Apparent Murder Suicide Prompts Review On Why Convict Was Freed

By: Kimberly Chandler Email
By: Kimberly Chandler Email

The man who authorities said killed his estranged wife then himself in a motel room last week had been released from custody despite probation officials' warning that he would be a threat to her.

Curtis "Keno" Harris, 34, had a long, documented history of violent behavior and had twice seized his wife and terrorized her, court records show.

In November, Harris handcuffed and briefly held Monica Thomas-Harris, 37, captive in a hotel. West Covina police said he showed up at her workplace two days later, took her inside his car, bound her with duct tape and threatened her with a stun gun.

She escaped and reported the incident to police, who later arrested Harris.

Harris pleaded no contest Dec. 21 to false imprisonment in exchange for a 16-month prison sentence. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Tia Fisher freed him without bail pending a sentencing hearing later this month.

The couple's bodies were found Saturday at the Whittier Inn Motel. Authorities said he shot her, then turned the gun on himself.

The apparent murder suicide prompted prosecutors to meet Monday to determine how Harris was allowed out.

The county Probation Department said it had issued a report that deemed Harris "unsuitable for release." Probation officials said they completed the report Dec. 20 and submitted it to the court on the same day Harris entered his plea.

"The Probation Department didn't agree with the judge's final decision," department spokeswoman Kerri Webb said.

A court spokesman said Fisher could not comment on the case because it would violate judicial ethics rules.

District attorney's spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said it was not immediately clear whether prosecutors saw the recommendation in court that day. Typically, she said, prosecutors receive the probation report at the same time the court does.

Harris' attorney, Arthur Lindars, said that neither he nor prosecutors thought Harris would harm his wife again, so neither opposed his request to be released. He said Harris' release was intended to allow him time to get his affairs in order before going to prison.

"It's everybody's worst nightmare," Lindars said.

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