter! You just don't do that if your a victim of D.V while your children are left with the abuser period end of story!
What a (*%^$%#$# shame! Those poor kids!
Survivors and victims alike.. figure out that abusers FEEL ENTITLED!
They have no morals.. no empathy.. nothing but selfish anger .. hate.. RAGE.. and a zillion other UGLY thoughts running through their heads.. what the hell do you think they're going to do if they catch you with someone of the opposite gender.. after you've been out all nite?
Did she expect it to be ok?
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