A McHenry man who admitted to fatally stabbing his wife in 2016 and leaving her body in the basement of their home for two days was a “freeloader” who didn’t want to lose his “meal ticket,” prosecutors said Tuesday in closing arguments at the trial of Anthony Harrison.
“It is hard to imagine anyone more guilty of first-degree murder,” Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Zalud told Judge James Cowlin who will rule on the case Sept. 12.
Zalud said Harrison, 33, was unemployed and facing domestic battery charges stemming from an incident just a few months prior to her death on June 4.
He described Laura Harrison as a friend, daughter and co-worker who should have lived a long, happy life instead “she got butchered in her own home.”
He said her husband likely stabbed her to death in the kitchen sometime June 4, then drug her body to the basement. He then drove her car to area stores and bought items such as a shovel, wheelbarrow, bleach, a 31-gallon garbage can, wood and fire starter, scrambling to find the way to get rid of her body and hide his crime.
Two days later he attempted to slash his own throat then called 911 for help and reported that his wife’s dead body was in the basement and that he had killed her.
Some evidence pointed to the possibility that over those two days he was planning on burning down the house and her with it, while other details of the crime scene – such as a deep hole freshly dug in the backyard – suggested he planned to bury her body.
Seasoned police officers called the crime scene – her graying remains covered in dried blood, deep stab wounds to her neck, lying in a basement laundry room covered in firewood with a gas can nearby – as “horrific.”
And it was “all because she wanted to leave an abusive life, she wanted the opportunity to be happy,” Zalud said.
But Harrison’s attorney, assistant public defender Kim Messer, said it was Laura Harrison who was in control of the situation in the days leading to her death.
She said the 30-year-old woman was the provocateur in a situation that led to her death. Messer asked the judge to find Harrison not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder.
During the trial hundreds of photos and pieces of evidence, such as receipts, store surveillance videos, internet searches and text messages were presented. Messer acknowledged the sheer “volume of evidence” but said that “is not indicative of the strength of the evidence.” She urged Cowlin to take his time and look at the “small things.”
She said Harrison was calm around his wife in the days prior to her death as she texted a family member saying she wanted him out of the house and threatened to call the police on him. Laura Harrison also called the McHenry County Crisis Center and the non-emergency McHenry police line and asked how to have him put out of the house. She was told he could not be removed from the house unless he was violent.
“Laura Harrison (was) in control of the relationship,” Messer said. “Anthony Harrison (was) trying to follow the rules.”
After he killed her he felt guilty and “between June 4 and 6 he was trying to figure out how to kill himself,” Messer said noting all the blood evidence from his self-inflicted neck wounds. “(Harrison) couldn’t believe it once he realized what he did,” Messer said.
She pointed to statements Harrison made to Dr. Richard Dilger, a clinical social worker at Advocate Condell Hospital in Libertyville, that “things were getting out of control” when he killed his wife.
Messer then read texts between Laura Harrison and her sister from June 3 where she is saying: “I just want him gone, he causes me too much stress.”
Messer also noted Dilger’s testimony when he said Harrison was suicidal and said he wanted to set himself on fire.
And this all occurred, Messer said, as “mutual combat” that led to her death “and him spending two days trying to figure out what to do.”
In earlier testimony city of McHenry Police Sgt. Nicholas Clesen said the last text message sent from Laura Harrison’s cell phone was at 6:33 p.m. Saturday June 4. Authorities believe she was killed between 6 and 10 p.m. that evening.
Her last text was sent to Anthony’s grandmother saying “He can only stay here if he leaves me alone.” At 8:20 p.m. that same evening, her cell phone received a text from a woman saying “Thinking of you and hoping you are OK.” This and three other texts received on her cell that evening were never opened, Clesen said.
Clesen also went through searches Anthony Harrison made on his cell phone beginning at 10:04 p.m. that same evening and continuing until Monday morning.
He searched: ”What happens if you cut the juggler vein” several times in various wording. He also searched “How quickly can someone bleed to death from a cut artery” and “can you buy a firearm while on trial for battery in Illinois?”
His last search inquiring how long it would take to die after cutting a jugular vein was about 7:20 a.m. that Monday. Clesen said he then called 911 reporting his attempted suicide and alleged murder about an our and a half later.