LaShuan Harris sacrificed her three children in the name of "spiritual warfare," the young murder defendant said in a taped police interview hours after she threw her three children in the Bay last October.
"Give Jesus your babies," Harris said a voice in her head was telling her on Oct. 19, 2005, when she stripped each child of their clothes and flung them over the railing at Pier 7. The taped interview, conducted by homicide investigators shortly after her arrest as she trolled away from the pier, was introduced as evidence by the prosecution Tuesday, during the second day of Harris’ murder trial.
"If God wouldn’t have called them, I wouldn’t have sent them," Harris said during the interview. "It was spiritual warfare. ... If he calls me to do something, I’m going to do it, I guess." She admitted to crying after throwing her children into the water.
Harris, 24, sat with her head bowed Tuesday during more than an hour of tape viewing. Audience members and some members of the eight-man, four-woman jury dabbed their eyes and blew their noses as they watched the footage.
Harris faces charges of murder, assault on a child under 8 years of age causing death and a special circumstance of multiple murders for allegedly throwing 6-year-old Trayshawn Harris, 2-year-old Taronta Greely Jr. and 16-month-old Joshua Greely to their deaths in the Bay.
Since her arrest, Harris has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and put on anti-psychotic medication, her public defender, Teresa Caffese, said Monday. She has been hospitalized for psychotic episodes six times in the last four years, Caffese said, but her children were never removed from her custody because she appeared to be a loving mother who posed no threat to them.
Harris has pleadednot guilty by reason of insanity. The prosecution will try to prove that Harris knew she was taking her children’s lives and that doing so was wrong. Caffese will try to demonstrate that Harris was disconnected from reality and still does not realize that her children are dead. The prosecution claims that remaining parts of the tape, scheduled to be shown today, prove that Harris was aware she was committing murder.
During the interview, Harris said the voices confused her mind and that she did what "I’m supposed to do, what God ordered." She said she started hearing voices the night before the day of the killings.
"It’s my life or the kids’, I guess," she said the voices told her. "Like I had to give a living sacrifice, I guess." When one of the inspectors asked her whether she thought about taking her own life instead of the children’s, she said in the interview, "coulda, shoulda."
As she removed Trayshawn’s clothing, the 6-year-old yelled, "No, what are you doing, Mama? No," Harris recounted in the interview. He tried to run away, she said. "I just picked him up." On Monday, a witness testified that he saw Harris hold Trayshawn up by one arm and one leg and swing him back and forth several times before flinging him over the railing to his death.
"I think I did what I’m supposed to do, what God ordered," Harris said in the interview. "The next minute it was like, my kids, man, I love my kids. … Now they’re gone to heaven."
Cold, tides awaited kids, officer says
The bodies of two of LaShuan Harris’ three children were never found, possibly due to a swift current flowing out of the Golden Gate the day she allegedly threw them in, a witness testified in the second day of her murder trial Tuesday.
The San Francisco Bay water was just over 50 degrees Fahrenheit and moving toward the Golden Gate in a swift ebb-tide current when Harris,by her own admission, dropped her children in, a San Francisco police officer testified Tuesday.
Officer Greg Latus, of the department’s marine unit, said the tide was especially dramatic on Oct. 19, 2005, dropping 7 feet from high tide to low tide. That means that an amount of water 7 feet deep covering the entire surface of the Bay rushed out to sea in the roughly six hours during the change in tides, Latus said.
The cold temperature and strong current likely reduced the children’s chances of survival, as well as searchers’ chances of finding their bodies, Latus indicated.
"It’s rushing like a river at over 5 mph," Latus said of the ebb tide that was in full swing at about 5:30 p.m., when he heard the radio broadcast that a woman had allegedly thrown her children into the Bay off Pier 7, near the corner of Broadway and the Embarcadero.
For the next two weeks, Latus said, police participated in a search with Coast Guard and Fire Department units, but only the body of 2-year-old Taronta Greely Jr. was found, fished from the water off the Golden Gate Yacht Club just hours after his mother allegedly threw him in.
A picture of that body was the subject of some legal wrangling Tuesday, as defense attorney Teresa Caffese objected to its being admitted into evidence. Prosecutor Linda Allen entered the photo as evidence during the testimony of Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Ellen Moffatt.
Caffese objected to the photo, holding it up and calling it "inflammatory," before escorting one of Harris’ family members out of the courtroom in tears. Judge Ksenia Tsenin suggested later that the photo be admitted into evidence for jurors to see if they wished, but not circulated among the jury.