Slain woman's husband must surrender records Harrison told to hand over financial documents for wrongful-death suit

August 01, 1998|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County judge yesterday ordered James J. Harrison Jr. to turn over his financial records for use in the wrongful-death suit filed against him by the sons of his late wife, Susan Hurley Harrison.

Mr. Harrison, a retired chief financial officer of McCormick & Co., is accused in the $17 million civil suit of abusing and killing his wife. Although no criminal charges have been brought against him, the state prosecutor overseeing the investigation of the Ruxton woman's death has said that Mr. Harrison is the target of the investigation.

Mrs. Harrison's body was found in November 1996 in a wooded area in Frederick County. She had disappeared two years earlier, after an argument with Mr. Harrison, from whom she was separated at the time. The state medical examiner ruled her death a homicide.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge James T. Smith ordered Mr. Harrison yesterday to turn over financial records from the time he was married to Mrs. Harrison until the time her body was found.

C. Carey Deeley Jr., the lawyer for Mrs. Harrison's sons -- Jonathan Hawkes Owsley and Nicholas Barrett Owsley -- told Smith the records "will provide a road map" of Mr. Harrison's finances that might indicate any motives Mr. Harrison might have had for killing his wife.

"I want to look at his Mercantile Bank records and see if he wrote a check for a substantial amount of money" to someone who might have been involved in the killing, said Deeley.

Deeley told the judge that because Mr. Harrison's lawyers claim he was physically incapable of dragging his wife's body down the embankment where it was found, "perhaps he had someone with him."

His comment prompted Mr. Harrison's lawyer, Steven A. Allen, to say, "The idea of a third party was created solely for today's hearing."

Allen said Mr. Harrison has "maintained vigorously he had nothing to do with his wife's disappearance" or death.

"Mr. Harrison loved his wife," said Allen, adding that his client has been "put under a microscope by the attorney general's office," though "there is no evidence to support the notion that Mr. Harrison killed his wife."

Twice during yesterday's hearing, Mr. Harrison blurted comments, prompting the judge to admonish him. Mr. Harrison's lawyer told him several times that if he didn't stop talking out of turn, he would have to leave the courtroom.

When Deeley said Mrs. Harrison "was killed by Mr. Harrison," the late woman's husband interrupted the hearing to say, "That's horrible. I love her so much."

Deeley told the judge the attorney general's office has agreed to voluntarily release documents from the criminal investigation to aid in the civil suit. Deeley would not describe the documents.

Also at yesterday's hearing, Smith denied Deeley's request to inspect Mr. Harrison's confidential psychiatric records.

The case is scheduled for trial next year.

Pub Date: 8/01/98

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