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Prosecutors who won two murder convictions against a wealthy upstate New York businessman after the disappearance of his estranged wife — only to see them overturned — described him as callous and controlling Thursday as his third trial started.
Calvin Harris is facing another trial after years of proclaiming he did not kill Michele Harris, who vanished after leaving her waitressing job on the night of Sept. 11, 2001.
Prosecutors have no body, no murder weapon and a largely circumstantial case, but Tioga County District Attorney Kirk Martin told jurors that Harris, now 53, "exercised the ultimate act of control" during a bitter divorce. As co-owner of several upstate car dealerships, Calvin Harris' net worth had been estimated at about $4 million, and his 35-year-old old wife could have gotten up to half that wealth.
"Who had the motive to kill Michele? The defendant," Martin said during opening statements. "Who had the opportunity to kill Michele? The defendant. Who went on with their life as if Michele wasn't coming back? The defendant."
Harris' lawyer, Bruce Barket, is set to make his opening remarks Monday. Prosecutors have argued Harris killed his wife at their remote, 200-acre Southern Tier estate, where they slept in separate bedrooms. But defense lawyers contend prosecutors failed to provide a theory for how he could have killed her at the house they shared with their young children and then disposed of her body within the prosecution's time frame.
"The most outrageous thing that happened is the prosecution ignores the real evidence of who actually committed this crime," Barket said outside court. "It is shocking in some ways. They're going to pursue Cal no matter what."